Ignore the critics, Tom Hardy’s performance means that Venom is a great movie
God bless Tom Hardy and his dedication to overacting
Venom initially felt like a film that nobody really wanted. A solo movie for Spider-Man’s arch nemesis that doesn’t actually feature Spidey himself, and isn’t connected to the Marvel movie universe. It was a movie that had been in production for over a decade, and the first trailer for the movie didn’t even have Venom in it. The outlook was grim.
It finally came out earlier this month, and surprising no-one, it got trounced by critics. It’s teetering around 30% on Rotten Tomatoes, and looked set to join the like of Green Lantern, Elektra and Catwoman in the ranks of the “oh yeah, I forgot that existed” sub-section of bad superhero movies.
But then Venom started doing really, really well at the box office. It has broken records. It has held its second-week box office at a level comparable to Avengers: Infiinty War, and is predicted to possibly out-gross Logan.
So what’s the deal then? Maybe, just maybe, Venom is…good?
No, seriously, Venom is a genuinely fun movie, for one very singular reason: Tom Hardy.
It is not a controversial statement to say that Tom Hardy can act a bit. But what makes Hardy such an enjoyable screen presence is his dedication to physically throwing himself into every single role he takes. He seems determined to act with every single cell of his body, in every single frame, of every film he is in.
There might be Tom Hardy movies that aren’t very good, but there are rarely Tom Hardy movies that are boring. From Bane to Bronson to Locke, he’s always doing something to grab your attention.
And Venom definitely delivers on the Tom Hardy front.
For the first 30 minutes or so, Venom is shockingly bad. It lumbers through generic expositions scenes with the bare minimum of competency.
And then something curious happens. Just as the first act comes to a close, it is as if the movie itself becomes self-aware, realises it is a boring pile of crap and thinks, fuck it, let’s just go batshit crazy and does a load of dumb shit to entertain itself.
Essentially, Tom Hardy takes the idea of being possessed by an alien symbiote as an excuse to just go completely over the top. We get Tom Hardy walking down the street mumbling inherently to himself. Tom Hardy, rummaging through bins, looking for rotten chicken. Tom Hardy, screaming in a posh restaurant then jumping in the lobster tank.
He even goes full-Oldboy and takes a big bite of a live crustacean.
It is at this point where the movie just stops trying to be this dark, serious horror and embraces what any Venom movie should have been - a goofy buddy comedy with Tom Hardy teaming up with the voice in Tom Hardy’s head. The Venom symbiote basically takes on the personality of Beavis and/or Butt-Head, calling Hardy a "pussy" for not wanting to jump off a skyscraper and straight-up admitting he is a dweeb on his own planet.
It is all just so silly and joyous. In the same year as Black Panther and Infinity War, Venom won’t be remembered as one of the great superhero movies. It will, however, go down as another reason to love Tom Hardy. It’s not his greatest his performance, but it one of most enjoyable.
Plus, ****SPOILER****, at the end of the film they introduce Woody Harrelson as Venom’s nemesis Carnage. And the idea of both Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson going gonzo-crazy in the same movie is something that needs to happen.