“Venom” is not the action movie you’d expect in any way. From the intense trailers to the eerie posters, the film sets itself up to be a dark and dramatic war between good and evil, set with a villain as the main character.
The film itself is anything but that. Instead, it becomes a fun mess while Venom emerges as the most likable of the three main characters: a scientist, a journalist and an alien.
Set mostly in present-day San Francisco, “Venom” opens with a spaceship hurtling toward Earth and crashing in Malaysia. Back in San Francisco, Carlton Drake, the young and powerful leader of the Life Foundation — played by Riz Ahmed — watches the event unfold from ground control and frantically asks if any specimens were recovered.
A medic on the ground finds one of the astronauts still alive and rushes him to an ambulance. When inside, however, Venom’s black hand emerges from the astronaut’s chest and crashes the vehicle. Moments later, the same hand rips the roof open, but this time it’s emerging from the medic.
Next, the audience is introduced to Eddie Brock, a journalist who’s been assigned to write about Drake and his space program, who is played by Tom Hardy. After snooping through his fiancee’s emails, Brock learns about several lawsuits against Drake and decides to question him on that instead. Long story short, Brock gets fired, breaks up with his fiancee and gets kicked out of his home.
The first half-hour of the movie plays the plot out to be exactly what the commercials said it was: an intense battle with aliens that should leave the audience at the edge of their seats. Ahmed plays Drake off as a scientist who wants to save humanity by getting humans to merge with an alien and leave the planet that humans destroyed, summarized by the line, “God has abandoned us … I will not.” His character seems to be an evil take on Elon Musk. Hardy plays Brock as an optimistic and rugged man with a can-do attitude that he uses to justify all his actions despite who they hurt. Both characters think they’re doing the right thing, but Drake’s intentions turn evil, similar to Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s why most of the audience seemed disappointed in the predictability and fast pace of the first few scenes.
However, the tone changes when Venom enters Brock’s body. Playing with its predictability, Brock secretly enters the Life Foundation’s headquarters, gets infected and gets a sudden urge to eat raw food. This is where the comedic aspects of the movie start to emerge, as Brock eats live lobsters at a high-class restaurant.
Soon enough, you may find yourself laughing at scenes you didn’t expect to be funny. In “Spider-Man 3,” Venom is portrayed as a straight-up evil being who wishes to take over humanity and uses human bodies to do so. In this movie, however, Venom and Brock work together. While inside Brock, Venom speaks to him and gives him some sound advice at times, such as never stop pursuing your dreams, take care of your mental health and let your loved ones know you love them before it’s too late. When he’s not doing that, he’s complaining about how hungry he is.
In the end, Venom seems to become the most unexpected, relatable character for most of the audience. Apart from being constantly hungry, he decides to save humanity because he is, as he describes himself, “kind of a loser” on his home planet. His banter with Brock brought the most laughter in the theater, making it really awkward when he literally bites someone’s head off moments later.
Ahmed gives a stellar performance as the true villain of the movie. Despite its abrupt change in tone, Drake stays serious through his whole endeavor to “save” the human race. Meanwhile, Hardy’s confusion and amusing banter with Venom counters this in a way that puts everyone at ease.
Overall, “Venom” is a mess, but it’s a fun mess. Don’t go in looking for a thrilling saga. It’s a funny, dumb, twisted, cultish movie that has so many crazy elements that it somehow works. It’s not the best movie out there, but with midterms just around the corner, it’s a nice distraction from the world.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars