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Feature Article

Venom Review: A Comic Book Movie Time Capsule

It's not impossible.

Making a Venom movie without Spider-Man is a unique challenge. But many of Venom's issues have nothing to do with Spidey's absence.

For example: Early in Venom, the Symbiote that will later be revealed as Riot escapes the Life Foundation's custody and infects a woman in a marketplace in Malaysia, with the explicit goal of reaching San Francisco. The movie's main story then begins: Eddie Brock makes some poor decisions, loses his job and his fiancé (Michelle Williams' Anne Weying), and hits rock bottom. Cue a six month time jump--and our friend Riot, still inhabiting the old woman from the marketplace, has finally made it--to the airport?

What was Riot doing for the six months between then and now? Did it go on a killing spree across Malaysia? Was it dormant or hibernating--something the movie never gives any hint that Symbiotes might be capable of? Was it biding its time pretending to be someone's grandma? That blatant plot hole has nothing to do with Venom's general 1990s cheesiness as a character, or the considerable challenge of trying to make a Venom movie without a single reference to Spider-Man. It's just good, old fashioned, avoidable sloppiness.

Don't get me wrong: The lack of Spider-Man does cause problems. Specifically, the entire premise--that Venom chooses to stick around on Earth, attach itself permanently to Eddie Brock, and betray its entire species--doesn't really work in this movie. In the books, Venom's obsession with Spider-Man gives it common purpose with Eddie, and cutting Spidey out of the equation necessitates something take his place as their end goal. The movie tries to get around that by clumsily painting Eddie and Venom as Breakfast Club style lovable "losers" (actual, direct quote: "On my planet, I am kind of a loser, like you"). It's nonsensical, implausible, under-explained, and tonally weird; that line is easily the movie's biggest laugh, but not in a good way.

Venom is surprisingly funny, mostly in the verbal abuse the Symbiote whispers directly into Eddie's brain, usually after Tom Hardy's character does something Venom considers cowardly or embarrassing. When Eddie holds his hands up in surrender to law enforcement, Venom laments that he's "making us look bad;" when Eddie opts to take the elevator rather than jumping from a skyscraper, Venom calls him a "pussy." These moments are deliberately played for laughs, and they land well enough. The bigger problem is why an alien parasite from space talks like a frat bro, or, extrapolating further, why it needs eyes and teeth if its main form is a shapeless, pulsing black goo. These essential curiosities of Venom as a character are never so much as acknowledged, much less explained.

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On the plus side, Venom and the other Symbiotes look pretty good in this movie. The CG work is somewhat inconsistent, and it definitely goes through ups and downs when it comes to raw fidelity. But unlike in his other live action incarnations (looking at you, Spider-Man 3), Venom actually looks like Venom here. The alien comes off as both lithe and powerful; it leaps around gracefully, but its hulking form also exudes menace and strength. The visual effect of Venom's vicious visage wrapping itself over Eddie's head is creatively executed, and Symbiote-on-Symbiote fight scenes play out in unexpected ways, with human hosts and alien parasites struggling to remain linked while trying to rip and tear their opponents apart.

Hardy is as baffling in this role as the movie's trailers have suggested he'd be. As a New York transplant living in San Francisco, he's doing something like a caricature of an NYC cab driver's accent, mixed with frequent slurred mutterings--and that's before he encounters the Symbiote and his behavior becomes understandably erratic. Besides Hardy's strange performance, Brock himself is not a likeable or relatable character. He thoughtlessly uses his fiancé in a half-baked gotcha journalism scheme that gets them both fired, and it literally never occurs to him to so much as apologize to her, until Venom for some unknowable reason nudges him in the right direction later in the film. Brock lacks the depth of character to carry this movie, and Hardy lacks the charm to make up for the character's shallowness.

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Michelle Williams does just fine as Anne, although her attachment to Eddie is really inexplicable, as the two have zero chemistry. Even weirder is the willingness of her new doctor boyfriend (Reid Scott) to administer Eddie multiple MRI screenings, even after Eddie interrupts their fancy lunch date by climbing into a lobster tank (the Symbiote affects him in some truly strange ways).

Riz Ahmed does a great job as the megalomaniacal head of the Life Foundation, totally selling his character's belief that humans will have to mutate themselves using alien parasites if we want to survive climate change. That said, it's a pretty thin motivation, and Dr. Carlton Drake is an utterly one note villain. To be honest, the only character who actually experiences any kind of growth or change is the scientist played by comedian and actress Jenny Slate, who is terrific in this movie--and, unfortunately, underused.

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Venom has all the ingredients of a decent superhero movie--10 or 15 years ago. With spotty CGI, poorly drawn characters, tonal inconsistency including forced "edginess" and awkward humor, sidelined female characters, and even cringeworthy licensed musical cues, it feels like a relic from the distant, pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe past. That may in part be attributed to the fact that it's been in production in one form or another since at least 2008. But its problems go way past simply being "old school," and ultimately, Venom lacks the charm, clarity, and ambition superhero fans have come to expect.

