“Venom” Movie Review

I could have watched Bradley Cooper’s remake of A Star is Born today. Instead, let’s take a look at a film that clearly has far more class and grandeur. And could have probably benefited from some subtitles. This horror-ish superhero film was released worldwide on October 5th, 2018, by Sony Pictures. It earned over $10 million from Thursday previews, breaking the record for highest in the month of October. Although it’s expected to debut with over $170 million at global box office, the nigh-endless wave of negative reviews for the film. Directed by Ruben Fleischer of Zombieland fame, there had been a desire to make a feature-length film centered on the Marvel comics character since his on-screen debut in Spider-Man 3. The project, which had gone through an enormous amount of drafts and directors, finally gained some new life after the Marvel Cinematic Universe acquired creative control of the web-slinging property. This is intended to be the first in a series of villain-focused films for Sony, with a crossover to the MCU foreseen down the road. Tom Hardy stars as Eddie Brock, a down-on-his luck investigative journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. After being publicly disgraced for a failed interview, he decides to investigate the shady dealings of a space-based bioengineering corporation called the Life Foundation. There, he inadvertently becomes attached to an alien symbiotic lifeform that gives him a wide array of superpowers. Now he must contend with the Life Foundation’s CEO Carlton Drake and the voice of the symbiote urging him to give in to darker impulses. In all seriousness, I’m kind of amazed that this movie exists. There had been rumors for a long time that a Venom movie would get made, and Sony actually got the ball rolling quite quickly this last year. Plus, I’m a huge fan of Zombieland and Tom Hardy, and seeing the two come together seemed rather exciting, even if the trailers weren’t particularly compelling. But just because this movie is a miracle for merely existing doesn’t mean that it’s good; in fact, Venom is one of the year’s worst and most underwhelming films. A big chunk of that comes down to the simple fact that this character warranted an R-rating. By most accounts, the filmmakers had been making process to push for it, likely due to all of the violence that is common with the titular villain-turned antihero. But nope. According to Tom Hardy, nearly 40 minutes of the movie were left on the cutting room floor. While I can see the need for the studio wanting more commercial success, that shouldn’t be a deterrent. If Fox has proven anything with Logan and Deadpool, it’s that we’ll still show up in droves, regardless of how family-friendly it might be or not be. By far the best thing this movie has going for it is Tom Hardy’s dual role as Eddie Brock and Venom. The scenes when the two are bickering back and forth about ethical problems such as killing or eating people are undoubtedly the highlights, and could’ve used way more of it. It’s at turns funny and insightful, if particularly vocal. All the other supporting players, though, are either unconvincing or just plain worthless. Michelle Williams is a great actress, but her terrible wig and nonexistent chemistry make it hard to buy her as a top-dollar lawyer. How about Jenny Slate as a good-willed scientist? Nope. Riz Ahmed, meanwhile, feels totally cliched and wasted as the villain Carlton Drake. He’s the kind of evil genius who likes whispering his plans and philosophy and goes on many a monologue about how “disposable” human beings are. Even just technically speaking, Venom is a total, inconsistent mess. The cinematography by the talented Matthew Libatique is practically monochrome in style and color, as most shots consist of different shades of pale grey. The editing by Maryann Brandon and Alan Baumgarten is choppy and often impatient. The action sequences are attempted to be elevated by constantly moving around the scenario from cut to cut. It’s very exhausting and irritating. If anything, it provides further proof at a film once rated-R that was cut down at the last minute by the studio. The CGI for Venom himself and the action scenes ranges from plain decent to outright bad. While the overall design for Venom is actually kind of cool, nothing changes the fact that the final battle makes it hard to distinguish the hero from the villain visually. Record producer Ludwig Göransson, who previously wrote the excellent soundtrack for Black Panther earlier in the year, delivers his second superhero film score. In all honesty, there’s really no track from the score that stands out as memorable, even if it tries to mix up some instrumentation. The only real distinction is when the action scenes have a slightly more percussive element than other tracks, but it’s quite forgettable. There is an original song named after the titular character written and performed by the prolific rapper Eminem, which plays during the end credit sequence. It’s actually kind of catchy, combining minor references to the film itself with the rapper’s more gritty sensibilities in an interesting way. Odds are you’ll be uttering “Knock knock, let the devil in” for a little while afterward. Or not, depends on your tastes. The more I talk or think about this film, the more infuriated I get with how much potential was wasted by Sony and the other parties involved. The bromance between Eddie and Venom is the one saving grace, and hints at something else far more unrestrained. It never can decide if wants to be a wacky black horror comedy or an outright superhero extravaganza, and the confusion is only further enhanced by the painfully generic script. Venom is as cookie-cutter a superhero film as you’ve ever seen recently. The idea that Sony cut down to PG-13 for a crossover with the MCU in the far future is kind of insulting both to fans and the character himself. I would say that this is just another sad franchise-starter to add the (ENORMOUS) pile, but it’s something uniquely bad: A turd in the wind.

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