From the poster to the tone to the tie-in song, “Venom” feels like it could have come out fourteen years ago. The utter edgy shlock of it all, the poster riffing off Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2”, the Eminem title track, even the utter lunacy of Tom Hardy’s deranged, Jim Carry-esque performance. What a complete delight. I’ve long suspected Tom Hardy has some kind of stipulation about only taking a role if he gets to do some kind of weird and silly voice in it, and in this film, he gets to do two! Watching him go bananas for ninety minutes was well worth the price of admission.
The actual film around him is an odd, very dated relic, but is mostly entertaining and idiosyncratic enough to keep interest – it’s so bizarrely made that it feels like an unintentional repudiation of its genre peers these days. Whenever it tries to earnestly be serious it mostly fails (unless it misfires so much it swings back into comedy), but all the moments aiming at least somewhat for silliness land excellently. A meatier second act, and embracing the grotesqueness of the premise (the cannibalism and violence and whatnot) would have helped the film sail smoother, but the premise and Hardy’s performance carry it well enough. The film would be utterly, profoundly lost without Hardy though, a complete dud.
Despite everything this movie actually is positioned as – the start of a unique Sony superheroic cinematic universe, a peer/competitor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe (less focus-grouped than Marvel, less dour than DC) the superhero film it feels closest too is easily Jim Carrey’s “The Mask”. What fun. Three and a half symbiotes, and a parasite.