In 2018, following years in development hell, Sony Pictures released Venom – the first live-action movie to focus on the Marvel Comics character. The movie didn’t mark the first on-screen appearance of Venom – that milestone went to 2007’s Spider-Man 3 – but it was the starting point for Venom to have a solo career.
And in terms of its profitability, Venom proved to be a very successful starting point. The movie took over $856 million at the worldwide box office, and cemented the character as box office gold.
Yet despite the financial success of Venom, the film was not so well received by critics. The Ruben Fleischer-directed movie opened to mixed reviews, with many critics believing it to be a subpar super hero story.
I too was critical of Venom upon release, and felt it wasn’t up to the standard of modern comic book movies. I criticised the movie on various fronts and in a review on It’s A Stampede! I said: “…in terms of the script the writing is appalling – juvenile, if you will. The dialogue feels as if it was penned by a 13-year-old – 14 at best.”
That was back in 2018 – but do I still feel this way about Venom? Let’s find out today.
In this post I am taking a look at Venom with a complete re-watch of the movie. I plan to view the film and discuss it in real-time, offering up my thoughts, opinions, and any other little bits of information along the way.
It pretty much goes without saying, but this discussion will be filled with spoilers, so if you have never watched Venom, and you wish to remain spoiler free, now is the time to stop reading.
1min 15secs – As the movie begins (and it moves its way through various production logos), the music kicks in and everything feels very ominous, especially as it opens up in space. I’m getting serious Alien (1979) vibes here.
2mins 30secs – As the movie moves from space to Earth, a space shuttle, owned by The Life Foundation, crash lands in East Malaysia.
3mins 30secs – A rescue crew is removing a black substance from the shuttle wreckage. The substance is one of four ‘specimens’. Three of the ‘specimens’ have been recovered, but one is missing.
4mins – Although it appeared as if there are no survivors, astronaut, John Jameson seems to have survived the crash.
Now, this isn’t referenced anywhere in this movie, but John Jameson is the son of Daily Bugle publisher, J. Jonah Jameson. He previously appeared in the unconnected, Spider-Man 2 (2004).
4mins 25secs – The missing ‘specimen’ was hiding in the body of Jameson and now it has hitched a ride away from the crash site; first in Jameson, and then by switching bodies to an EMT.
5mins – This initial five minutes of Venom feels very dark; kind of like a mix between Alien and The X-Files. I really like it.
I believe it is important to note this, because whatever problems I have with Venom, which will become clear shortly, I do believe this movie has some great moments. This opening sequence is one of them.
5mins 10secs – The action now moves to San Francisco and the introduction of Eddie Brock, played by Tom Hardy, and Anne Weying, played by Michelle Williams. Brock previously appeared in the unconnected Spider-Man 3, with Topher Grace in the role. Weying has not previously appeared in a movie.
6mins 30secs – With the introduction of Brock, I can already feel a slight tonal shift in the movie from the opening five minutes, but it’s not entirely Hardy’s doing – it’s the music!
The opening five minutes feature music scored by Ludwig Göransson. This music helped to set the atmosphere and made me feel as if this could be a potentially scary picture.
Shortly after the first five minutes, the track ‘No Problem’, by Pusha T, is used as background music. While I have no issue with ‘No Problem’ as a song, it feels like it belongs in a different movie from the one I was just introduced to.
The opening score feels timeless. ‘No Problem’ feels like it will date this movie pretty quickly.
It’s a choice to change the tone here. I don’t believe it is the correct one.
12mins 20secs – Back to the story, and Eddie Brock is an investigative reporter, tasked with interviewing Carlton Drake – the head of The Life Foundation.
14mins – The interview started well, but Eddie tried to probe Drake about the unethical practices at The Life Foundation. Drake immediately shut down the interview.
15mins 25secs – Because he pushed things too much in the interview, and because he won’t provide a source for his claims against Carlton Drake and The Life Foundation, Eddie has lost his job. He has also broken up with Anne.
