Venom (2018) Movie Review
Venom is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, produced by Columbia Pictures in association with Marvel and Tencent Pictures. Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing, it is the first film in Sony's Marvel Universe, an adjunct to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).[a] Directed by Ruben Fleischer from a screenplay by Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, and Kelly Marcel, it stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock / Venom, alongside Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, and Reid Scott. In Venom, journalist Brock gains superpowers after being bound to an alien symbiote whose species plans invade Earth.
Trailer Venom (2018) Movie Review
Venom premiered in Los Angeles on October 1, 2018, and was theatrically released in the United States on October 5, 2018. The film has grossed over $508 million worldwide and set several box office records for the month of October. It received generally negative reviews from critics for its script and inconsistent tone, although Hardy's performance was praised
While exploring space for new habitable worlds, a probe belonging to the Life Foundation, a bio-engineering corporation, discovers a comet covered in symbiotic lifeforms. They bring four samples back to Earth, but one escapes and causes the ship to crash in Malaysia. The Life Foundation recovers the other three and transports them to their research facility in San Francisco, where CEO Carlton Drake learns that the symbiotes cannot survive without oxygen-breathing hosts, which often fatally reject the symbiosis. Investigative journalist Eddie Brock reads about Drake's human trials in a classified document in the possession of his fiancée Anne Weying, an attorney involved in preparing a lawsuit defense for the Life Foundation. Brock confronts Drake, leading to both Brock and Weying losing their jobs. Consequently, Weying ends their relationship.
Six months later, Drake is getting closer to achieving successful symbiosis. Brock is approached by Dora Skirt, one of Drake's scientists who disagrees with his methods and wants to help Brock expose him. She helps Brock break into the research facility to search for evidence, and he learns that an acquaintance of his, a homeless woman named Maria, has become one of Drake's test subjects. Brock attempts to rescue Maria, but she attacks him and the symbiote possessing her transfers from her body to his, leaving her dead. Brock escapes, but he soon begins displaying strange symptoms and reaches out to Weying for help. Her new boyfriend, Dr. Dan Lewis, examines Brock and discovers the symbiote. Meanwhile, Drake executes Skirt for her betrayal by exposing her to the remaining captive symbiote, which ultimately dies. This leaves the symbiote inside Brock as the only known surviving specimen.
Meanwhile, the fourth symbiote, Riot, makes its way from Malaysia to San Francisco by hopping from body to body. It bonds with Drake, who agrees to take Riot in a Life Foundation space probe to collect the rest of the symbiotes and bring them to Earth. Weying reluctantly bonds with Venom so they can free Brock. When Brock and Venom have bonded again, the latter states that he has been convinced to help protect the Earth from his kind through his interactions with Brock, and the pair attempt to stop Riot and Drake with Weying's help. Venom damages the probe as it takes off, causing it to explode and kill both Riot and Drake. Weying believes Brock is no longer bonded to Venom after this, and that the symbiote also died in the explosion. However, the pair remains secretly bonded and set out to protect the city by killing criminals.
Brock also returns to journalism, and in a mid-credits scene, he is invited to interview incarcerated serial killer Cletus Kasady, who promises "carnage" if and when he escapes.
- Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock / Venom:
- An investigative journalist who becomes the host of an alien symbiote that imbues him with super-human abilities and a violent alter-ego: Venom. Director Ruben Fleischer said that unlike a werewolf or Jekyll and Hyde, the relationship between Brock and the symbiote is a "hybrid", with the two characters sharing a body and working together. Hardy was drawn to this duality and compared the two characters to Ren and Stimpy. He gave each a distinctive voice: an "aw-shucks American accent" for Brock; and a "James Brown lounge lizard"-like voice for Venom, that was "modulated to sound more sinister". Hardy called Brock an antihero who would "do whatever he has to" to accomplish a goal. Hardy planned to use performance capture to portray Venom, but this idea was abandoned due to the difference between his face and the characters.
