Movie Review: Venom

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PG-13 |

Director: Ruben Fleischer

by Jason Koenigsberg

Good news and bad news for everyone. Good news is Venom got his own movie! The bad news, it is not any good. Those that hated how much Sam Raimi and company butchered the Venom legacy by shoehorning him into the third act of Spider-Man 3 (2007) and being portrayed by Topher Grace will be happy to see that he is finally front and center in a big budget blockbuster, however the only way that they will probably fully enjoy Venom is if they check their brain at the door. 

The movie opens up with a shot of outer space as dark music plays in the background. A spaceship goes by and crashes on Earth right before we hear some exposition that tells the audience they “secured the specimens”. The ship crashes, specimens get out, attach themselves to a human host and the plot begins. This movie does not waste time and jumps right into what viewers paid to see, lots of PG-13 action. Venom feels more violent than the average Marvel movie and it is obvious that the filmmakers originally intended for it to be rated R. The amount of violence and the type of violence are more dangerous and threatening than most comic book films. But money talks and they probably decided during post-production not to add in all of the CGI blood and are likely going to benefit in the box office receipts this weekend. 

Venom has so many other problems that more blood and violence would not have saved it. Tom Hardy who plays Eddie Brock, the reporter that later becomes infected by the ‘symbiote’ to turn into Venom is such a talented actor and he has a natural swagger and charisma that gets him through this movie unscathed. He plays his role so casually and with none of the intensity he had in some of his best roles. It was like he was not pushing himself to even try and get into the spirit of the character and just wanted his big paycheck. The same goes for multi-Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams. She is a very gifted actress and was sleepwalking through her role as if anyone with a pretty face could have played her part. Both Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams also spend a lot of time smiling in this movie, which would make sense if they did not go through what should be such traumatic and painful experiences. No doubt they were both smiling because they knew they were getting a huge payday for this picture and exerting so little effort.

Such great talents are given so little to do with all of the attention spent on the big special effects. Which brings us to the fact that the effects themselves were not that memorable. A lot of the action takes place in a lab run by Riz Ahmed, another talented actor from HBO’s The Night Of. His character goes from being a nice guy to being pure evil as the screenplay demands him to. No slight transitions or character build up for more than thirty seconds in Venom. The computer effects in the lab will make one wish that they hired Rob Bottin and he could have duplicated his practical effects from John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). Those effects still hold up today. The ones in Venom will be forgotten a year from now and look like every other movies CGI. Venom is directed by Ruben (Zombieland) Fleischer and he even gets Woody Harrelson to make a cameo. He has talent but was in a rush to tell this story in under two hours and he does not really know what direction to take Venom as either a hero, anti-hero, or villain. The result is a confused but action-packed mess. 

Riz Ahmed’s villain is not the only one in this movie to go from good to evil as fast as a Mustang can go from 0 to 60mph. Tom Hardy after he is contaminated by the space goo seems to become the title character and have everything under control after a scene or two of his dispatching some no-name henchmen. There is no explanation for a lot of the events in Venom. But if viewers are looking for non-stop, illogical, senseless action, then rejoice because Venom is just what they will want. They may also appreciate the blatant and obnoxious product placement as well.

A movie like Venom is not meant to be subtle, but this movie could not decide what they wanted to do with his character. They try to make him a hero, but it does not really work. He is certainly not the villain, but he does some unsavory things. The screenplay is clueless about how to handle his evil nature yet still make him endearing to the audience. Instead, the writers and director just settled for having him run around and destroy a city and kill nameless ‘bad guys’ because they thought it would look cool and people would buy having colors and explosions onscreen while it happens. Venom works if you can shut off your brain and lower expectations hoping for just two hours of special effects and a few one-liners. It was an interesting idea to move Venom from his usual home in New York City with Peter Parker to San Francisco and that is one area that kudos should be given. The filmmakers make great use of the city and their location shooting. In the end, I wish this movie decided early on what to do, either make Venom a tragic hero or a sympathetic villain and stick with it but instead we have two hours of inconsistent CGI mayhem and it feels like a movie we will forget about by the time Venom 2 comes to theaters. 

Skip Venom and check out Tom Hardy’s best performance as a brutal prisoner in Nicholas Winding Refn’s film Bronson (2008).

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