'Venom' Review Round-Up: Comic Book Origins And Comedy Clumsily Clash Instead Of Finding Symbiosis

Much like the symbiote monster at the center of Venom, it appears director Ruben Fleischer has crafted two wildly different movies that don't come together to form a single cohesive film. Keeping audiences engaged is Tom Hardy (as many social media reactions indicated), but it seems that he only truly becomes a mesmerizing character when it's too late in the movie, though it just might be enough to get audiences intrigued in a totally insane sequel.

Find out more from the first Venom reviews that have hit the web.

Bryan Bishop at The Verge had this to say:

It's a train wreck of a movie, mixing and matching wildly dissonant tones, bizarre plot contrivances, and a truly unique lead performance. It's full of odd slapstick moments and computer-generated effects that look like they were pulled straight from the 1990s. Hardcore fans may just be pleased that the titular character has his own movie. But for everyone else, Venom is a mess.

Laura Prudom at IGN wasn't impressed either:

Tom Hardy's committed performance can't overcome a painful script and indecisive direction, resulting in a film with a personality that's as split as its titular character. There are occasional moments of brilliance in the dynamic between Eddie and Venom that give a hint of what the film could have been in steadier hands, but ultimately, that only makes the finished product a more frustrating viewing experience.

Jesse Hassenger at The AV Club calls it a throwback to some of the less satisfying comic book movies:

It's reminiscent of the post-Spider-Man, pre-MCU superhero pictures, the ones made with some degree of star power and/or production value but lacking a sense of purpose beyond showing off a live-action exclamation of a famous comics character. It's Daredevil! It's Ghost Rider! It's the Fantastic Four! What else do you rubes want?

Justin Chang at The Los Angeles Times wishes the movie would have gone further into darkness:

Venom never fully embraces or maximizes the exuberant nastiness of its premise. This is one instance in which a story that should have been unsparingly dark feels hobbled, even sanitized, by its PG-13 rating, and also by the usual Hollywood franchise imperatives.

Chris Nashawaty at Entertainment Weekly thinks the movie is totally forgettable:

Venom isn't quite bad, but it's not exactly good either. It's noncommittally mediocre and, as a result, forgettable. It just sort of sits there, beating you numb, unsure of whether it wants to be a comic-book movie or put the whole idea of comic-book movies in its crosshairs. It never rises above bombastic and busy — which is something I never thought I'd say about a movie starring three aces like Hardy, Ahmed, and Williams. Visually, which is the only thing really going for it, Venom has a stylishly gloomy Nolan-does-Gotham vibe. But Venom, the character, never comes into focus until the last five minutes, when it finally, at long last, starts to get interesting.

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Owen Gleiberman at Variety says this is a disappointing kick-off to a would-be franchise:

Venom is a textbook case of a comic-book film that's unexciting in its ho-hum competence, and even its visual-effects bravura. Make no mistake: The effects can be dazzling. The alien matter splattering itself around like random tentacled liquid, the way Venom cross-breeds Spider-Man's skyscraper-hopping agility with the Hulk's dynamo destructiveness — it's all diverting eye candy. But to what end? This gateway into the Sony Universe of Marvel Characters (get ready: there are 90!) may not sputter as badly as Tom Cruise's "The Mummy," but it could turn out to be a similar case of a franchise kickoff that doesn't fully attain franchise liftoff.

Mike Ryan at Uproxx flat out says Venom isn't a good movie, but he had a blast watching it:

Now, I do want to make it clear that I think Venom is not a good movie, but I also want to make it clear that I had the time of my life watching it. I think in a couple of years Venom could be the type of movie that sells out midnight showings as people come up to the screen and act out their favorite parts – like a Rocky Horror Picture Show type of thing. My point is, if you're in the right group and right frame of mind, Venom is really fun to watch.

Matt Singer at ScreenCrush thinks Venom takes too long to dig into the weird and hilarious:

This is epically, fantastically weird stuff. The only thing stopping this movie from becoming an immediate cult classic is that it takes nearly an hour for Tom Hardy to go full Venom. If they'd trimmed 15 minutes out of this thing, cut right to the chase, and just piled on the Hardy, Venom would be unmissable.

Venom trailer

Matt Patches at Polygon says there are two movies in Venom that never manage to sort themselves out:

There are two movies inside Venom, and they spend 100 minutes battling over a theoretical franchise-starter's soul.

There's a big, clunky comic-book movie, in which a reluctant hero embraces and wields newfound powers to save the world, and clutching that by-the-books blockbuster by the throat is a bloodthirsty, symbiote romp spearheaded by star Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises), who sinks his teeth into the picture with tour-de-force comedic performance.

Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter thinks the movie can't measure up to Marvel Studios quality:

At a time when the Marvel universe is both expanding adventurously (Black Panther) and wrapping up other storylines (Avengers: Infinity War), Venom feels like a throwback, a poor second cousin to the all-stars that have reliably dominated the box-office charts for most of this century. Partly, this is due to the fact that, as an origin story, this one seems rote and unimaginative. On top of that, the writing and filmmaking are blah in every respect; the movie looks like an imitator, a wannabe, not the real deal.

Michael Nordine at IndieWire says viewers will have fun if they embrace the oddities of Venom:

Venom is very much its own entity — one in which, for better or worse, a parasitic alien calls its host a pussy for deciding to take the elevator instead of jumping off a skyscraper and Tom Hardy jumps into a lobster tank in the middle of a crowded restaurant. This leaves the viewer with two choices: reject the parasite or let it take you over. Fight it off and you'll have a bad time; become one with it and you may achieve a kind of symbiosis.


Many of the full reviews echo what the initial reactions on social media said. Sometimes it sounds like critics are making excuses for the movie by saying that it's not as bad as it could have been. But that might just be because Tom Hardy's fascinating and strange performance makes the movie entertaining, whether it's intentional or not. But the problem is that it doesn't sound like Venom finds sure-footing as a twisted, darkly comedic comic book entry and loses steam when it goes into franchise auto-pilot mode. At the very least, it sounds like this will be worth watching for yourself.

Venom arrives in theaters on October 5, 2018.