There seems to be an unspoken rule about “superhero” films and other comic-to-film adaptations that the main character(s) cannot be upstaged. This makes sense in the regard that those characters are the reason audiences are excited to watch the films in the first place, but sometimes the concept limits the overall film. This is sadly the case with Venom as Tom Hardy gives an excellent performance as Eddie Brock, as well as providing an excellent voice to the titular symbiote.
For those who aren’t familiar with the anti-hero and the subsequent host, Eddie Brock is an investigative journalist who will do just about anything to get a lead that justifies his gut feelings of a story. This makes him the quintessential “that guy” who’s pretty much just out for himself. Hardy’s presentation of the character is understandably self-loathing, yet oddly endearing as most audience members can at least recognize someone who can’t seem to get out of their own way to personal development. Then as Venom merges with Brock, those character traits are magnified as both characters find themselves wrestling with similar issues and insecurities.
The film seems to adopt this same characteristic, though. Hardy’s performance is the only one that seems to carry any weight and depth as all the other characters are as two-dimensional as the comics that spawned the story. The showing from the supporting cast was so weak that it would seem insulting to include them in this critique. I sincerely hope that Todd McFarlane wasn’t using this film as a test run for how to make a passable film adaptation of Spawn, as so many of his stories are driven by a host of characters; not just one (or would it be “two” in this case?). Sadly, this wasn’t the only draw-back to the film.
One thing that is inherent with Venom’s character is violence that’s just shy of the likes of Deadpool. Venom seems like the victim of last-minute cutting floor edits to make it fit in with a PG-13 rating. This is baffling in an industry that already knows an R-rated anti-hero film can be successful. It seems that McFarlane is already frustrated with creative differences over his creations, so perhaps there’s a chance for future iterations of his tales. Some potential saving graces for Venom include the rumour that an R-rated cut will be available in some edition of the BluRay release, and that there is plenty of room for a sequel with more unhinged characters in the Symbiote story-line.
All that said, I think fans of the character will ultimately be disappointed with this first stand-alone appearance of Venom, even though it is a vast improvement on the last time the character was on-screen. It’s exciting to see the character get a chance to establish himself on his own merits, but this only shows potential for what a Venom film could be outside of Spiderman. Die-hard fans of the character are understandably excited about this, but that lustre will likely tarnish over time if this is his only solo film outing.