16mins – The three ‘specimens’ have arrived back at The Life Foundation…
17mins 50secs – …meanwhile, the missing ‘specimen’ has arrived at a food market in Malaysia, and has jumped from the body of the EMT into the body of an old woman.
18mins – Six months have passed since the interview with Carlton Drake and things aren’t going well for Eddie. He is living in a rundown apartment, has a dick of a neighbour, has a stack of unpaid bills, and in the words of the owner of a local convenience store, he looks “like shit”.
26mins – While Eddie’s life has gone down the drain in the last six months, The Life Foundation has been busy experimenting on the three ‘specimens’, leading to human trials. Humans are being used as host bodies for the ‘specimens’.
27mins 45secs – The first human trial did not go well. A ‘specimen’ invaded the human’s body, caused him to convulse, then drop down dead.
29mins 30secs – Horrified by the lengths that Carlton Drake is going to in his experiments, one of The Life Foundation’s employees, Dr. Dora Skirth, has approached Eddie Brock to help expose the company.
34mins 50secs – Dr. Skirth is explaining to Eddie that the ‘specimens’ are called symbiotes. Carlton Drake believes that by combining symbiotes with humans, humans will be able to live in space.
38mins – After sneaking into The Life Foundation, Eddie becomes infected by a symbiote. He escapes, but displays super human strength in the process.
44mins 25secs – And now time for what I can only refer to as a very, very bad scene.
An infected Eddie seeks out Annie at a restaurant, and begins to cause a disturbance. This leads to Eddie submerging himself into a lobster tank… and eating a live lobster.
This whole scene is daft. Really daft.
One of my biggest issues with Venom is its inability to decide if it wants to be a serious horror movie or a slapstick adventure film. It straddles both genres rather than just committing to one, and this continual shift in tone makes it difficult to fully connect with the material – with the lobster tank scene being a prime example.
47mins 30secs – The slapstick continues as Eddie hears a voice in his head.
51mins – Carlton Drake is aware that Eddie has the symbiote in his possession and has sent goons (with guns) to Eddie’s apartment. Cue a CGI fight sequence, with Eddie using the symbiote to take down the goons.
Yet more slapstick and some very questionable CGI. And I’m being polite when I say “questionable CGI”, as some of it looks pretty bad.
54mins 30secs – And now for the most stupid moment in the whole movie.
Carlton Drake wants the symbiote back, so instructs his team of goons to chase after Eddie. This leads to a bike chase though the streets of San Francisco, with Eddie being attacked by drones.
Not only is there no sign of any police, but why would the secretive Life Foundation feel comfortable with creating such a huge scene in the middle of the city? Surely with all of these exploding drones, this incident could be traced back to The Life Foundation quite easily!
This makes no sense.
59mins 25secs – As the chase scene concludes, the symbiote finally reveals its true form… and then promptly bites the head off a goon. The head biting thing is weird – and is supposed to be funny!
1hr 30secs – The symbiote reveals its name: Venom.
1hr 9mins 30secs – Venom also reveals its weaknesses, which include fire and high frequency sound.
1hr 11mins – The missing symbiote from earlier in the movie has found its way to The Life Foundation (via the body of a little girl). It makes one last body swap, with Carlton Drake as the new host – which is convenient, as he is the villain of the movie.
1hr 15mins – Drake is now very powerful and his goons have managed to capture Eddie Brock. Only problem is, Brock is no longer hosting Venom, as the two became separated.
1hr 18mins – With Brock proving to be of no use to Drake, Carlton’s goons are tasked with performing an execution. However, things don’t go to plan when Anne comes to the rescue, as She-Venom!
This is pretty cool and although She-Venom is only on screen for a brief moment, it is good to see Anne become one with the symbiote. More of this, please.
1hr 18mins 45secs – Drake’s symbiote is called Riot.
1hr 20mins – OK, time for another gripe, and this largely centres around the dialogue used by Venom in this movie, which is just rubbish. I mentioned this earlier, but the dialogue at times is so juvenile.
