By Joey Nolfi
October 03, 2018 at 09:52 AM EDT
10/05/18
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It looks like Tom Hardy’s antihero epic Venom is a shot of cinematic poison.

Movie critics have unleashed a series of scathing reviews for the first entry in Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters, suggesting perhaps the best antidote for its toxic nature is to avoid the film’s pointed fangs altogether.

“Venom feels like a second-tier Marvel player prematurely called up to the bigs,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty. “It’s noncommittally mediocre and, as a result, forgettable. It just sort of sits there, beating you numb, unsure of whether it wants to be a comic-book movie or put the whole idea of comic-book movies in its crosshairs…  [Venom is] just another bit of secondary Marvel IP who scowls and growls, and never shows us why he should be headlining his own movie.”

Following Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock, who transforms into the titular comic book character lifted from the Spider-Man comic book series after a space parasite invades his body, the Ruben Fleischer-directed film charts his journey from investigative reporter to razor-toothed menace. His devilish alter-ego soon sets his sights on devouring living flesh and fleeing from a powerful tycoon’s (Riz Ahmed) persistent goons. But, per Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman, the action-heavy spectacle of his journey falls short of those set forth by Disney in its separate Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Venom is a textbook case of a comic-book film that’s unexciting in its ho-hum competence, and even its visual-effects bravura. Make no mistake: The effects can be dazzling. The alien matter splattering itself around like random tentacled liquid, the way Venom cross-breeds Spider-Man’s skyscraper-hopping agility with the Hulk’s dynamo destructiveness — it’s all diverting eye candy. But to what end?” his review reads. “This gateway into the Sony Universe of Marvel Characters (get ready: there are 90!) may not sputter as badly as Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, but it could turn out to be a similar case of a franchise kickoff that doesn’t fully attain franchise liftoff.”

“Directed with flat, joyless competence by Ruben Fleischer…. Venom brings with it a laborious, decades-spanning development history. A movie this long in the works should arrive on-screen feeling like more than just an afterthought,” echoes The Los Angeles Times‘ Justin Chang, while lightly praising Hardy’s “fine” performance as well as calling out Williams’ work as Brock’s fiancée. “But next to the much more visually and narratively elaborate entertainments that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe — or even compared with other snarky anti-superhero movies like DeadpoolVenom feels like pretty weak poison.”

Venom opens nationwide Friday, Oct. 5. Read on for more excerpts from the film’s critical reviews below.

Chris Nashawaty (EW)
Venom isn’t quite bad, but it’s not exactly good either. It’s noncommittally mediocre and, as a result, forgettable. It just sort of sits there, beating you numb, unsure of whether it wants to be a comic-book movie or put the whole idea of comic-book movies in its crosshairs. It never rises above bombastic and busy — which is something I never thought I’d say about a movie starring three aces like Hardy, Ahmed, and Williams. Visually, which is the only thing really going for it, Venom has a stylishly gloomy Nolan-does-Gotham vibe. But Venom, the character, never comes into focus until the last five minutes, when it finally, at long last, starts to get interesting. Until then, he’s just another bit of secondary Marvel IP who scowls and growls, and never shows us why he should be headlining his own movie.”

Owen Gleiberman (Variety)
Venom is a textbook case of a comic-book film that’s unexciting in its ho-hum competence, and even its visual-effects bravura. Make no mistake: The effects can be dazzling. The alien matter splattering itself around like random tentacled liquid, the way Venom cross-breeds Spider-Man’s skyscraper-hopping agility with the Hulk’s dynamo destructiveness — it’s all diverting eye candy. But to what end? This gateway into the Sony Universe of Marvel Characters (get ready: there are 90!) may not sputter as badly as Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, but it could turn out to be a similar case of a franchise kickoff that doesn’t fully attain franchise liftoff.”

