Let's get this out of the way right now. I don't trust Sony Pictures. They have a very long track record of mediocrity and are directly to blame for the rushed hack job that was The Amazing Spiderman films. When it was announced that they would be heading up a Venom film I initially cringed. It was announced on the heels of the success of Deadpool that we would enjoy an ultra-violent Venom-done-right style of film. Honestly, each announcement just further solidified my fears. It wouldn't be connected to Spiderman, it was going to be rated PG-13, they couldn't pronounce the word symbiote, the villain of the film appeared to be another "evil Steve Jobs" cookie cutter, "turd in the wind". You see what I mean? Just the day before the press screening I attended, Tom Hardy publicly said that there were roughly 40 minutes of footage left on the cutting room floor that we wouldn't see in theatres.
So what's the final verdict now that we have the finished product? Blah.
A lot of the worries about Sony turning the film into just an eye-numbing effects action showcase hold true. Set pieces routinely go on for too long or are incredibly confusing because of overdone effects and shaking camera angles, character motivations seem to turn on a dime so that the characters don't seem to grow so much as just turn into their new selves like a flipped card. The plot barely exists and is routinely forgotten about and major aspects of the world and especially the symbiotes is just never explained in any concrete way. Pacing is all over the place with a by the numbers but well acted and long first act that very, very quickly devolves into running from action scene to action scene in a rushed finale that makes you feel those missing 40 minutes.
The saving grace of the entire endeavor is Tom Hardy.
Playing both Eddie Brock and voicing Venom his portrayal of the duo is quite charming. Eddie is well established as a man on a mission who life just kept kicking down until he came to the end of his rope. His conversations with his darker other comprise the best dialogue and most entertaining portions of the film. And really that makes a lot of sense. Tom Hardy is easily one of the best character actors currently working and he really carries this entire film. His raw physicality as Eddie Brock is absolutely stellar.
There are more than a few actions set pieces that look like they were meant to be fully rated R and the blood/dismemberment effects were just not added. Matched with the sudden character turns it really REALLY feels like this film went through the chop shop and lost what could have been risky but great. A deep character exploration of Eddie Brock coming to terms with sharing his body with an alien presence all while having horror film levels of violence and death any time Venom is in the pilot seat.
In the end, Venom really is a one trick pony and while it'll see a good box office take due to name recognition its easily forgettable for everything except the missed potential. When they attempt the remake, keep Hardy.