'Venom' movie review: Disaster of a Spider-Man spin-off

'Venom' movie review: Disaster of a Spider-Man spin-off

Lack of the white Spider logo aside, Venom's design is a near 1:1 faithful adaptation to the big screen. It's too bad that's pretty much the only lesson Sony learnt after Spider-Man 3, though.

Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed
Score: 1.5/5

An Earthbound spaceship goes off-course and crashlands in Malaysia after one of its occupants goes out of containment and kills the crew, unleashing a small army of sentient alien goop onto Earth, with one uber-powerful businessman looking to use them to 'save' humanity.

Sony, Sony, Sony, when will you learn? Even after the disaster that was Spider-Man 3, you still haven't learnt the secret to making a great Venom adaptation. Well, mostly anyway.

Eddie Brock (Hardy) is a successful news reporter, in a relationship and looking forward to a married life with Anne (Williams) - something the movie makes a point of noting - until one interview with Carlton Drake (Ahmed) ruins his life and career to the point of him addressing himself as "used to be Eddie Brock" in an impressive six months. Meanwhile, Drake has gotten his hands on 3 symbiotes - the aforementioned sentient alien goop, that cannot survive on Earth without a host but hold the potential to unlocking space colonisation.

Things almost never go well in this loose 'Venom: Lethal Predator' adaptation, which originally saw Eddie Brock and Venom take more of an anti-hero role than an enemy to Spider-Man after a compromise with the web-slinger. From the moment Eddie sneaks into Drake's empire and unwittingly takes on Venom, life goes from a virtual hell to a slightly more acceptable purgatory for Brock.

Brock and Anne are really the only good humans in Venom, with their interactions being an actual delight to watch. Drake, however, is Brock's polar opposite in character: a one-dimensional generic corporate villain who has an upwardly noble motive but is really a monster who is killing people.

Tom Hardy tries his best to channel an Eddie Brock that is not the early Spider-Man villain and manages to succeed in an otherwise sub-par production. Reuters photo.

The Venom symbiote himself is an absolute delight - when the film is not an absolute mess. His design looks almost completely torn out of the comics, minus the iconic white Spider insignia; a side-effect of the film having no ties to the MCU or Spider-Man in general. However, instead of being a massive negative, this is only a minor negative.

Venom also retains his devil may care personality from the comics and is always too eager to bite heads off - a contrast to Eddie, who would rather not do those things, and their interactions are quite amusing: Venom, the voracious alien, Eddie the voice of reason.

Unfortunately, that's the extent of the good things about the film. Almost nothing else is worth noting. The film suffers from a serious identity crisis, going from being a happy rom-com to a passable action film, all covered in a foil of a deranged superhero film.

The quality of the action is incredibly inconsistent: The high point is probably the SWAT ambush near the halfway point, with nearly everything else being a low. The camera movements are often too jarring and up-close to make anything out and there are some sequences the film could do without. This is where the studio interference is most apparent: Venom was meant to be R-rated (A for the Indian equivalent) but ended up becoming a PG-13 (U/A for us Indians), all for apparently making the movie more open to joining the mainstream MCU somewhere down the line, which comes at a massive cost to the film's quality..

Also a sore thumb is the villain - no, not the human, the alien. Riot is introduced too late and offers too little to be even remotely threatening. He's supposed to be a "pack leader" of the symbiotes on Earth, but his actions and words don't reflect what is expected of a leader. If anything, he's a slightly more powerful bully.

Before this, Fleischer directed great films like Zombieland and other films like Gangster Squad. Reuters.

Fleischer and his talent is completely wasted with this film, possibly due to studio interference and possibly intense focus-testing, with Sony executives acting as an impromptu censor, removing anything focus groups said was bad. Fleischer clearly tries to channel his work on Zombieland, which is sadly, most apparent in the third act where any comedy and downtime actually exists, but the rest of him is in an entirely different movie.

The visual effects are largely so-so. Venom, She-Venom and the alien goops, in general, are incredibly well-done with a tangible fluidity to their design, movements and words, but the film really drops the ball on Riot. It's almost as if the symbiote was an afterthought.

There is only one hope for Venom: Maybe somewhere out there is a pristine Fleischer cut which shows what the movie was actually supposed to be. It'll probably not fix Venom's more jarring issues, but at least it couldn't be worse than what we got.

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