Justin Chang (The Los Angeles Times)
Venom never fully embraces or maximizes the exuberant nastiness of its premise. This is one instance in which a story that should have been unsparingly dark feels hobbled, even sanitized, by its PG-13 rating, and also by the usual Hollywood franchise imperatives. In time, of course, Eddie and Venom will eventually become a functional buddy-comedy duo, with Eddie partaking of Venom’s extraordinary abilities while bringing those pesky deadly impulses under submission.”

Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)
“The only startling moment in the thoroughly irredeemable Venom that makes you sit up and take notice comes at the 71-minute mark, when the sight of a disheveled, stubbly, sweaty and bloated Tom Hardy jolts you with the realization that here is the perfect actor to one day play Harvey Weinstein. For that insight and that insight alone, this film is valuable. Notwithstanding the guaranteed profits stemming from any film with the Marvel brand attached to it, those involved should reflect upon the truth of the pic’s advertising tagline: “The world has enough Superheroes.'”

Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)
“Can Tom Hardy play comedy — intentionally? The question remains worryingly unanswered in this clumsy, monolithic and fantastically boring superhero movie-slash-entertainment-franchise-iteration. The supposedly massive final showdown is so anticlimactic and pointless that it was only when it was followed by Hardy ruminatively sipping coffee on a stoop and chatting that I realized… that was it. That was the big finish. Hardy himself has said that the film’s best 30-40 minutes have been cut. At least that makes this shorter than it would otherwise be.There are in fact one or two big gags, but no real sense of fun — not compared to something like Thor: Ragnarok. Director Ruben Fleischer, who made Zombieland and Gangster Squad, is uninspired. Venom is riddled with the poison of dullness.”

Michael Nordine (IndieWire)
“As much a body-horror thriller as it is a comic-book movie, Venom is also akin to a buddy comedy in which one of the buddies has to prevent the other from wantonly biting people’s heads off. If that sounds ridiculous, it is — but Venom both knows it and leans into it, playing up the dark humor until it’s pitch black. Not all of Eddie and Venom’s exchanges land as intended, but those that do are genuinely funny; over time, their relationship even becomes endearing in its own way, which comes as such a pleasant surprise it’s almost enough to recommend the movie on its own.”

Katie Walsh (Chicago Tribune)
“Superhero fatigue got you down? Tired of the same old bland Marvel Cinematic Universe offerings? A dose of Venom could be just the right antidote. This dark, wacky MCU-associated outing combines one of the most interesting contemporary leading men with a daring director who has a hit-or-miss track record. Throw an outlandish alien organism into the mix, shake well with a healthy serving of irreverent humor and you’ve got Venom. It’s a mess, but wow, is it ever a fun, fascinating mess. Those are always so much more thrilling than any of the formulaic superhero movies that parade through multiplexes all year.”

Laura Prudom (IGN)
“The best description of Venom as a movie is provided by a quote from the titular antihero itself: ‘An armless, legless, faceless thing… rolling down the street like a turd in the wind.’ Sadly, Venom…. rejects everything that might’ve turned it into a badass joyride in the vein of Deadpool or Guardians of the Galaxy. The result is a muddled hodgepodge that isn’t sure whether it wants to be comedic or take its troubled antihero way too seriously. (When your main character is threatening to eat someone’s pancreas as a tasty snack, you probably want to lean into the absurdity.)”

Alonso Duralde (TheWrap)
“If you replaced Tom Hardy for Steve Martin in All of Me, and switched out Lily Tomlin for a wad of chewed-up black licorice, you’d have Venom. The difference being that All of Me is a charming screwball comedy, and Venom is the kind of comic-book movie that people who hate comic-book movies think that all comic-book movies are like. Leaping from plot point to plot point without the hindrance of logic or characters, this big-screen return of the legendary Spider-Man nemesis — last seen in the franchise-hobbling Spider-Man 3 — is aggressively loud and stupid without being much fun at all. It exists as a waste of time (although, one hopes, a sizable payday) for some very talented actors, and it’s proof that even Marvel (whether it’s the studio or other films based on its imprint) doesn’t always get it right.”

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  • PG-13
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