Venom Joins Catwoman and Fantastic Four Among The Worst Superhero Movies To Date

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Catwoman, Green Lantern, and Fantastic Four are generally regarded as examples of the worst superhero films ever made. Now you can add another one to the future Razzie Award winner (loser?) list—Sony Pictures ill-conceived Venom. Calling it a dumpster fire would be an insult to actual dumpster fires. No part of this film succeeds. This waste of time should only be viewed as a study aid for aspiring filmmakers to learn what a terrible movie looks like.

Thomas Hardy is highly regarded in many circles but his output in the superhero genre has been underwhelming. His portrayal of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises was mundane, but compared to his turn as Eddie Brock, crusading reporter turned hopelessly uninteresting vessel for Venom (an alien symbiote, not to be confused with the super-steroid of the same name that Bane uses), his faceless hulking thug with delusions of grandeur in the third and least of the Christopher Nolan Batman films was Oscar-worthy.

It doesn’t help matters that Hardy has nothing to work with here. The script by Jeff Pinker, Scott Rosenberg and Kelly Marcel is scattershot, eschewing characterization for leaps of logic that will leave even the most ravenous Marvel zombies shaking their heads in disappointment. Chemistry between actors? None. George Lucas got more out of Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman than Venom director Ruben Fleischer got out of Hardy and Michelle Williams, who adds absolutely nothing to the proceedings. Riz Ahmed could be in line to win Best and Worst Supporting Actor statues this year. His role in Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers opposite John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix and Jake Gyllenhaal is wonderfully conceived and executed. However his attempt to play an evil scientist/businessman named Carlton Drake is just cringe worthy; when Jesse Eisenberg’s horrendous Lex Luthor from the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and The Justice League is better than your evil scientist/businessman, you should probably just start over with a better script.

Venom itself is a CGI character that constantly reminded me of the title character in Spawn. The creature itself isn’t really interesting. It’s an inky black blob that can transform into a living “super-suit” of sorts, complete with a monstrous version of Spider-Man’s head. Yes, for those of you who don’t know the true origin of Venom in Marvel comics lore, the creature first joined with Peter Parker. When it was eventually driven off it found a new host in Eddie Brock, who hated Parker for getting him fired from the Daily Bugle. Venom hated Spider-Man but also knew his true identity, thus making Venom a particularly dangerous opponent for Spider-Man. Unfortunately, some genius at Sony decided that Venom shouldn’t intersect with Spider-Man at all and that this instant flop would somehow launch the Sony Adjunct Universe of Marvel properties that they foolishly cling to instead of selling them back to Disney. The creature also speaks English, inconceivably, considering it was found in outer space, crashed in Malaysia and hopped bodies halfway across the world. By the time the film reached its climax, the young lady seated next me said out loud, “I don’t even care to know how this ends!” and left the theater. I envied her.

There are two cut scenes if you feel compelled to sit through more boring stuff after subjecting yourself to the film in the first place. The first is a nod to Carnage, the “other” major alien symbiote in the Marvel Universe. Carnage is played by Woody Harrelson, who obviously had no idea what he was getting himself into. The second one has absolutely nothing to do with the movie at all—it’s actually a trailer for the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse due out late this year. It looked infinitely better than Venom.

With no true hero, a weak supporting cast, no villain to speak of, special effect overkill and no real connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it should be pretty obvious that Venom should be avoided at all cost. Sony should stick to making PlayStations and stop trying to do what Marvel Studios clearly does better than anyone. The worst Marvel television offerings—"Iron Fist?" "The Inhumans?"—are far superior products to this inexcusable effort. For his part, Thomas Hardy has explained through his social media that his best scenes were left on the cutting room floor. If that’s not a strong hint that Sony punted for PG-13 when they might have at least earned a field goal with an R rating had management not chickened out. Now even if they went back and added them nobody would care. Say “Excelsior!” to Venom now and maybe Sony won’t waste millions more dollars to finance the two sequels that Hardy has already signed on to star.

Grade: 
1.0 / 5.0