Venom review – a fun take on the popular anti-hero

by | 3 Oct 2018

‘Eddie Brock has a bad day. Not only has his investigation of the Life Foundation ended his career but he becomes a host to an alien symbiote.’

After being poorly received in Spider-Man 3 (2007), popular anti-hero Venom is welcomed back to the big screen with his own movie. Over ten years later, Venom sees the return of the character Eddie Brock, this time played by Tom Hardy. His origins of how he became this ferocious creature have always been closely tied with Spider-Man in the comics. This film however, has no hint of the wall-crawler and stands apart from the world of the MCU, raising the question; can this movie work without Spider-Man?

Set in San Francisco, the story follows Eddie as an experienced investigative journalist. Liking nothing more than taking down criminals and exposing corruption, he has his sights set on the Life Foundation, led by Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Little does Eddie know, that Drake is experimenting on alien organisms which need human bodies as a host to survive. When he breaks into the lab he bonds with one of these organisms called Venom, which not only puts his life in danger but also his girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams).

Although not the breakout hit the studio will be hoping for, Venom is not a terrible film by a long shot, and is actually quite fun.

Director Ruben Fliescher does a good job of helping the character stand on his own and giving him a story that doesn’t require Spider-Man. We’re given a more in-depth look at the character of Eddie as he’s turned into the movie’s protagonist, which offers something different. What also helps, is that the film leans into that sci-fi aspect, not shying away from the fact that these symbiotes are intelligent aliens. Fliescher makes no attempt to ground the story, making it very clear this is a heightened comic book world we’re seeing.

One of the other things Venom gets right is striking the right tone. It would have been so tempting to go overly dark and moody with this concept. A story about a parasite that turns its hosts into carnivorous monsters is not a light-hearted synopsis. Yet Fliescher deftly brings just the right amount of humour to keep things from being too morbid. That humour mostly comes from the chemistry of Eddie and Venom as they share one body. By giving Venom more of a personality, there’s an element of the buddy comedy within this movie. We see this as these two very different characters’ bicker amongst themselves yet slowly grow to respect each other.

‘As expected with a big comic book adaptation, there’s also plenty of action to satisfy audiences.’

For the most part, Fliescher utilises Venom’s abilities really well and incorporates them into the fight and chase scenes smartly. Despite being messy in places, they’re filmed and cut together so you can still see what’s going on. The visual effects used to bring the symbiotes to life are equally good, and certainly better than Venom’s last movie iteration. Sadly, letting the action down significantly is the third act finale that descends into chaos. Where all you see is literal CGI blobs melding into one another.

Hardy is a skilled actor, and is a perfect choice to display the duality of the character. He’s clearly having a lot of fun and throws himself into the role, especially bringing a great deal of physicality to the performance. Doing the voice of Venom, he likewise has a great repertoire with himself. Knowing what kind of film this is he plays it self-aware, and it’s his involvement that makes this movie work. Any other actor, combined with a moody tone, and this would have sucked all the fun out of the experience.

Unfortunately, the other cast members aren’t used as well.

Ahmed is a great versatile actor, but he’s under-used and is a typical bland villain. His motivation is a thinly drawn excuse to create conflict, with no extra depth added to him except that. Williams equally is wasted and is nothing more than a love interest and plot device. There is some attempt to make her character relevant to the story, but it just feels like her character has been shuffled around too much after several re-drafts of the script.

Venom is a solid effort to reintroduce this beloved comic book character to the big screen. It may upset some of the Spider-Man fans by deviating from the source material, but Fliescher achieves a good stand-alone movie that doesn’t need to be connected to another cinematic universe. With a self-aware approach and Hardy proving very game in his performance, this is a better and more enjoyable movie than expected.’

Film Details

15 · 1h 52m · 2018.

Genre

Action · Horror · Sci-Fi · Superhero · Thriller.

Cast

Michelle Williams · Riz Ahmed · Tom Hardy.

Director

Ruben Fleischer.

Writers

Jeff Pinkner (screenplay and story) · Kelly Marcel (screenplay) · Scott Roseberg (screenplay and story).

Venom character created by

David Michelinie · Todd McFarlane.

Cinematography

Matthew Libatique.

Editing

Alan Baumgarten · Maryann Brandon.

Music

Ludwig Gӧransson.

Contains

horror · strong threat · violence.

David Axcell

Film Critic

David has quite a broad taste in film which includes big budget blockbusters and small indie films; including International and Arthouse cinema. As long as it’s good in that particular genre, he’ll watch anything.

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