- Michelle Williams as Anne Weying:
- A district attorney and Eddie's ex-fiancée. Williams was excited at the prospect of her character becoming She-Venom in the future, and Fleischer felt that it would be fun to give fans an Easter egg of this by briefly showing She-Venom in the film. This was kept a secret until the release of the film, and Fletcher hoped that the positive response to the appearance would lead to more She-Venom in future Venom films or even a standalone She-Venom film.
- Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake / Riot:
- A genius inventor and leader of the Life Foundation experimenting on the symbiotes. Ahmed explained that Drake is trying to save the future of humanity when he discovers the symbiote, with Fleischer adding that Drake has a positive goal but a "moral ambiguity" that leads to him testing his science on other people. Drake is eventually bonded to another symbiote known as Riot, which Fleischer described as "a body-hopper".
- Scott Haze as Roland Treece: Drake's head of security.
- Reid Scott as Dan Lewis: Anne's new boyfriend, a doctor who tries to help Eddie.
- Additionally, Jenny Slate and Melora Walters respectively portray Dora Skirt, a Life Foundation scientist, and Maria, a homeless woman that Brock befriends. Chris O’Hara has a brief appearance as astronaut John Jameson. Woody Harrelson is introduced in the film's mid-credits scene as Cletus Kasady, while Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance as a dog-walker who talks to Brock and Venom. Sope Aluko, Scott Deckert, Marcella Bragio, Michelle Lee, Mac Brandt, Christian Convery, Sam Medina, and Ron Cephas Jones also appear in the film.
By 1997, David S. Goyer had written a script for a film featuring the Marvel Comics character Venom, which was to be produced by New Line Cinema. Dolph Lundgren was in talks to star in the film, which would have included the character Carnage as the main antagonist. The project ultimately did not move forward, and the rights to the character moved to Sony Pictures along with those for the character Spider-Man, of whom Venom is an antagonist in the comics. Eddie Brock, the alter-ego of Venom, was introduced to film in Sony's Spider-Man 3 (2007), with Topher Grace in the role. Grace was intended to only briefly appear as Brock, but became a major villain as both Brock and Venom because producer Avi Arad felt the series had relied too much on director Sam Raimi's personal favorite Spider-Man villains, and not characters that modern fans were actually interested in. Raimi had been hesitant to explore the character due to his "lack of humanity".Arad revealed plans for a spinoff film focused on Venom in July 2007.
Sony was actively developing Venom alongside direct sequels to Spider-Man 3 by July 2008, hoping the character could "add longevity" to the franchise in a similar fashion to Wolverine in 20th Century Fox's X-Men films. Jacob Estes had written a script for the film, but the studio was considering taking it in a different direction from that draft and was seeking new writers. Sony was also not yet convinced that Grace could "carry" the film. That September, Sony hired Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese to write a new script, while industry insiders suggested that Grace should return for the spinoff "because the likable actor could be a sympathetic evildoer", in response to Venom co-creator Todd McFarlane suggesting that a Venom film could not do well with a villain as the central character. Wernick and Reese had pitched an original story idea for the film to Sony, which Reese described as a "realistic, grounded, a little more dark take on the character".The pair then worked on an outline with Sony and Marvel, who "had specific rules about the villain and the backstory and stuff like that". They had completed a draft by April 2009, which included a role written specifically for Stan Lee, and featured a sequence where the Venom symbiote jumps "from body to body [through a city], and each person that it inhabits ends up becoming really violent and striking someone else and then it jumps to [them]."
