Do you want to know what my favorite part about Venom is? It’s how one of the characters in it mentions “kryptonite” at one point. That means that, in the Venom universe—a Marvel property—there are Superman comics. I don’t know why that matters. It probably doesn’t. But it stood out to me as pretty neat, and perhaps it will act as a point where exclusive fans of DC and Marvel can come together and enjoy stories from the “other side.”
Oh, what’s that? Venom’s origin is different and the fanboys are mad about it? Spider-Man isn’t even in the movie even though his presence is intrinsic to Venom as a character? Well, how about that? I guess there will never be peace among the fans anyway. Because if they’re not going after the other side, they’re going after their own properties for changing up X or Y in a new story or rebooting a character in a different way. I’m not saying this is all of you, but if this does describe you, maybe open your mind to some new ideas once in a while. Change isn’t inherently bad.
With all that said, Venom does change some things about its character’s origin and the origin story we see in the movie isn’t the most interesting thing in the world. Our protagonist is Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), an investigative journalist who beings the film researching the CEO of the Life Foundation, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). He says the wrong thing to the wrong person and costs himself his career, the career of his girlfriend (Michelle Williams), as well as their relationship. The first half hour of this film is downtrodden and not a ton of fun.
Then Eddie gets infected with a don’t-call-it-a-parasite called “Venom,” which can possess him and make him do things he otherwise doesn’t want to do, informing him that the “symbiotes” are coming and they’re going to take over the planet. This takes a long while to get to and a lot of the journey is not a ton of fun. And if Venom suffers from a major issue, it’s the requisite origin story being kind of a bore. That’s often an issue with origins, but this one is especially slow and uneventful, and does a really poor job of building up its supporting characters to the point where they and their fates matter in the second half.
The second half, apart from that, is a lot of fun. Once Venom gets inside Eddie and the two of them start communicating—conversing, arguing, mocking each other, and so on—and Venom starts getting to do Venom stuff, the movie starts to pick up. It actually made me want more of it, even though only half of the production is good and even the good parts come with their fair share of problems.
It’s enjoyable because the Venom stuff is good and because the movie has a sense of humor about it all. Lots of the Venom/Eddie dialogue exchanges are funny, there’s a campy sensibility to a lot of the proceedings, and if this came out in the Spawn era of superhero movies it probably wouldn’t have felt out of place. In 2018? Yeah, we’ve come to expect less of a schlocky production. And if you can’t get past that, then that’s fine. But if you’re a B-movie fan who likes this sort of thing? Venom is going to be right up your ally.
So, is Venom good? No, not really. Some of the action is incomprehensible, the first half is dull and doesn’t even develop its characters well enough in the slow parts to make them worthwhile and the story is all over the place. But there are a lot of laughs to be had, the second half where Venom gets to do Venom stuff is a good amount of fun, and the campy approach to the whole thing makes it really hard for me to hate. I left wanting more of this character from this point forward; the origin story isn’t good, but now that that’s out of the way? I’m in.
Conclusion: Venom is campy fun. It may not be especially good, but it;s moderately entertaining and sets us up for a potentially enjoyable franchise.
Recommendation: If you like the character, Venom is worth your time.