The First Reviews For ‘Venom’ Are In & The Critics Have Not Been Wowed

Superhero movies! There are a lot of them! So many of them! Holy fuck, there are so many god damn superhero movies! Venom is one of them and, so far, it seems like critics aren’t particularly thrilled by it.

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Thanks to some arcane and draconic rights arrangements between Marvel, Disney, Sony, and Fox, Sony has the rights to some 900 Marvel characters, the most prominent of those being Spider-Man and a broad spectrum of his enemies and allies. Thus, we have Venom — not a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but the first in the Sony Universe of Marvel Characters.

In the film, the handsome and perfect Tom Hardy plays dogged investigative reporter Eddie Brock. As part of an attempt to dig into the practices of evil scientist Dr Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), Brock becomes infected by an aggressive and viscerally gross alien symbiote. You might be vaguely familiar with this plot from the time Topher Grace played Venom in Spider-Man 3, or from reading comics, or from watching cartoons as a child.

So far, the movie holds a 30% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and those same critics have not had many nice things to say about the film. Writing for The Guardian, critic Peter Bradshaw described the film as being “riddled with the poison of dullness“. Bradshaw described the film’s main conflict as “tiresome” and “self-defeating“, acknowledging that there are a few big laughs in the movie but that it, as a whole, is without a sense of fun.

Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman liked it even less, calling it a “derivative and generically plotted new comic-book origin story“. He was quite critical of Hardy’s performance (which a lot of the other reviewers quite liked), describing him variously as a “cross between early Marlon Brando and late Adam Sandler” that “seem like he’s doing his impersonation of a benignly inarticulate stoner clown who’s only got half his marbles“. Like the others, Gleiberman was underwhelmed with Ruben Fleischer‘s direction, calling it ‘rotely impersonal’.

Justin Chang in the LA Times echoed Gleiberman’s sentiment, saying that the movie was directed with a “flat, joyless competence“. He referenced Hardy’s claim that some of the best parts of the movie were lost in the 40 minutes that were excised from the final release, agreeing that the movie felt “slapdash” and gives the impression that it finishes just as it’s getting started.

Todd McCarthy from The Hollywood Reporter said, well… this:

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.”

Jesus christ dude. He did acknowledge a “modest degree” of humour from Hardy’s split-personality performance but said it was “small compensation” for the tedious action scenes.

Bryan Bishop from The Verge maybe unknowingly gave the film its most damning review, evoking a comparison to the disastrous 1997 Batman & Robin:

The film is utterly dissonant, recalling the weird camp of Batman & Robin, which illustrates a fundamental conflict between the presentation of what the Venom symbiote is and does and the filmmakers’ efforts to turn his story into a Deadpool-esque laugh riot. 

He did, however, praise Tom Hardy’s dual performance, saying that it might be better enjoyed in a sequel in which Brock and Venom had already sorted out their relationship.

The criticism was not entirely universal, Indie Wire and Collider both gave the film relatively positive reviews, giving the movie a B and a C+, respectively.

Obviously, a movie not being enjoyed by critics is not an obstacle to enjoying it. The fact that I have seen Bloodsport about 25 times is surely a testament to this.