The GoodThe Bad
Surprisingly funnyInconsistent CGI quality
Venom looks like VenomUnlikeable, shallow characters
Some creative action and visual effectsTom Hardy's strange performance
Better than Venom portrayal in Spider-Man 3Multiple plot holes
Venom makes little sense as a character
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Michael Rougeau

Mike Rougeau is GameSpot's Senior Entertainment Editor. He loves Game of Thrones and dogs.
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Avatar image for unforgivensheep

Ok first off don't go into this movie thinking about how accurate they are to the comic. It's Sony and we all know how Sony uses creative licensing to drive a narrative. So what we have here is Venom as he should be in a story that doesn't explain much unless you pay attention as to why which is near the middle and end.

If you've grown up on comics and don't like seeing stories becoming inaccurate then just stfu and pass on this . If you're in this to see a movie with Venom then this is the best Sony can do before they're in breach of contract with Marvel/Disney.

It's a fun movie, sure the plot is a bit of a stretch but it's loosely based off the comic book. Who wants a movie of a famous antagonist from Spider-man to play out like we've seen from Spider-man . A retelling of a back story . So Sony took what they knew and decided to make a different story that has nothing to do with MCU at all . Toss in characters we'll recognize just by name and make the So-Called hero somewhat of a occasional idiot that's scared of whats exactly in him. Toss in some real world problems like a relationship ending by a selfish mistake . We can relate to Eddie and we can somewhat relate to Venom. I'm not saying this is perfect in way of what Marvel has done but this is a step up from what we've seen Sony do. I can safely say this is better than any DC movie that's been made.

I enjoyed it even knowing the real story behind Venom and I hope they don't take long to make the sequel. I wasn't displeased like most of these critics or trolls. I've seen worse come out of Hollywood and this isn't it .

Avatar image for wendopolis_bruh

I totally agree. There is really not much reason why literally anyone did anything in the entire movie. It's a good movie to watch a mindless action/late 90's cliche "I found this alien power and I don't know what to do now" film but definitely a "D" at best for a quality Venom movie.

Sony literally gets the SAME THINGS WRONG with Marvel characters: the human characteristics as to why they do things and their flaws are, for some odd reason, on the other side of the extreme. In TASM, Peter was a cool kid who had a hot girlfriend and would actually hang-up on her then later grab her up and kiss her- something Peter should NEVER have the courage to do and this all plays into the alter-ego's role. Also, Eddie is pretty much the complete opposite- low self-esteem, not charismatic, general loser while the symbiote gives him everything he's lacking which is a big reason why he LOVES the symbiote and will fight for it (without the symbiote he feels "alone"- pretty much like a serious drug addiction- which was another part they COMPLETELY missed the mark on and went to the opposite extreme LOL). Tom Hardy's "Eddie" is successful, attractive male with a hot girlfriend and a nice motorcycle. There is no real reason why he would even want to be attached to a symbiote as most anyone in the comics who had a decent head on their shoulders eventually grew to see co-existing with the symbiote was not healthy on multiple levels (even Deadpool couldn't find a reason to hold onto it and he was the first to try it out). Hardy's "Eddie" seemed to have a decent head on his shoulders which makes me wonder even more why he would want it. Maybe Stockholm Syndrome?

Also, Jenny Slater was probably the best acting/purposeful character and I thought she would've been the worst before watching the film.

Don't get me started on the "Carnage" ending. Go home Sony, you are drunk.

Avatar image for cjtopspin

Sweet. When Gamespot gives a movie a bad review it typically means it is pretty good and entertaining. I doubt this movie is Shakespeare...but we don't watch gooey alien movies for Shakespearean prose, do we? I look forward to seeing this.

Avatar image for commander

your problem with the plot is nothing more than personal, the plot makes perfect sense, these are after all intelligent beings and their motives are perfectly understandable.

Avatar image for Tekarukite

@commander: and somehow omniscient. and concocted a brilliant scheme of travelling on a comet waiting for a billionaire to "capture" a few of them in tubes and turn test subjects into hybrids. said hybrids would then commandeer a rocket to get more of the .. um... yeah, perfectly understandable.

Avatar image for commander

@Tekarukite: who said they were waiting to be captured or being on that comet was their choice. Heck that comet could even been heading for earth either way, and being captured was not even necessary.

Avatar image for Natronox

In my opinion this movie was done very well considering they had to patch out elements from the spiderman universe. They stuck as close as they could to the original story, while still integrating their new elements.

I really appreciated the humor between Venom and Eddie. It wasn't cheesy like the new Marvel movies. It had some swearing integrated so it felt more real than most superhero movies. It was a welcome new experience from the spiderman universe...

In fact it felt a little more like the comics than any of the movies out so far. I remember reading the comics and there being sexual jokes, and swearing that came in the form of "!@#$". The comics were less afraid of being real. I think Disney has washed out some of our expectations of what the real spirit of comic book universes are.

Avatar image for Hastur

When you don't care about the pretentious opinions of movie critics, but just want to be entertained, look no further. I was pleasantly surprised by this movie.

