REVIEW: Venom [Spoiler Free]

Cliches! Inconsistencies! Dullness! So many snacks, so little time…

During an investigation into the mysterious (though obviously sinister) Life Foundation, controversially famed journalist, Eddie Brock, has his body accidentally merged with an alien symbiotic life form calling itself Venom.

Where do I start with this one…

In the “anticipated” (I think) return to the big screen for comic book favourite, Venom, since Sam Raimi’s disappointing Spider-Man 3, Ruben Fleischer (of Zombieland fame) brings audiences a whole new interpretation of Spider-Man’s notorious foe, that… doesn’t completely suck – well, I don’t think it does… hold on, let me explain.

Many people have already been drawing similarities between 2018’s Venom with 2004’s Catwoman for such noticeable reasons. For one: both films are basically reworked origin stories for anti-heroes of two of the world’s most popular superheroes – DC’s Batman and Marvel’s Spider-Man – and, as an extension, both films don’t bother to feature the central heroes that made the two villainous characters so likable in the first place. Both of the titular characters in the two movies have had onscreen outings previous to their solo films (1992’s Batman Returns and 2007’s Spider-Man 3). Both movies were sold mostly on the popularity of their leading stars – Halle Berry and Tom Hardy – rather than their beloved comic book characters. And most importantly, both products were seen more from the public as shameless cash grabs for their respected studios rather than artistically structured insights into two amazing characters. Pretty similar, huh? Well, what if I were to tell you there is a difference between the two. That one of these movies does not suck in its entirety. Yeah, for once we, as a society, were wrong about a superhero movie, and in actual fact, Catwoman is one of the most underrated comic book movies of our gen- nah, jokes, Venom was better. Venom was worlds better than that leather stripper inspired, Razzie winning garbage of a DC movie.

Not to say Venom is a great movie. In fact, being better than Halle Berry’s Catwoman is not the biggest of wins, since seriously just ‘trying’ makes for a better film any day. What Venom is, is something of a beautiful disaster. With inconsistencies in its tone and a narrative swarming with cliches, this anti-hero tale is made bearable due to one element alone – Tom Hardy.

Tom Hardy as both Eddie Brock and the voice of Venom was the best choice this movie could have ever made. Whoever suggested casting Hardy should get a pat on the back as audiences are treated to a performance rather out of the ordinary. The Eddie Brock we get in this movie is both serious and goofy, as everything he does and says works like a charm, despite how silly this movie gets at times. Hardy’s performance was almost reminiscent of a late 90s, early 2000s Johnny Depp heyday role where Depp would thrive in a more absurd and obscure approach to his characters, hence allowing the performer to stand out in a sea of bland actors. Hardy really turned the notches up to eleven in Venom acquiring electric chemistry with himself when portraying both Brock and Venom in sequences together.

On the point of the symbiote and its host, I really liked what the film did on a whole with Brock and Venom. Granted, if it were not for Hardy, the character of Eddie would have been as bland as the rest of the movie’s characters, but how the film was able to depict Brock and Venom as ‘two’ characters and not just one really helped establish an engaging protagonist (or protagonists). The back and forth between the two really led to some hilarious and engaging moments. Though the best part about the relationship between the human and the alien would have to be how well the film distinguished its version of Venom from the Topher Grace version in Spider-Man 3. In Venom, Brock is never sent down a road of insanity after having his body abducted by the symbiote like what happened to the character in Spider-Man 3; instead, the film depicts two different characters (two ‘losers’, as Venom puts it) who need one another to survive and therefore are bound to together in order to thrive as one. Venom may not exactly be comic book accurate, but cinematically what Hardy and the filmmakers did was create a dual persona that granted engagement and comedy all in one, and worked well for a solo movie.

The biggest disappointment would then have to be why such a well depicted, well performed character had to exist in such a lifeless movie…

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(Sony Pictures Entertainment 2018)

Seriously, the rest of Venom is cinematic misery. Hardy’s Brock and Venom are swamped by a world so piss poor in its plausibility and modernization that the movie just never lives up to its potential.