In December 2013, Sony revealed plans to use The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) to establish their own expanded universe based on the Marvel properties the studio had the film rights to, including Venom. Arad and Tolmach would produce the films as part of a franchise brain trust, with Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Ed Solomon set to write the screenplay for Venom, and Kurtzman set to direct. In April 2014, Arad and Tolmach said Venom would be released after The Amazing Spider-Man 3—which was set for release on May 27, 2016—but before The Amazing Spider-Man 4. However, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperformed, and, with Sony "under tremendous pressure to perform [that had them taking] a hard look at their most important franchise", the direction of the shared universe was rethought. The Amazing Spider-Man 3 was pushed back to 2018, and the Venom film, now known as Venom Carnage, was moved up to 2017. Kurtzman was still attached to direct and write alongside Solomon. In February 2015, Sony and Marvel Studios announced a new partnership that would see Marvel produce the next Spider-Man film for Sony, and integrate the character into their MCU. Sony still planned to produce the spinoff films without Marvel's involvement, but by November they were believed to have been canceled so Sony could focus on its new reboot with Marvel.
Venom was again revived by Sony in March 2016, with Arad and Tolmach producing, and Dante Harper writing a new screenplay. The project was envisioned as a standalone film launching its own franchise, unrelated to Sony and Marvel's new Spider-Man films. A year later, Sony gave the film an October 5, 2018, release date, and explained that Kurtzman was not involved with the new project. No new director had been signed, and Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner were now writing the screenplay. Venom was expected to begin both a new franchise and a new shared universe independent of the MCU and was initially aiming for an R-rating on a smaller budget, inspired by 20th Century Fox's success doing so with the X-Men films Deadpool (2016) and Logan (2017). Sony's director shortlists for the film was believed to include Adi Shankar, known for his dark, R-rated takes "on the properties he grew up on", and Adam Wingard. In May, Sony announced that Tom Hardy would star as Eddie Brock / Venom in Venom, to be directed by Ruben Fleischer and officially begin "Sony's Marvel Universe". Venom is not considered a spinoff of any other film. Fleischer was chosen after a long search by Sony, while the casting of Hardy, a "huge fan" of Venom, happened very quickly after he left director J. C. Chandor's Triple Frontier in April and Sony "saw an opportunity to court an in-demand talent.
In June 2017, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige confirmed that the film was solely a Sony project and Marvel had no plans to connect it with the MCU However, producer Amy Pascal soon clarified that Sony intended to have their MU films take place in "the same world" as the new MCU films starting with Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), describing them as "adjunct" to that world. She said that Venom would connect to the next planned film in Sony's MU, Silver & Black and that there was potential for Tom Holland's Spider-Man to appear in either Carnage was also expected to appear in Venom at that point. In July, Columbia Pictures president Sanford Panitch explained that Sony was not interested in producing "conventional comic-book movies" and was looking to give each film in their MU a distinct style. Venom was considered "a spin on a horror film", inspired by the works of John Carpenter and David Cronenberg but with "more pop and fun". Fleischer said he has "always been drawn to the more antihero superheroes. There's a dark element to [Venom] and a wit that has always appealed to me." He said the film would explore Venom's origins and the "Jekyll and Hyde" relationship that Brock has with the symbiote.
Riz Ahmed was in talks to join the film in August, with Matt Smith, Pedro Pascal, and Matthias Schoenaerts also up for the same role. In September, Michelle Williams entered talks to join the film as a district attorney and Brock's love interest. By October, Jenny Slate, Reid Scott, and Scott Haze were in negotiations to join the film, with Slate up for a role as a scientist. Kelly Marcel was writing the latest draft of the film's script. Hardy recorded his lines for the symbiote during pre-production, and they were modulated to sound more threatening. These could then be played back to the actor through an earpiece on set during scenes where Brock and the symbiote talk to each other. The final budget that Sony allocated for the film's production was $100 million, though Chinese production company Tencent Pictures ultimately covered a third of these costs for the studio.