Avatar image for so_hai

"Why does Venom talk like a frat bro?"

Ask yourself as to who the intended audience is.

Avatar image for deactivated-5bee09b4aa01f

Good movie guys, I gave it a 8 out of 10.

Avatar image for deactivated-5bee09b4aa01f

I liked it and scored it a 8 out of 10, it also has 2 after credits after it ends.

Avatar image for santinegrete

Where the "this could have been avoided" title of the review is now?

Avatar image for juninhotorres

I went to the cinema ready to turn my brain off for a while and have some fun. but boy, it's bad! it's almost so bad that it gets good. I wish I could ask for a refund. =/

Avatar image for paulie

Wow. Completely disagree with this review. I just got done seeing this movie and we all enjoyed it. The venom/eddie interactions were priceless and I enjoyed the action scenes. There were definitely parts that were sloppy and could have been polished but overall, I give it an 8 out of 10. From a Venom Fan: Recommended!

Avatar image for croxus

Read these reviews, go watch the movie with zero expectations and enjoy!

Avatar image for wendopolis_bruh

@croxus: That's what I did and I completely agree with the reviewer and more...

Avatar image for tmg1276

I have a Gamespot a liberal cesspool like IGN has become? Truthful answers please before I decide to make this site my go to pop culture and gaming site.

Avatar image for so_hai

@tmg1276: It's not as bad, but I've noticed it's trending towards it. Gamespot at least does not censor your comments (yet).

Avatar image for jerusaelem

@tmg1276: Yes it is. Please leave.

Avatar image for Broselovestar

@tmg1276: dude you live in a country with about 60% liberals. If you can't find a way to talk to people who may disagree with you here and there, I'm afraid there's nowhere else but your mother's basement and hill billy cults for you to stay. I know liberals can seem like crazy at times, but so are conservatives, so are libertarians and everyone else. I'm not even talking about the bigger world beyond your little country. Grow up, learn to talk to people, go outside and enjoy the differences, have a civil conversation.

Oh of course unless you're a mindless bot used to spread spiteful propaganda.

Avatar image for pauls

@Broselovestar: Thank you for writing this! I'm sick of seeing all this crap in the chat section of entertainment websites. People do need to learn that there is a time and place for this kind of conversation and this isn't it.

Avatar image for megagood2345

@tmg1276: I dunno, on both sites I see lots of people complaining about SJWs. Which makes them the only thing more annoying than actual SJWs. At least SJWs have a goal other than spite.

Avatar image for santinegrete

@megagood2345: I hate SJW and I have lefty-center political views. They're ruining everything with social media machinations for the sake of saying something to be public instead of really constructing. Any SJW complaining about toxic masculinity in Doom wasn't going to purchase the game anyway. Their *itching censored games like Dead or Alive Xtreme!

Avatar image for Dawg9000

@santinegrete: In all seriousness, my response to any complaints about liberals/conservatives, grow the **** up. You're on a gaming website, why would you even mention liberals and SJW's? Easily triggered children, grow up.,

Avatar image for NoodleFighter

@Dawg9000: "You're on a gaming website, why would you even mention liberals and SJW's?"

Because some of these gaming journalist are dragging their politics into gaming and reviewing games based on whether or not they appeal to their political/social agenda or not instead of actual gameplay and story. You end up with games like Kingdom Come: Deliverance and Far Cry 5 getting low reviews from SJW game reviewers just for not appeasing their narratives.

Avatar image for pauls

@Dawg9000: This. Also @santinegrete dude DOOM IS getting a sequel. Like what are you even worried about? Everyone who matters to the developers (the people like yourselves footing the bill) freaking loved it. Just go and wait for the game to come out and have fun! Don't get hung up on some opinion in a corner of the internet you don't frequent!

Avatar image for Baconstrip78

@Dawg9000: This guy gets it.

Avatar image for gamer4sp

I’m still going to watch the movie today at 5:00pm eastern time. Then, I have to go straight to work (10pm-6am).

Avatar image for penstrol

@gamer4sp: noted

Avatar image for Zenopants

You damn kids get off my Spawn!

Avatar image for bot101101


Avatar image for Nawras

We really enjoyed the movie when we have seen it and don't understand the overwhelmingly negative reviews. It's fun, enjoyable movie and it is refreshing to see a superhero movie that is detached from the MCU films - films that have themselves been following a decade old formula. I found the humour was natural and not juvenile like Deadpool nor quips like in other MCU films. CGI was very good actually and quite minimal compared to other superhero films. Yes, there are some plot holes, but one should suspend some sense of reality here. That said, a particular segment near the end could have had a few scenes that elaborated on the choices made. Either way, it's a good, fun, old school superhero movie that's a refreshing departure from the MCU clan.

Avatar image for jj2112

@Nawras: Is that you Tom?

Avatar image for PETERAKO

@Nawras: well, you shouldn't really be wondering why people didn't like it. Your enjoyment is subjective, and it is not the same as the actual quality of the movie.

Avatar image for Nawras

@PETERAKO: It's hard to be purely objective about mediums such as movies (or videogames even).