The Movie Guru: Tom Hardy’s ‘Venom’ only redeemable as a comedy
For the first 40 minutes or so of “Venom,” I would suggest not even being in the theater.
Linger over dinner. Spend some quality time at concessions. Catch up with your email. Pretty much any activity you can think of would be more worth your time than slogging through the incredibly boring wreck that serves as the first chunk of the movie — you can catch up on any missing back-story through the character’s Wikipedia page, which will have the additional benefit of being much better written.
Goofball murder buddy comedy
Once the 40 minutes are done, head back into the theater to catch the goofball murder buddy comedy “Venom” turns into. This version of the movie still doesn’t qualify as good by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s exactly the kind of ridiculous, cheesy fun that goes great with excessively buttered popcorn. It still probably qualifies as the worst retelling of Venom’s origin story ever, there are also moments where it manages to be both weirdly endearing and either intentionally or unintentionally hilarious.
I won’t bother to try and recite the plot, especially because I still strongly suggest you skip whole chunks of it, but basically a loser named Eddie Brock ends up with a homicidal symbiote that’s slightly less homicidal than his symbiote friends. Brock mostly freaks out for the first several minutes of their unexpected partnership, but eventually they bond and save the world together. There is talk of eating people, but mostly only bad people.
I’m not actually sure what motivated Tom Hardy’s acting choices in this particular film — it’s entirely possible he just accidentally took a Xanax he shouldn’t have and decided to wing it — but the results actually fit pretty well with the weird dark comedy theme of the second half. He’s actually better as Venom, who he also voices, with a surprisingly dry delivery that comes off as far more hilarious than it probably should. The movie would have been about a thousand times better if it had just given the two of them more of an opportunity to hang out.
But no, it wastes the whole first chunk of the movie trying to squeeze in a traditional superhero origin story in the most awkward, tone-deaf manner I’ve seen since the newest “Fantastic Four” remake. They try to cast Eddie as a hero with a perfect life, then immediately have him betray his fiancee and deliberately do this thing his boss has explicitly told him not to do. Genuine motivation and character development are nowhere to be found, and one of the most significant female characters in the movie (played by a criminally misused Jenny Slate) has the last name of Skirth. Yes, that is indeed Skirt with an h thrown on the end.
The only worse crime the movie perpetrates is the cruel misuse of Riz Ahmed, who tries valiantly to bring some genuine character depth and creepiness to the movie’s bad guy. Sadly, this is not the movie for real acting.
Warning: Anyone with light-sensitive epilepsy or other issues should avoid a scene involving a laboratory break-in. The flashing lights may be a major issue.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.