Is Venom good?Venom is bad.Aw…You seem surprised. Do you not like Venom (the character?)I like Venom just fine…So why wouldn’t y-…in the first storyline he appeared in like 30 years ago. He’s kind of boring and irritating otherwise.Oh.That said, I don’t necessarily think that precludes anyone from making a serviceable movie out of the basic premise – even if I don’t see much use for him beyond being a one-off Spider-Man villain, personally.But they didn’t.They did not, no.Wait – back up: Is Spider-Man in this at all?He is not. They don’t explicitly say that this isn’t taking place somewhere adjacent to the Marvel movies, and there’s a stray mention of an astronaut being named “Jameson” near the beginning that feels either ADR’d in after the fact or trimmed from a previously more prominent position that feels like a placeholder to come back to if they ever wanted to loop these things together (also Tom Hardy is playing “Eddie Brock” and he’s repeatedly said to be from New York despite the film taking place in San Fransisco, but nothing comes of this plotwise); but that’s basically it.Is there reason someone is so hard-up to make Venom movies that they’ll do one even without Spider-Man?Money, mostly. Back before just the name “Marvel” was a money-printing license for any character, Venom was up there with Wolverine and Punisher in terms of “cool looking guys whose t-shirts and posters moved well;” and it’s often speculated that getting the eventual rights to do Venom movies is why Avi Arad (still a producer on this!) grabbed up the Spider-Man rights back in the day. Officially, this Venom is meant to kick-start a “spin-off universe” of dark/gritty Spidey-related movies exclusive to Sony that are maybe/maybe-not connected to the MCU Spider-Man continuity. Based on this movie, I don’t think Disney will be begging to borrow Venom though.Okay, but… if Venom isn’t an alien that looks like a Spider-Man costume and gets mad when Spidey rejects it and helps Eddie Brock become an evil Spider-Man, what’s the story now?Tom Hardy’s Brock is an activist journalist fighting corrupt tech companies in San Francisco who tries to expose a mad-scientist CEO (Rez Ahmed) for experimenting on the homeless by infecting them with alien symbiotes (basically “the blob” but they turn you into Monster-Face Spider-Man for no adequately explained reason) because he believes this will help humans colonize space for efficiently. One such symbiote, Venom, escapes and bonds with Eddie; and they team up to stop the CEO and also the other symbiotes, who are more or less onboard with his “put symbiotes in everybody” plan.So Venom isn’t bad anymore?Venom is “bad,” he’s just… not as bad as the other symbiotes, apparently. And he gets along with Eddie, so they work together as a team rather than like a proper host/parasite. To get more into it will require a spoiler warning…SPOILER-WARNING!Okay, why is Venom fighting the rest of the symbiotes?It’s eventually just one, “Riot,” who wants to bring more to Earth in an invasion. Venom decides to help because on his home planet he is “Also kind of a loser” (like Eddie) and finds he prefers being the only one of his kind of Earth where that’s a huge advantage.Really?Yeah, that’s the big hook they’ve built the movie around: “Venom is actually just some schmuck.” They don’t really DO anything with it once it’s out there (the whole film seems to skip the concept of a second act and sprint to the final battle instead) but that’s what we’ve got. Also, there’s odd editing going on where we’re made to follow the Riot symbiote from person to person as a running subplot until it can take over Rez Ahmed’s character… who’s already the villain, and who’s evil plan was already what Riot wants him to do. So it feels very much like there was a different villain-scenario happening (maybe where “Oh, Riot it also here!” was meant to be a surprise for the audience too?) that got changed at some point – the post-production editing is incredibly sloppy.END SPOILERSIs it fun at all?Not in any of the ways it intends. The action is mostly by boring scenes where Tom Hardly flails around while pieces of CGI beat up stuntmen for him, a couple of brief scenes where he turns completely into Venom and to beat people up that’ll have you thinking “I wonder how Spawn holds up today?,” bizarre staging and cinematography that conspire to make Georgia playing San Francisco mostly look like Seattle and dreary overloaded ultimately bad guy exposition. But then every once in awhile Tom Hardy gets to argue with himself in funny ways or do “alien in human body” physical comedy or generally make a goofy ass of himself and – if only for a moment – Venom becomes something like a growly-edgelord version of The Mask… which is still bad, but at least better than the rest of it.So it’s funny?Yeah, but I don’t think it was supposed to be – at least not this funny in this way. You get the sense that someone was either asleep at the wheel, or the people making this realized the project was going wrong early on and just started trying strange stuff where they could to salvage it in interesting ways. To put it bluntly: When you’re spending this much on CGI, the most memorable setpiece in your movie shouldn’t be Tom Hardy acting like he’s having twitchy withdrawal shakes in a restaurant and climbing into a lobster tank. And you’re most memorable lines shouldn’t be the monster calling itself a “loser” or Hardy (again) exclaiming “Aaah! He’s got one up his ass, too!”Those are the best lines?Well, the best lines other than the one spoken by Michelle Williams near the very end; which feels like the most sincere heartfelt thing anyone says in the entire movie.What does she say?“I’m sorry about Venom.” Check out more: MovieBob reviews A Star is Born, Mandy, and Assassination Nation.