‘Venom’ Bites

It’s Grim, Dumb, Loud, and Completely Disgusting

So apparently we’re now watching comic book movies where the hero bites off people’s heads. And it’s funny and cool because he also eats Tater Tots, okay? And the movie totally deserves a PG-13 rating since it’s not terrifying for kids at all or completely disgusting for adults. It’s edgy, right? Like Deadpool is edgy. So shut up and laugh or whatever.

Septic shock is the only acceptable reaction to Venom, a pitiless, strangely dark dry-heave into the perpetually-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Except this is an alternate universe to the actual MCU, where lots of Spider-Man’s bad guys exist without the hope of Spider-Man ever appearing, because he belongs to another corporation. It’s intellectual property, but not very intellectual, and the property’s cheap.

VENOM(1/5 stars)
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Kelly Marcel
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott
Running time: 112 min.

Bay Area news reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) becomes unsuspecting host for the titular monster, an insecure outer-space parasite with a deep inner voice that looks like black latex phlegm and sounds like a wannabe James Earl Jones. “Back on my planet, I was kind of a loser,” he huffs. Guess what? You’re a loser on Earth, too, Venom.

It’d be nice to say that Hardy, a fine actor, is actually given a chance to act. But he’s basically just a Looney-Tunes punching bag. Dude is flung through windows, rammed against brick walls, thrown from a motorcycle in mid-collision, and forced to slide down the side of the Transamerica Building. “Pussy,” laughs his parasite. Up yours, parasite.

Venom is on Earth because of ersatz Elon Musk visionary Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), whose Life Foundation has been combing the galaxy for superior life forms called Symbiotes so they can fuse with human beings and turn them into homicidal dicks.

Wanna grab a poké bowl?

Otherwise capable actor Ahmed clearly realizes that his villain character is dead inside, so he’s cut his losses by going on glassy-eyed performance auto-pilot while screeching “Launch the drones!” and “Find my Symbiote—now!”

Speaking of Symbiotes, this movie has more than just Venom: there’s also Riot and She-Venom and a post-credit tease for somebody named Carnage. They travel from body to body, giving us joyless visions of an old Malaysian grandma shuffling away from heaps of corpses and a little blonde girl staggering blithely through airport terminals and high-security skyscrapers. (Wait—how does the girl not get noticed by anyone? Oh, fuck it, who cares.)

Multiple Oscar nominee Michelle Williams is in this hot mess, too, doing her level best with dialogue like “Oh, no! I just bit that guy’s head off!” Her special skills include being Brock’s ex-girlfriend and also the ability to find a volume knob anywhere and deliver intensely loud high-frequency noises.

The movie ends with a pact to keep up the cannibalism—but only with very bad people—and also hints at a possible interspecies Devil’s Triangle. Because kids are watching and it’s a Marvel movie. Oh, and Woody Harrelson is Carnage. So you can look forward to that.

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Stephen Garrett

Stephen Garrett is the former film editor of 'Time Out New York’ and has written about the movie industry for more than 20 years. A Rotten Tomatoes certified reviewer, Garrett is also the founder of Jump Cut, a marketing company that creates trailers and posters for independent, foreign-language, and documentary films.

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