Venom is primarily based on the Venom: Lethal Protector miniseries and the "Planet of the Symbiotes" story arc. Hardy said that, like Lethal Protector, the film is set in San Francisco.Fleischer chose to base the film on Lethal Protector because, as the first solo Venom series, "it broke him free from Spider-Man." Spider-Man ultimately could not be included in the film because of the deal between Sony and Marvel Studios, challenging the writers to "make a movie with a character that's defined by Spider-Man without Spider-Man." For this reason, they looked to the Ultimate Marvel version of Venom—whose origin is not tied to Spider-Man—for inspiration. Lethal Protector also gave the writers a "solid foundation" to explore the more heroic side of Venom, rather than the villainous side. One of Venom's lines in the film, "Eyes, lungs, pancreas... so many snacks, so little time," was lifted unaltered from The Amazing Spider-Man #374.
In July, Fleischer described the film as having "no heroes", and said that they were planning a "huge world" with many characters while developing the film; he revealed that another symbiote, Riot, would be appearing as a villain in the film. Additionally, he confirmed Spider-Man would not be appearing but said a crossover could happen in a future film. Since Venom's origin is not tied to Spider-Man in the film, as it is in the comics, it did not make sense for the filmmakers to add a version of Spider-Man's symbol to Venom's chest. However, they still wanted to be as accurate to the comic designs as possible, and an all-black character would have been difficult to see in night scenes, so Venom has a unique symbol on his chest instead of in the film which is formed from the white veins of the symbiote. Fleischer wanted Venom to stand out compared to other comic book-based films and felt tonal that it would not remind viewers of the lighter MCU or the somber DC Extended Universe. It was important for him to honor the violence of Venom from the comics, where "he bites people's heads off and eats brains. It would be weird to make a movie with Venom if he wasn't doing that." Sony executives were reluctant to push this element so far that the film would earn an R-rating, which they believed would cause problems for crossovers with the family-friendly Spider-Man, as well as other MCU characters, in future films. Venom was ultimately rated PG-13, with the violence toned down to allow for possible crossovers.
Principal photography began on October 23, 2017, with filming taking place in Atlanta and New York City. Marvel's Iron Man (2008) cinematographer Matthew Libatique returned in that role for the film, while Oliver Scholl served as production designer after also doing so for Spider-Man: Homecoming. Williams was confirmed to have joined the film in November, with Sony organizing her filming schedule to ensure her availability for concurrent, unexpected reshoots on All the Money in the World (2017). By December, Woody Harrelson was in talks to appear in the film, and Williams was revealed to be portraying Anne Weying. Fleischer allowed Hardy to improvise on set, and take the scenes where he felt they needed to go. For instance, Hardy noticed that a restaurant set for one scene had a lobster tank in it and decided that his character would get into the tank in the scene; the production design team had to work overnight to reinforce the tank and fill it with fake lobsters so Hardy could get in it the next day. Additional filming took place in San Francisco from January 16 to 26, 2018. Locations included Russian Hill, North Beach, Chinatown, and the Financial District. Hardy wrapped filming on January 27.
Ahmed and Scott were confirmed to appear in the film in February 2018, and Will Beall was revealed to have done additional writing for the film. In the following months, Sope Aluko and Scott Deckert were revealed to be cast in the film, Haze and Harrelson were confirmed to appear, and Ahmed's role was confirmed to be that of Carlton Drake. Harrelson, who had previously worked with Fleischer on Zombieland (2009), explained that he signed on to the film for a small role—he described himself as being "in a little fraction of this movie"—knowing that he would have a bigger part in a potential sequel. The film underwent reshoots in Los Angeles in June 2018, which were reportedly overseen by Hardy. Venom was one of the first films to take advantage of the new post-production facilities at Sony Pictures' Stage 6 building in Culver City, California, with two new theaters equipped for sound design using the immersive Dolby Atmos technology, two new stages for sound mixing with Avid Technology's Pro Tools workstations, and a theater set-up for remote visual effects and color grading review. Maryann Brandon and Alan Baumgarten served as editors for the film. Fleischer's focus during the editing process was to "cultivate" the relationship between Brock and Venom, which he felt was the core of the film. The opening of the film went through several iterations, but Fleischer always wanted it to "start with a bang" which led to a spaceship crash in the opening scene. The Venom symbiote is shown shortly after as an introduction of the film's "hero" before the villain's plot begins and becomes the focus of the scene.