Yes, Venom is a better film than Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man movies, however Venom is still Sony Studio’s second (or third, if you count Spider-Man 3) attempt in building a franchise around Spider-Man characters. Weirdly enough, the one movie they make without Spider-Man is the one that works the best, but still unlike the largely complicated and convoluted world-building of The Amazing Spider-Man movies, Venom takes a way more stripped down, simplistic approach, that just does not cut it when existing in a world of superior high stakes comic book movies.

Marvel’s Avengers was a turning point in superhero movies. Since Avengers superhero movies have no longer been considered ‘superhero movies’ and instead ‘comic book movies’, allowing for the films to explore sub-genres within their films. Comic book movies have become espionage thrillers, cosmic odysseys, comedies and more, with greater rangers on what they are capable of. However, if you remember, before Avengers, superhero flicks were simpler. The superheroes would get their powers, fight a villainous CEO and spend most of the movie not doing any real “superheroing” and instead just obsessing over some girl – yeah, that’s early 2000s superhero movies summed up in their simplest form. And Venom, believe it or not, ticks all of those boxes perfectly.

Venom is like a superhero film that was shot in the early 2000s then held back from cinemas for a decade, only to be released now because… I don’t know, Tom Hardy is currently a bankable star. Venom is weird because it follows the cinematic superhero origin story to a T; there is literally nothing in this movie to indicate it’s a product of its time but instead rather a time that has long past. And maybe Fleischer and co, through the simplicities of this Venom plot, were trying to write a meta reading of the superhero genre in general but on a whole the movie just ended up being dull and forgettable. The execution just did not work and instead felt like a resting place for every cliché in the superhero origin handbook. Venom, despite the charm of its lead, just fell flat.

For the majority of the time, Hardy shared the screen with Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed, both incredible actors who were equally wasted completely as Stock Girlfiend A and Stock Insane CEO Villain B. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I love Michelle Williams and think she is one of the greatest actors of our generation, and even though she tries hard to make her character work in this movie, she literally exists to farry Hardy’s Brock from A to Z. Williams gets one scene – ONE SCENE – to shine and for the rest she may as well have been Rachel from Batman Begins or Mary Jane from Spider-Man or, dare I say it, Lois Lane from literally any Superman movie.

Riz Ahmed, meanwhile, could not have been more generic. In the last few years, Ahmed has shown how capable he is to turn out an insanely good performance alongside incredible talent like Jake Gyllenhaal and Matt Damon. In Venom though he is every Marvel Cinematic Universe villain who runs a company and goes insane for no reason other than he thinks human beings are stupid, when in reality – HE’S STUPID. Everything is so stupid and so is everyone for not believing for the majority of this movie that he is not a maniac. Ahmed’s character just does not make sense, period, and I loathed the superpowered villain he became towards the end.

The visual effects in this movie were not the best. Clearly there were sequences the filmmakers wanted to focus the CGI on in more detail than others, so inconsistencies riddle the visual effects through and through. Much like the tone; inconsistent, without a doubt. One moment people are being shamelessly murdered and the next Tom Hardy is eating rotting chicken from out a bin… yeah.

I don’t think Venom would have benefitted from an R-rating. The violence is not exactly the key in this movie. Sure there is action, but not a huge deal. In fact, as soon as Brock gets the symbiote, the movie moves pretty fast, almost rushing to the eventual climax. There is never a scene where the film really calls for Venom to mutilate a person (apart from maybe the very, very end) but from all in accounts, I think making this movie bloodier would have detracted from what this film truly is – a dark buddy movie.

So nah, I didn’t hate Venom. I was honestly surprised that I enjoyed bit and pieces of this film. If the rest of the cast, the filmmakers and the narrative in general were on the same insane level Hardy was on, Venom would have indeed been a far superior film. But hey, if you want the better version of this movie go see the poor man’s Tom Hardy, Logan-Marshall Green in the superior body snatch sci-fi flick, Upgrade. Until then, let’s just let the 2018 Venom slowly roll through its theatrical run, like say, a turd in the wind.

Venom sadly belongs in the… KINGDOM OF THE CRIMINALLY DULL…

 

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