[Review] Venom: A montage far too venomous to convince

An iconic spider-man antagonist, Venom is now entitled to his own feature film. True homage or mercantile operation?

Spiderman may well be one of the flagship characters of the Marvel universe, his nemesis Venom shares with him immense popularity, which goes far beyond the scope of comic book fans. It is therefore not surprising that Sony wanted to make a film of it. If this type of spin-off is sometimes frowned upon by fans, the studio has secured the services of a recognized cast, Tom Hardy in the lead.

The latter plays Eddie Brock, a scrupulous journalist who takes a dim view of the affairs of Life Foundation, a multinational that uses innocent people to try its chemicals. While the firm has discovered extraterrestrial symbiotes, its young boss Carlton Drake decides to implant them in guinea pigs. Symbiotes escape and constantly change hosts. Eddie then merges with one of them and turns into an overpowered monster.

At first glance, Venom follows the eternal railroad that has branded Marvel productions for years. Very demonstrative, even high-sounding, the first half hour follows Brock in his reporting before he loses his job following an overly intensive interview with Drake (Riz Ahmed, apathetic), quickly identified as the supervillain.

The staging of Ruben Fleischer never surprises and his lack of personality refers directly to Marvel productions of the early 2000s. Business requires, the film ignores the stormy relationship between Brock and Peter Parker, yet founder of the hatred that drives the character.

The meeting between Brock and the symbiote allows the film to take a little height, but not necessarily where we expected. Chased, the hero defends himself using his new power, which gives rise to classic action scenes, but not very readable (special mention in the final fight). The studio seems to have meticulously watered down the savagery of these games for which they remain acceptable to all audiences.

Venom can only talk about what he’s going to do, for fear of showing us bloodshed. A damaging choice, especially when we talk about one of the most violent figures in comics. But this problem is not really new, and the sanitization of Marvel heroes, entirely linked to financial reasons, now seems to be accepted by those who should complain about it.

Yet the film surprises in the treatment of the relationship between Eddie and his symbiote. Hardy doesn’t just wince in pain and begins a teasing dialogue with his alter ego. A strange comic parenthesis, which offers a particular resonance to the actor’s recent declarations on the cutting of the work.

We feel that the latter wanted to deepen this relationship, to the point of voluntarily opting for a gaguesque posture. A daring choice, which shows, however, that Hardy was keen not to be a generic hero.

We would have liked to see this black comedy continue, even if it means that a part of the fans of the antihero is taken from behind and cries scandal. An original attempt, which clashes with the overly smooth treatment of many Marvel figures, often confined to a joke released after a stunt. But this daring was largely curbed by the production, which cut the whole quite vulgarly.

This laborious editing is felt throughout the film. While we would have liked to see the relationship evolve, to say the least eccentric between Brock and his symbiote, the scenario closes the stakes in a brutal way. In less than twenty minutes, this partly evil entity operates a turnaround too crude to be credible, concluding a tangle of scenes without great coherence. We hope that the second episode will not be weighed down by the same flaws or, let’s dream a little, that it will accept its own fantasy.