Ludwig Göransson signed on to compose the score for Venom in March 2018, reuniting with Fleischer after the pair worked together on the 2011 film 30 Minutes or Less. Having composed the music for Marvel Studios' Black Panther (2018), Göransson said that he was interested in continuing to explore music for superhero films because "as a young film composer that is one of the things you dream of ... superhero themes really resonate with audiences." In August, rapper Eminem teased that he had contributed a new song to the soundtrack for Venom, and his album Kamikaze—released on August 31—features a bonus song called "Venom (Music from the Motion Picture)" that includes references to the film. The song was subsequently released by Aftermath Records as a digital single on September 23.
For the Sony Pictures panel at Comic-Con Experience 2017, Fleischer and Hardy appeared in a video from the film's set to promote it. A teaser for the film was released in February 2018, which Dani Di Placido called "comically underwhelming" for Forbes. He felt this was a major misstep by Sony given the teaser was meant to win over uninterested Spider-Man fans, particularly after the character's portrayal in Spider-Man 3. The fact that the teaser did not include the title character was a common criticism by commentators. Sony chairman Tom Rothman later acknowledged this, explaining that the intention had been to "heighten anticipation" for the film. In August, Fleischer revealed the trailer did not showcase Venom because the visual effects for the character were incomplete at the time.
Rothman presented new footage of the film at CinemaCon 2018, and acknowledged that it revealed the film's version of Venom by saying, "See, we didn't forget to put Venom in the movie!" Placido was more positive of this trailer, praising the appearance of and visuals for Venom, but being concerned about the dialogue. During the trailer, actress Jenny Slate pronounces the word symbiote as SIM-bye-oht rather than SIM-bee-oht as many commentators believed it should be pronounced. This led to widespread criticism and a 35,700 percent increase in searches for "symbiote pronunciation" according to dictionary Merriam-Webster, which noted both pronunciations are technically considered acceptable. Hannah Shaw-Williams of Screen Rant noted that the trailer reused music from a major, recently-released trailer for the Marvel film Avengers: Infinity War (2018), questioning whether this was a coincidence or if Sony was "deliberately trying to tie Venom to the MCU in the minds of audiences. Whatever the reason, Venom will need more than just a familiar piece of trailer music in order to win over audiences". According to Fizziology, an analytics company that takes different social media platforms into account, the second trailer was watched 64.3 million times within 24 hours, a 72 percent increase over the first trailer. Fizziology said it was rare for a second trailer to get more views than the first and noted that general positive responses were up 46 percent. The majority of positive responses were directed towards the appearance and design of Venom.
Fleischer, Hardy, and Ahmed promoted the film at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con, where the audience was given Venom masks and chanted "We are Venom". New footage from the film was debuted at the panel, including the reveal of the villainous symbiote Riot. A third trailer was subsequently released online. It was criticized by Scott Mendelson (also of Forbes), who said the film was looking comparable to Catwoman (2004)—"the shining example of how not to do this kind of movie". He also felt that Fleischer's decision to make a sequel to his successful film Zombieland before Venom's release was an indication that the film was not going to be good. Richard Newby, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, felt that the film was being marketed as if it was in an "earlier era", saying it "looks pre-Iron Man cool" and more like a cross between An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Blade (1998) than a modern superhero film. He noted that despite early fears, the latest trailer showed that Venom would be featured throughout the film, and believed that the film's lack of shared universe connections, and distinct tone, could help Sony prove it has "a handle on these characters after all". A tie-in comic book, serving as both a prequel and a teaser for the film and simply titled Venom, was released digitally by Marvel on September 14, with a physical version available to those who purchased tickets for the film from AMC Theatres. Written by Sean Ryan and illustrated by Szymon Kudranski, the comic establishes the film's backstory for the symbiote. SKAN provided the cover art for the comic.
