Director: Ruben Fleisher
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed
Synopsis: When Eddie Brock acquires the powers of a symbiote, he will have to release his alter ego "Venom" to save his life.
Genre: Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for language)
Release Date: October 5, 2018
The world has enough Superheroes.
One of the most relevant taglines to be used for a film in many years, as Marvel Studios alone has produced 20 superhero films over the course of a decade, and DC has produced a handful more, which has in effect stuffed the box office with increasingly high budget and high grossing fan fare. But in recent years the term superhero fatigue has come to light, as, just as the absence of superhero films in the late '90s and early 2000's became troublesome, now the opposite is becoming true for some audiences who wish to see something different and unique brought to the screen.
The antihero, a hero who lacks the traditional superhero qualities such as morality and the pursuit of ideals such as honesty or integrity, is often a more compelling character, and it's gloriously refreshing to see in today's stuffed superhero climate. Sony introduced the antihero "Venom" in Spider-Man 3 back in 2007, but audiences left wanting more out of the character, who only entered over halfway into the film and wasn't the central conflict at the heart of the story.
In the new, bold adaptation Venom, we learn that a spacecraft exploring new worlds crash lands back on earth, releasing one of four captured alien symbiotes--organisms that need a perfectly-matched host to survive. When investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) inadvertently becomes one of these hosts, he quickly discovers he has a new, darker personality and must confront it and the truth behind its intent.
Venom succeeds in delivering strong entertainment value for audiences and Tom Hardy gives a solid performance, perfectly conveying the trapped and lighter side of Eddie and the conversely dark, sadistic, yet playfully fun nature of his alter ego. The visual effects are also something to marvel at--the texture and motion of the symbiote is very organic and realistic and Venom himself is miles ahead of what Sam Raimi was able to accomplish with Spider-Man 3.
Tonally the film is very dark, and director Ruben Fleisher compliments this by employing dark cinematography, with most of the scenes taking place at night rather than during the day, which serves the character of Venom very well and gives the streets of San Francisco a welcome noir aesthetic. The tone is also lightened occasionally through several comic relief moments (some land, some don't), most of which surround the internal voice of Venom in Eddie's head as the bond between the two develops. For the most part, though, the film steers away from Marvel's light-hearted humor present in its MCU films, and for that Venom benefits.
Now the bad.
Although the film possesses great technical qualities from its direction, cinematography, and visual effects, the story is ultimately lacking in substance, and sometimes the writing feels downright sloppy. There really is no emotional core to the film--Eddie's actions are largely contained to affecting himself and even his relationship with Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) feels weak and one-dimensional. Moments that you wish would linger are soon cut off and moved away from in service to another action sequence. Furthermore, some character decisions and plot points are rushed and left unexplained, diminishing their value to the viewer and making one feel something was left out. It's rather frustrating since the film excels so well in the other areas, but leaves the most important elements of story and character as much of an afterthought.
Venom is one of those films that will still thoroughly entertain even though it suffers from some poorly written dialogue and rushed character moments and plot points. Tom Hardy also delivers a solid performance as a man struggling to adjust to a life bound to the symbiote. Though it certainly doesn't go down as one of Sony's best works in the superhero genre, it still manages to be a memorable outing at the movies.
Written by Anthony Watkins, October 10, 2018