There’s something about antiheroes that really fascinates me. I can’t really tell what it is, but I find the idea of films where the protagonist’s moral compass isn’t the usual very appealing. Having the bad guys as the main characters of a movie it’s a fun idea, and it can work really good: Ocean’s Eleven is the first example that comes to mind, which is my favourite heist movie of all time. It’s a film that proves that bad guys can be charismatic, that the fact they are doing something illegal doesn’t mean we must antagonise them. However, most films that try to take this approach fail miserably, as scripts are unable not to give characters redeeming situations.
Venom is the latest Sony/Marvel superhero flick, that tells the story of Eddie Brock, a miserable reporter who is used as a host by a symbiote, a being from outer space that gives him special powers and a badass alter-ego. With a production packed with problems, several scenes being cut and doubtful changes to make it PG-13 rated, my expectations were quite low. Has Venom lived up to those expectations? Well, nope.
Everything wrong. That’s the quickest way to describe this film. It has every single issue imaginable, and some more. Before we dive into these problems, let’s take the positive out of the way, which is the protagonist actor, Tom Hardy. We all know he is a brilliant performer, so it was no surprise to see him a good job. He could’ve been better if he’d worked with a more competent director, without a doubt, but his acting was definitely the best part of Venom. Whenever he had to fight against the parasite’s personality and had a back-and-forth with him, it was a lot of fun to watch him. There are very few of such moments, but hey, they’re pretty good.
Okay, so that’s about it. Now the negative aspects.
My main issue with this movie is the lack of creative freedom the director has had throughout the production. His work was not amazing at all, but at least there are bits of the film where his original vision can be perceived: a dark, grim tale that splashes some terror bits every now and then. Well after he stated the intention during shooting was to create an R-rated picture, the studio made the necessary edits to turn it into a completely different PG-13 flick. Many times, this means that blood was edited out (or not added in post production at all), or some gore scenes cut, but the problems in this specific case go well beyond that. You can tell that whole chunks were removed from the final cut, as some storylines make no sense at all due to missing information. This is especially noticeable during the first act, in which stories are terribly organised and told. During the final acts the movie it turns into a usual superhero flick so these issues are less obvious, but are still there.
The character shown on-screen, Venom, is a really compelling one. The abilities he has are quite extraordinary, so the film has a lot of interesting possibilities to show what kind of stunts Eddie can pull off thanks to the symbiote. Nevertheless, the director somehow manages to make every single action scene feel dull and unimaginative at best, with very few exciting ideas thrown into the set-pieces. Even worse, whenever a good idea is used, the directing is so poor that it doesn’t feel spectacular at all. This is particularly alarming during the final, supposedly climactic confrontation, as every single move is completely incomprehensible as two gigantic CGI monsters battle each other. The nature of the characters make a fight scene inherently complex, but the awful camera work and editing make it just awful.
Venom also tries really hard at getting emotional at times. It’s really obvious it’s trying hard. Yet it achieves nothing. Throughout the entire runtime you couldn’t care less about the characters emotionally, as everything is presented as a bunch of bad puns in quick succession, but in the very final scene, the film attempts to create a touching moment that made me laugh out loud. It’s there for some reason not even the editors could understand, and as a result, the generic emotional piano track that plays in the background lasts for literally 10 seconds. There’s no stakes at all, what’s about to happen could be guessed by a four-year-old and even if it wasn’t, who the hell cares after the mess we’ve witnessed for two hours.
Mess is probably the right word to describe the script itself, even if it’s currently impossible to know whether it’s the actual screenplay who should be blamed, or our fingers should be pointing at the abrupt changes made to comply with the studio’s wishes. Anyhow, it gives the impression that no one proofread it, with bad dialogue flooding every single page and terrible plot-holes making suspension of disbelief an impossible mission for the viewer. The script falls into the already mentioned inability to not redeem its antihero, with an ending that feels as poor as Suicide Squad’s.
Nothing actually works in favour of the film. It has issues everywhere, and the final experience is not just dull, it’s… actually unpleasant. I had a bad time watching this, and won’t come close to it any time soon. I got my tickets free of charge because I’m a professional critic (also because I won them at a raffle, but mainly because of the critic thing), yet I want a refund. It’s one of those rare movies that make me feel like I’m actually wasting my time. 2/10