Venom had its world premiere at the Regency Village Theatre in Westwood, Los Angeles on October 1, 2018, and was released in the United States and Canada on October 5. This followed a release in several other countries on October 3. The film will be released in China on November 9, a date that was approved by the country's film board following an unexpected drop in box office sales there earlier in 2018.
Reception Box office
As of October 28, 2018, Venom has grossed $187.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $321.1 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $508.4 million. With a production budget between $100–116 million, Deadline Hollywood estimates the film needed to gross around $450 million to break even.
In the United States and Canada, Venom was initially projected to gross $60–70 million from 4,250 theaters in its opening weekend. It made $10 million from Thursday night previews, the highest-ever for an October release, beating Paranormal Activity 3's $8 million. After making $32.7 million on its first day, weekend estimates were raised to $80 million. It went on to gross $80.3 million, marking the best October opening weekend of all-time (beating Gravity's $55.9 million in 2013), as well as the seventh best opening for a Sony film. 68% of the opening day weekend was male (with 36% being over 25), while 36% was Caucasian, 27% Hispanic and 19% African American. Most audience members surveyed by Fandango wanted to see the film because it featured a Marvel antihero, because it had the potential to crossover with Spider-Man, and/or because they were fans of Hardy. The film then made $9.6 million on Columbus Day to set the record for best Monday gross in October, again topping Gravity. The film remained in first the following weekend, dropping 55% to $35.7 million. It finished in third place in its third and fourth weekends, making $18.1 million and $10.8 million, respectively.
Worldwide, it was expected to debut to $160–175 million, including $100–110 million from 58 markets internationally. It ended up over-performing, making $125.2 million from foreign territories for a global opening weekend of $205.5 million, the highest-ever in October. It finished first in all but one country, including South Korea ($16.4 million over its five-day debut), Russia ($13.6 million), the United Kingdom ($10.5 million) and Mexico ($10.2 million, the best-ever start for a Sony film in the country).
Venom received generally negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, a film and television review aggregator, it holds an approval rating of 30% based on 260 reviews, with an average rating of 4.5/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Venom's first standalone movie turns out to be like the comics character in all the wrong ways—chaotic, noisy, and in desperate need of a stronger attachment to Spider-Man." Another review aggregator, Metacritic, gave the film a weighted average score of 35 out of 100, based on 46 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an 80% positive score; social media monitor RelishMix noted online responses to the film were "mixed...leaning positive".
Alonso Duralde of TheWrap gave the film a negative review, calling it a "listless dud" and writing, "Leaping from plot point to plot point without the hindrance of logic or characters, this big-screen return of the legendary Spider-Man nemesis — last seen in the franchise-hobbling Spider-Man 3 — is aggressively loud and stupid without being much fun at all." Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote, "Venom is a textbook case of a comic-book film that’s unexciting in its ho-hum competence, and even its visual-effects bravura...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."Katie Walsh, writing for the Chicago Tribune, gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars and said, "It's a mess, but wow, is it ever a fun, fascinating mess. Those are always so much more thrilling than any of the formulaic superhero movies that parade through multiplexes all year. Perri Nemiroff of Collider graded the film a C+, citing a weak first act and "worthless" supporting characters, although said the film "almost gets away with its nonsensical plot, in the end, thanks to that Eddie and Venom bromance".
Sony plans for Venom to launch its own film series. In July 2017, Panitch indicated that future Venom films could crossover with the Spider-Man films. Harrelson revealed in May 2018 that he was expected to have a larger role in a Venom sequel, describing this move as a roll of the dice since he was unable to read a script for the sequel before signing on to the first film. That July, Fleischer, and Hardy both expressed interest in a crossover with Spider-Man, and indicated that Sony was interested in the idea as well; in August, the studio confirmed that it planned to crossover Spider-Man and Venom by saying they "are already in the same universe—so without giving too much away, we are looking forward to the two of them eventually facing off in the future". The same month, Hardy revealed he is signed on for two more Venom films.