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Venom: What the critics are saying

To those out there who hoped Venom wouldn't be a total turd in the wind, we've got some bad news for you. 

When Sony Pictures lifted the review embargo for Venom on Tuesday evening, critics were quick to publish their formal thoughts on the Tom Hardy-starrer. Though early reactions to the film felt mixed in nature, with one watcher declaring it a surreal slice of cinema that feels like it "slipped through a wormhole from 2004" and another writing that it's "pretty much a complete failure," official reviews paint a completely different picture. 

There's no way to sugarcoat it: Hardly anyone is impressed with Venom

Led by Hardy as disgraced journalist Eddie Brock who fuses with an alien symbiote during his investigation into the shady Life Foundation, Venom currently sits at a 30 percent on Rotten Tomatoes – a figure that has continued to rise and fall as the aggregator accounts for more reviews. 

By and large, reviewers have slammed the film for its inconsistent tone, shambolic script that's rockier than the Himalayas, nonsensical plot devices, dour direction by helmer Ruben Fleischer, and confusing campiness that evokes the 1997 trainwreck Batman & Robin, the dumpster fire that was Ben Affleck's Daredevil, and the critically hated Catwoman.

Both Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty and The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy felt that Venom was a major misfire, and one of the most disappointing takes on a famous Marvel Comics character there has ever been. 

"Venom feels like a second-tier Marvel player prematurely called up to the bigs," Nashawaty scrawled. "It's noncommittally mediocre and, as a result, forgettable. It just sort of sits there, beating you numb, unsure of whether it wants to be a comic-book movie or put the whole idea of comic-book movies in its crosshairs … [Venom is] just another bit of secondary Marvel IP who scowls and growls, and never shows us why he should be headlining his own movie."

McCarthy wrote that Venom feels like a backslide for Marvel movies, a black sheep amongst the increasingly ambitious Marvel Cinematic Universe, "a poor second cousin to the all-stars that have reliably dominated the box-office charts for most of this century." In McCarthy's opinion, the film is a "rote and unimaginative" origin story, an "imitator" and a "wannabe" plagued by writing and filmmaking that he calls "blah in every respect."

Hugh Armitage of Digital Spy was especially displeased with Venom's erratic tone, writing that the film constantly bounced between feeling dramatic and comedic before it randomly flipped to intense action sequences. Armitage also found fault with the film's pacing, which he felt was slow-as-molasses to start.

"It takes a long time for things to really get going and for Venom to appear in the black, gooey flesh. At that point, what plodded along as a dour science fiction thriller switches to an odd mix of horror and buddy comedy," he stated. "But even that can't stick, switching between serious, head-devouring action and silly comedy at whiplash speed. The tone of this movie is all over the place, and it's the inconsistencies … that are Venom's real problem."

Variety's Owen Gleiberman worried in his review that Venom might end up being a "franchise kickoff that doesn't fully attain franchise liftoff," leaving Sony with a ton of work to do in crafting its planned Venom sequel. To Gleiberman, Venom was little more than a treat for the eyes that failed to electrify its audience and spent too much time watching Venom "originate."

"Venom is a textbook case of a comic-book film that's unexciting in its ho-hum competence, and even its visual-effects bravura," wrote Gleiberman. "Make no mistake: The effects can be dazzling. The alien matter splattering itself around like random tentacled liquid, the way Venom cross-breeds Spider-Man's skyscraper-hopping agility with the Hulk's dynamo destructiveness — it's all diverting eye candy. But to what end?"

A single bright spot in all this bizarreness was Hardy's turn as Eddie Brock, which many critics found genuinely enjoyable. 

The Verge's Bryan Bishop wrote that the British actor gave a fully fleshed-out, "capital-P performance" Venom. Despite the character not making much sense within the context of the film, Brock still felt believable to Bishop — and that's down to Hardy's acting chops and unwavering commitment to ensuring viewers enjoy watching him on screen. 

"Hardy's Brock is composed of weird facial tics, squeaky vocal inflections, and hunched body language. He actually does a decent job of making Brock seem like a self-doubting nerd," Bishop stated in his review. "Hardy is always watchable, no matter the role, but there's so much to take in here that it almost feels like he's putting on a one-man show. He builds his character almost entirely out of idiosyncrasies, and if the audience isn't entertained by Brock's odd mannerisms in one scene, odds are they'll find Hardy employing an entirely new set of tricks in the next."

While Laura Prudom of IGN called Venom "a muddled hodgepodge that isn't sure whether it wants to be comedic or take its troubled antihero way too seriously," she, too, felt that Hardy's performance was worthy of praise. 

"On paper, Hardy is the ideal Eddie Brock, effortlessly embodying the fluid physicality and jittery paranoia of a man being consumed by sentient space goo … The film's few bright spots are largely due to Hardy's interplay with himself," Prudom wrote in part. "It's frustrating to imagine how much better the movie might've been if the creative direction had matched Hardy's obvious passion for the character." She ultimately felt that Hardy's "committed performance" in Venom just couldn't "overcome a painful script and indecisive direction."

But sadly, others didn't dig what Hardy did with Brock in Venom. Gleiberman likened Hardy's performance to an "impersonation of a benignly inarticulate stoner clown who's only got half his marbles," while McCarthy called the actor "disheveled, stubbly, sweaty, and bloated," suggesting that he'd be "the perfect actor to one day play Harvey Weinstein." Yikes.

For The Wrap's Alonso Duralde, Venom was simply too obnoxious all-over-the-place to enjoy. 

"If you replaced Tom Hardy for Steve Martin in All of Me, and switched out Lily Tomlin for a wad of chewed-up black licorice, you'd have Venom," he wrote. "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."

Of course, not everyone felt that the film was an "armless, legless, faceless thing." 

Film critic Katie Walsh argued that Venom managed to feel fun despite being messy and bizarre. 

"Superhero fatigue got you down? Tired of the same old bland Marvel Cinematic Universe offerings? A dose of Venom could be just the right antidote … 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," Walsh said. "For all of the wild weirdness and wackadoo mess, this character is, shockingly, one we'd be happy to spend more time with, thanks to Hardy."

On the whole, however, Venom seems more of a trick than a treat this Halloween season, as poisonous and toxic to critics as its title character is to Eddie Brock himself. Some fans might end up feeling differently when they catch the film in theaters on October 5, but it sounds like Venom isn't quite the movie that most people were expecting