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Venom early reactions call film an 'excruciatingly surreal experience'

We're just a few days out from Venom opening in theaters, and everyone has been wondering whether the film will soar or splat when it debuts. "Is the Spider-Man universe spin-off a smashing success," many have thought, "or a certified stinker?" Well, the first reactions to the flick are here, and the answer to that question is a little complicated. 

Sony Pictures lifted the social media embargo for Venom on Tuesday, granting the fortunate few who saw the flick at its world premiere in Los Angeles permission to post their spoiler-free thoughts on Twitter. 

Some critics mentioned that certain aspects of Venom felt discordant, while others found the Ruben Fleischer-directed feature to be pretty hilarious — but unintentionally so, like the moments that were meant to be stone-cold serious but ended up feeling super silly. 

Tom Hardy's performance as Eddie Brock, the disgraced photojournalist with a bizarre Bronxite accent who serves as a host for the slimy symbiote Venom, seems to have went over well with watchers — largely because he's Tom bloody Hardy and he "is and always will be a great actor." But even though Hardy's turn as Eddie was enjoyable and his character's relationship with the alien parasite entity Venom was weirdly charming, a few viewers still felt that Hardy was sort of out of place in Venom

"Significant chunks of #Venom don't work *at all* but there is some serious charm to the Eddie/Venom relationship," wrote Collider's Perri Nemiroff, who would have loved for Venom to score a more mature rating. "Not sure I had the intended reactions to some scenes but fun is fun — even when it's totally ridiculous, right? It's too bad they didn't go for the R rating though."

Hector Navarro of Geek and Sundry, Alpha, and Nerdist felt much the same, pointing out that Venom wasn't without its faults but at least it kept true to the source material in portraying Eddie as a guy with an off-kilter sense of humor. 

"#Venom was surprisingly funny! I had a freaking great time watching it," he tweeted. "Despite some problems, it did right by its main character, Eddie Brock/Venom. People forget that he's always had a weird sense of humor in the comics, and that humor is fully on display in the movie!"

Uproxx senior entertainment writer Mike Ryan was "fascinated with Venom," mostly because while the rest of the cast seemed to understand that they were starring in a darker superhero movie," Hardy apparently didn't. He's "basically remaking Jim Carrey's Liar Liar," Ryan tweeted. "I kinda loved watching this movie, in a Rocky Horror type of way." 

Ryan also touched on the, ahem, odd dynamic between Eddie and Venom: "The whole movie is Venom telling Tom Hardy's Eddie Brock over and over 'I'm hungry, Eddie. I want to eat a brian [sic], Eddie. You're a loser, Eddie. You're a p****, Eddie.'"

The harshest reactions to Venom came from IGN's Tom Jorgensen and MCU Cosmic's Jeremy Conrad. 

After seeing the film, Jorgensen tweeted out that Venom is "pretty much a complete failure — a tonal mess that feels 15 years old" and completely disregards the "storytelling strides that the superhero genre has made in recent years." He noted that the movie does feature "a few fun Venom-centric moments," but it has "nearly nothing to offer" beyond that. "Don't get your hopes up," Jorgensen warned.

Conrad kept his critique simple but biting, sharing a tweet that references part of a line Venom snarls in one of the film's trailers. "Like a turd. In the wind," he wrote. 

Conrad later tweeted a GIF of the "This Is Fine" meme, in which anthropomorphic dog sits in a burning room and attempts to assure himself that everything is okay, with the caption, "Meanwhile at Sony Pictures…" Clearly, Conrad wasn't a fan of Venom and feels that Sony will face major repercussions for missing the mark with the film. 

Freelance comics journalist Meg Downey delivered the most interesting response to Venom, which she called an "excruciatingly surreal experience" and likened to Ben Affleck's Daredevil, Ang Lee's Hulk, and Halle Berry's Catwoman.

"This is a movie that somehow slipped through a wormhole from 2004. That's my biggest take. It's a movie that spilled from the pre-MCU era through a crack in time and space," Downey wrote in one tweet. She followed up, "It's…not a complete disaster? At least I was never mad watching it? But it is an excruciatingly surreal experience. The humor, the story beats, everything right down to the Eminem theme song feels like it emerged Kimmy Schmidt style from a sealed off early 00s bunker."

Downey concluded that viewers' "mileage is really, really going to vary" with Venom. "There are genuinely some echos of clever ideas but…man. If there's one superhero franchise that's having a killer couple years, it's Spider-Man. No matter how you slice it, Venom is a major non sequitur," she wrote.

In all, it seems that if Sony wants to keep the Venom train a-rollin' — which it apparently does — the studio would be wise to capitalize on what makes Venom enjoyable and ditch the stuff that bogs it down. If anything, Venom sounds like a slice of cinema that will distract audiences from the chaos of the real world, and that's all we can really ask for, right?

Catch Venom in theaters on October 5, and make sure to stick around for the credits.