After the much derided Amazing Spider-Man films starring Andrew Garfield Sony essentially relinquished control over Spider-Man as a character to Disney and he entered the MCU, that only left Sony with the right to his supporting characters.
The first live action film they put into place was Venom, starring Tom Hardy as the sometime villain sometime antihero, and took the story away from the Spider-Man based origins of the character and looked to build their own world around him. There were a lot of question marks about this with many comic book loyalist insisting that Venom could not work without Spider-Man, but as a stand alone character in the film he certain works.
Because that is the strength of this film, the interactions between Eddie Brock and Venom. There are plenty of issues with the film, but the ‘bromance’ and kinship that these two characters find with one another is what keeps it from becoming a true Fan4stic level of train wreck, and honestly keeps the idea of a sequel appealing.
Hardy took on the dual role of reporter Eddie Brock, as well as voicing and bringing to life the Venom side of his persona, and it is Hardy that makes Venom worthwhile. He is always such an engaging and watchable screen presence, Locke for instance is just Tom Hardy in a car for an hour and a half but it is brilliant, and Venom is no different. Whether playing Eddie, who’s accent seems to be far more toned down from the trailers, or in voicing the titular symbiote Hardy manages to bring a manic energy to the film that just about holds it together.
The supporting cast, whilst packed with talented actors, does comes unstuck with some very poorly written characters. Michelle Williams as Eddie Brock’s former fiancé falls into the very two dimensional love interest character that is all too often a hallmark of the Superhero genre, whilst Riz Ahmed as the villainous Carlton Drake should be hamming it up right alongside Hardy, but just has nothing truly fun to do.
The overall script isn’t much better, outside of the moments Hardy gets to play off himself it doesn’t bring much new to the genre, particularly with the generic as hell final confrontation between Brock/Venom and Drake with another symbiote Riot. But those moments where Hardy gets to have some fun with the character are great. There is a lot of humour to the film, not to mention some definitely unintended laughs, but you feel that without an actor of the caliber of Hardy then the script may have been exposed as even weaker than it comes off in the finished product.
It is also interesting that the two worries many people had before Venom was released, the lack of Spider-Man and an R-Rating, didn’t negatively affect the film, as adding either of these almost certainly would not have improved the film in any meaningful way. The clear problems with the film are with the script, the story, and the writing of many of the supporting characters.
It is hard to say that Venom is a good film, but what it does have is a great actor in Tom Hardy bringing the main duo of the film to life in a way that would have me very excited to see sequels with stronger scripts in place. Even without that Hardy manages to make the film enjoyable.