In an interview a few days before “Venom”’s release, star Tom Hardy admitted his favorite 30-40 minutes of footage didn’t make it into the movie. It’s never a good sign when your star thinks the best material was left on the cutting room floor.
“Venom” director Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”, “Gangster Squad”) proves he clearly doesn’t know the first rule when it comes to creating a great comic book action movie: start strong and keep the momentum going. We only get a sliver of intrigue in the opening scene, as a spacecraft returning to Earth crashes on re-entry. It turns-out there’s some important cargo on board: samples of an alien life form. And one of the creatures escapes.
Everybody thinks the wacky scientist behind the mission is working to cure cancer. But Hardy’s Eddie Brock knows better. Brock is an investigative reporter with his own TV show. He tries to expose the truth about the mad genius. But, instead, eventually (and I mean eventually) he gets inhabited by one of the parasites.
It took me two paragraphs to summarize the set-up of “Venom”. It takes 45 minutes for the movie to get to this point. That’s because we’re forced to endure countless scenes that play-out like a bad romantic comedy. This includes several unintentionally corny moments involving Eddie’s relationship with fiancee Anne, played by Michelle Williams.
This is one of those “gotta pay the bills” roles for Williams, who likely signed on also hoping to become part of a blockbuster Marvel franchise. She, and everyone else involved, deserve so much better than this. The rest of the ‘likable in everything else they’ve done in their careers prior to this’ supporting cast includes Riz Ahmed (“Nightcrawler”), Jenny Slate (“Gifted”) and Reid Scott (TV’s “Veep” and “Great News”).
The biggest positive with “Venom” is the actual design of Venom – the creature who takes over Eddie’s mind and, when he gets really angry, his entire body. Venom is one of the cooler looking on-screen CGI comic book characters of recent years. But while the action scenes involving Eddie/Venom are welcome following the long opening drought, they quickly become monotonous and visually bland. And the predictable story goes in predictable directions resulting in a predictable outcome.
It’s hard to believe, but with this one movie, “Venom” has completely sucked the life out of this franchise, even before it could become a franchise.
I’m curious if the missing 30-40 minutes will be part of the Blu-ray/DVD release. But not curious enough to suffer through another dose of “Venom”.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Venom” gets a D.
If you’re still interested in seeing how this experiment went wrong, I recommend you stay for the “surprise” mid-credits scene. It’s got more bite than anything that comes before it. However, the big name who shows-up is now becoming all too familiar in big-budget action films.
Running Time: 112 min.