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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Venom is a violent, disappointing comic-book action movie starring Tom Hardy that's based on a villain from the Spider-Man universe, though Spidey isn't mentioned here. The violence, while mostly bloodless, is frequent and intense, with fighting, hitting, punching, and bashing, guns and shooting, stabbing and slicing, car chases, explosions, etc. Some characters die on-screen, and many die offscreen. Plus, there are jump scares, and Venom himself (itself?) is pretty scary to look at, with his giant fangs, and there's no real consequence for his brutality. Language includes several uses of "s--t" and "bulls--t," a use of "f--k," a use of "p---y," and more. A couple kiss frequently, and sex is suggested. The main character drinks whiskey in a bar and beer at home. Unfortunately, it's an uninspired mess, though perhaps some teens will enjoy the effects, sci-fi imagery, and Hardy's performance.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In VENOM, a spaceship containing alien specimens crashes on Earth. One of the samples, a symbiote, gets away, while the others are taken to San Francisco for testing by the Life Foundation and its wealthy CEO, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Meanwhile, investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) discovers damaging information about Drake on a computer belonging to his lawyer girlfriend, Anne (Michelle Williams), and tries to use it during an interview with Drake. The choice costs him his job -- and his relationship. Later, Drake's assistant (Jenny Slate) starts to feel guilty about what's going on at Life Foundation and sneaks Eddie onto the premises. There, he becomes the host for another symbiote and turns into the powerful Venom. But Drake wants the creature back and will stop at nothing to get it.
Is it any good?
It moves quickly and is fairly good-natured, but otherwise this flatly written, uninspired comic-book action movie feels more like a paycheck-driven business decision than an artistic inspiration. (Sony no longer holds the rights to the Spider-Man character, in whose universe the Venom character originated, so Venom could have been an attempt to cling to some kind of money-generating superhero franchise.) The movie boasts some interesting creature visual effects, but Hardy is the only actor who seems to be trying. And he feels miscast as a character who's part intrepid reporter and part comical buffoon; he has trouble with the jokes' timing.
The other characters are badly underwritten, especially Williams' Anne and Ahmed's soft-spoken, psychotic villain, Drake; they never feel like more than just plot placeholders. As for Venom, while he's a full-fledged villain in the comics (and, when last seen on-screen in Spider-Man 3), this movie takes several highly implausible logic turns to make him into a hero -- and to justify Eddie wanting to leave the intruder inside his body. The story is softened into a cheerful, good-guy romp rather than taking the character to its natural extremes and making it a flat-out scary monster movie. Instead, it feels like a bungled attempt to make a movie that's widely appealing -- as this Venom will appeal to very few.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does this version of Venom differ from the character shown in the comic books or in the movie Spider-Man 3? Did you like this one better? Worse? Why?
Would you allow something else to take over your body in exchange for superpowers? Why or why not?
The villains argue that humans have destroyed the world's environment and that punishment is the only answer. What other solutions could there be?
- In theaters: October 5, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: December 18, 2018
- Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed
- Director: Ruben Fleischer
- Studio: Sony Pictures Releasing
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.