‘Venom’ is a rocky but promising start for Sony’s universe of Marvel characters

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While Sony has hardly been the poster child for quality superhero movies, audiences have held their breath in anticipation to see if “Venom” would be a big enough success to finally launch Sony’s answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although “Venom” undoubtedly has its flaws, the Tom Hardy led superhero flick has more than enough of the right elements to satisfy your anti-hero cravings.

For those who aren’t aware, “Venom” is an adaption of a comic book series of the same name. It focuses on Eddie Brock, an investigative journalist who is infected by an alien parasite, which refers to itself as ‘venom’. Though the character originally appeared as a villain in the Spider-man comics, the movie makes no mention of the web-slinger and instead focuses on the origin of the now incredibly popular anti-hero.

Unsurprisingly, the strongest parts of “Venom” are the ones when Tom Hardy is onscreen. Pulling double duty as both Eddie Brock and the voice of the symbiote itself, Hardy somehow manages to balance the dark and not-so-serious sides to both characters; adding some much appreciated comedic levity to the story. The scenes where Eddie and Venom are bickering with each other are definitely the most memorable, and Hardy plays the role of a reluctant hero so convincing that it is easy to forget that he is not actually infected.

When the dynamic duo isn’t in action, however, is where the movie suffers. The entire first act of the film is an incredibly dull and mundane drama without the presence of Venom, and the two romantic leads (Hardy and Michelle Williams) have such little chemistry that their scenes carry little to no weight. The movie does make some attempts at nuance in the plot when it comes to the villainous Carlton Drake (played by a lackluster Riz Ahmed), but instead of giving the character agency or motive, he ends up feeling more like a caricature of Elon Musk than anything else.

The drabness of the scenes without Venom is not made any better by the poor dialogue and oddly-timed cuts, which often seemed to be either added as an afterthought or not thought through at all. Also disappointing were the action sequences, which were serviceable by modern standards, but frustrating in comparison to the spectacular stunt work of other recent films like “Mission Impossible: Fallout”. If there was one thing that the unimaginative action scenes were in need of, it was an ‘R’ rating.

After the initial announcement that “Venom” would indeed be greenlit, there was much controversy surrounding what the rating would be. The comic book series was well known for its excessive violence, which often culminated in venom literally biting the head off of his victims. While it is understandable that studio executives wanted to maximize the potential box office profits by making “Venom” PG-13, I could not help but think to myself how much the movie as a whole (and the action scenes in particular) would have benefited from an ‘R’ rating.

Despite its less than compelling first act and a lack of gory violence, I still found myself walking out of the theater thoroughly satisfied. Although “Venom” is by no means a stellar film, it’s definitely an enjoyable popcorn movie and a promising start for what could become a full-blown trilogy.