In the comics, Venom can be creepy and menacing (certainly during his earlier appearances), but there’s nothing creepy or menacing on display here – just words and phrases which seem like they have come out of the mouth of an angst-ridden teen. This should be better.
1hr 21mins 30secs – Riot/Drake are setting a plan into motion, to send a probe into space. The plan is to bring more symbiotes back to Earth. It seems a bit random, but I’ll go with it.
1hr 22mins – Into the big finally now, and Venom and Riot are duking it out in front of the probe. This whole scene is a CGI-fest. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t.
I think the big problem here is that Venom and Riot look very similar. Had the movie picked a different coloured symbiote instead of two that share a similar appearance, the CGI showdown would have been less hectic.
1hr 25mins 20secs – Riot appears to have killed Eddie and is heading back toward the probe.
1hr 26mins – But wait… Eddie lives!
1hr 26mins 30secs – Venom has revived Eddie, and the pair attack the probe mid-launch. It explodes in a ball of flame, killing Riot/Carlton.
1hr 27mins 20secs – Eddie is thrown clear in the explosion, but Venom seems to have died in the explosion.
1hr 29mins – Surprise reveal: Venom isn’t dead! I can’t say I was fooled, not even for a moment.
1hr 29mins 30secs – And now time for the Stan Lee cameo! Stan is playing a dog walker.
Incidentally, while Marvel movies are known for their Stan Lee cameos, the character of Venom is not a Stan Lee creation. Venom was created by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane.
Oh, and before Venom made his debut, the symbiote existed as Spider-Man’s alien costume, which was created by Randy Schueller, Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco, Mike Zeck, and Ron Frenz. So yeah, Stan Lee had nothing to do with Venom.
1hr 31mins – As the movie draws to a close, Eddie/Venom tackle a convenience store robber… by biting off his head. The whole situation is played for laughs, but it is not funny.
And the oddest thing about this scene isn’t the decapitation, but the fact that it was day time before Eddie entered the convenience store, yet it is clearly night time while he is in the store!
1hr 34mins 35secs – With this being a Marvel movie, before saying goodbye to Venom, there is just time for a mid-credit scene. The scene takes place at San Quentin Prison and involves the introduction of serial killer, Cletus Kasady.
Kasady is introduced here to set up the villainous, Carnage, who appears in the next movie, Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Kasady is played by Woody Harrelson.
I think it is pretty clear from my comments above, that I believe Venom to be a flawed movie. I thought this the first time I watched it, and I have similar views this time around.
However, I am not going to be overly critical here, because a.) if you want to know my very critical views, you can read my 2018 review of Venom on It’s A Stampede!, and b.) my overall view of Venom has softened somewhat since 2018. Yes, I still have many issues with the movie, but due to repeat screenings (including this one) I have come to accept some of the flaws.
Venom is tonally all over the place, there’s no doubt about it and I certainly won’t claim it to be a great movie, but I do find it to be an easy watch, with some enjoyable moments. I mentioned this earlier, but I love the inclusion of She-Venom and I must admit, I never expected Anne Weying to appear in this guise in this movie.
I also enjoyed the idea of multiple symbiotes being brought to Earth. This movie could have easily bypassed other symbiotes, in order to focus solely on Venom, but it didn’t and this feels like good set up for future films.
Venom also makes some decent steps toward the horror element of this story. I wish that this had been explored further, and Venom had pushed harder in this direction, because this could have been a very sinister film, but there are plenty of signs it was at least attempting to go darker.
So, there is a lot to like in this movie, and I’m pretty sure many audiences find it a fun ride, but for me, it is a wasted opportunity. Venom demonstrates a lot of potential, and a few years on from its release I don’t find it as underwhelming as I once did, but it is not what it could have been and that is a shame.
Thank you for stopping by Don’t Tell Harry to read this post about Venom. For more Marvel-related content, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.