By: Jonathan Pabico, Peak Associate
Attention Marvel Comics fans! Venom’s origin story is finally told in director Ruben Fleischer’s latest movie about the iconic supervillain. Fleischer (best known for Zombieland) delivers a film that will easily elicit mixed reactions, but overall, it entertains with its original storytelling about one of Spider-Man’s most fearsome adversaries.
The film’s most captivating aspect is Tom Hardy’s exceptional performance as Venom and Eddie Brock. Hardy shapes these characters’ relationship as a fun brotherhood to watch through their riveting interactions with each other. Layered with light-hearted humour and impressive yet unsettling visuals, Hardy instills their complex bond with authentic depth that surpasses Topher Grace’s portrayal of Venom from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. Hardy also develops his characters’ unique dynamic as a metaphor for the instability of power and control, but humanizes these characters through their shared pain as outcasts of their own worlds.
Although Fleischer’s slow start affects the story’s rhythm, the film’s fierce action sequences offset this drawback through fast-paced thrills and raw brutality that builds up momentum. Fleischer makes these sequences thoroughly enjoyable, especially during a frenetic car chase that gives a Mad Max: Fury Road dimension with its edgy guitar riffs and stylized stunt choreography. He subsequently employs the film’s action to evoke frightening realities from a violent world deprived of any superheroes to save it. Fleischer also structures the story’s devastation as ominous set pieces that, when balanced with gloomy wide shots of the film’s cityscape, further reinforces the metaphysical destruction of Brock’s identity as an ordinary person and the disturbing creation of the film’s titular supervillain as his alter ego.
Despite the film’s fresh approach to Venom’s origin story, the narrative still suffers from numerous shortcomings. Without Spider-Man to contrast with Venom, the movie is unable to push beyond its themes about identity. Given the film’s special focus on the ethical ramifications of corporate ambition, the story transforms into a mad scientist archetype that has already been explored by previous sci-fi films. Otherwise, these themes are adequate enough for the narrative, even though they offer nothing new to the movie.
Aside from themes, the lack of chemistry between actors impedes the film’s flow. Hardy’s interactions with co-star Michelle Williams (Anne Weying) are bland, except for a few moments of heartfelt closure between them. As for Hardy’s brief scenes with Riz Ahmed (Carlton Drake), they create a better dynamic than the one Hardy has with Williams. Ahmed is a satisfying villain in the film, but his chemistry with Hardy still falls short due to their constrained screen time together.
Despite how mixed one can be about the film’s quality, the story reimagines Venom as a complicated anti-hero living in an equally complicated world. Whether you are a Tom Hardy fan or just want to watch Venom in his glorious solo appearance, Ruben Fleischer still delivers a worthwhile origin story about one of the most iconic super villains from the Spider-Man comic book universe.