• Guy Jeffries

Venom


Director: Ruben Fleischer.

Starring: Tom Hardy, Riz Ahmed, Michelle Williams.

So, the long awaited and equally highly anticipated Venom movie is finally here. Sony Studios and fans have always wanted a stand alone feature for one of the most complex, iconic Spider-Man villains/Anti-Heroes for a long time, and there’s been a trail of failed attempts of getting one into production since it’s first appearance in Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, where Sony had envisioned a potential spin off. But this was easily the weakest of the trilogy which still leaves a bad taste, having a direct influence on my expectations for this movie. In defence of Raimi’s third instalment, he was originally against the idea of having Venom as the key antagonist and it took some convincing from studio producers to use him. But I’ll get to comparing them further down.

The character of Venom is relatively young within the expansive Marvel universe. And some might argue or confuse themselves with the super suit that Spidy wore back in the Amazing Spider-Man of 1984; which just so happened to be the brain child of an avid Marvel, and in particular a Spidy fan, Randy Schueller, who entered a writing competition hosted by Marvel and was paid $220 by for the idea behind Peter Parker’s new fancy costume. His original concept involved Richard Reeds of the fantastic Four for the technical advancement and Jan Van Dyne, The Wasp, for the fashion input giving Spidy that upgraded, slick and stealthy new suit. You can read Schueller's story here from CBR.com

But it was when Marvel writer David Michelinie and legendary comic book artist (a personal favourite of mine) Todd MacFarlane took the idea to an entirely different level, much to Schueller’s disgust and disapproval; and Venom, the alien parasitical symbiote was born and made his first grand appearance back in the May edition of The Amazing Spider-Man of 1988, which kinda marks this as his 30th anniversary. (Jeez, he’s younger than I!)

Those that at familiar with Venom’s existence should know of it’s strong, and binding relationship with Spider-Man. But there’s absolutely no mention of Spider-Man here, not even the emblematic spider symbol; there’s a possible hint from Eddie Brock’s past though. Making this strictly a Venom film from start to finish, meaning his origin story has been tweaked and other key story arcs sacrificed, but without taking anything away from the core story of alien symbiote bonding with Eddie Brock. Even with conflicting statements from MCU producer Kevin Fiege and Amy Pascal, one of Venom’s co-producers; this bares no resemblance or connection to the MCU, which is both a good and bad thing. A good thing because it just wouldn’t fit and seem right with the direction they’ve gone with and the shame, is because Venom is an amazing character to play with; and play with him Sony did.

The story appears to be a butchered and overcooked version of the comic storylines Lethal Protector and Planet of the Symbiotes, obviously having to push aside any relation to our friendly neighbour spider. But this does allow for Venom to show his qualities and motives. Yes, he is a villain, but he is also a defender of the weak and innocent, which is what makes him a more than interesting anti-hero. An anti-hero who bestows superhuman capabilities to it’s host whilst biting peoples heads off to stop his hunger from devouring it’s said host from inside out. Sounds really dark for an anti-hero, but it’s this complexity is what makes Venom such an amazing and intrigue character. Though this film doesn’t fully explore this, or it feels rushed and under developed.

Now, I didn’t hate Spider-Man 3 but holding both the previous movies as two of my favourite comic book movies of all time, Raimi’s third introduction of Venom fell flat in comparison. Granted Venom looks and is a complicated character, and must be absolute challenge for anyone to try and transcribe this into a motion picture. The teaser trailers spurred both my excitement and intrigue but the full trailers that followed doused a lot of any high expectations I had. Even with the credible casting decision of Hardy taking the lead role. We all saw what he did with Bane in DC’s Dark Knight Rises.

Hardy was a great choice for Venom/Brock, even being praised by previous Venom, Topher Grace for his portrayal; and isn’t it touching that Hardy accepted this role purely because his son is a massive Venom fan? But the character of Eddie Brock has been rewritten slightly, and maybe, not necessarily for the worse. He’s more grounded and has a moral compass which is what fuels both his deeds and stupid mistakes, unlike his original character of being purposefully devious for his own egotistical gain. Here, Hardy’s a likeable and sympathetic Brock, giving him a swagger and courageous attitude that Grace didn’t. Hardy also provides the looming voice of Venom, which is definitely one of the positives of this movie. I would love to have Siri talk to me like that!

Riz Ahmed delivers a convincing and strong villain playing the sinister billionaire entrepreneur, Charlton Drake who’s hell bent on simulating the symbiote with human hosts, believing himself to be the necessary evil to enhance humanity. But it feels like a step backwards for Michelle Williams after having key roles in films like All The Money In The World, The Greatest Showman and more poignantly, Manchester by-the-sea, which earned her an Oscar nomination; and now she’s here playing Brock’s love interest, Anne Weying.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen director Ruben Fleischer do anything for the big screen, who’s been busy with TV movies and episodes for TV series’s like Superstore and Santa Clarita Diet. But he’s best known for films like Gangster Squad, 30 Minutes or Less, and probably most loved for Zombieland. But his filmography is no clear indication of what we should expect from him here. What he does provide are some great moments of brutality, dark comedy and even a couple of jump scares; pushing for that border of an R rating to its limit. Originally the Studios wanted it to be R rated, as did I and probably many of the fans, following in Deadpool’s bloody footsteps. However the studio had a rethink and had to compromise with future plans kept in mind. I’m not sure what future plans these could be but a hint of possible Spider-Man crossovers is in the air; however, the film suggests a totally different direction for future films and now knowing what direction that is, surely the R rating is what’s needed here.

Nonetheless, the film is dark, violent and quite freaky at times. The action is flashy, but maybe too flashy, or cut to appease the certification bods; and whilst some of the CGI and visual effects are great, there are, sadly some really noticeable weaknesses. Some elements feels borrowed too, and for whose who have seen last year’s Life and this year’s Upgrade, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, but I don’t think there’s any escape from this parallels, and acknowledging Venom is a much older idea than either of these two films, it makes me question who borrowed from who?

I sadly can’t mention anything about Ludwig Göransson’s score because it’s entirely unforgettable and is completely over shadowed by Eminem’s Venom end credit track. Everything else seems completely fitting, but there’s nothing really outstanding about this movie that one might expect; apart from Venom’s voice and ego. It just looks okay, and in defence of Göransson, nothing sounded bad or out of place.

It didn’t drag and was entertaining majority of the time. Like everything else with this picture, the script was nothing more than mediocre as a whole. The film has some good moments, even emotional bits at times; but ultimately it falls short the rest of the time.

I disliked the direction the story went in and feel there was more than one missed opportunity here. They struggled to finish, or get the film to converge nicely and when it did, it felt messy, weak, too quick and some of it not making any sense. But despite all its flaws, I didn’t dislike the movie as much as I expected, or maybe more than I should have. But overall, much like it’s titular character needs to feed off a host, the story lacks the protein of having a decent adversary, such as Spider-Man, to feed from and thus, it sadly dissipates into nothing more than mediocrity.

Running Time: 7

The Cast: 7

Performance: 7

Direction: 6

Story: 5

Script: 5

Creativity: 7

Soundtrack: 5

Job Description: 5

The Extra Bonus Point: 0

54% 5/10

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