REVIEW: Venom (2018)

Theatrical Release Poster – Sony Pictures Releasing

The following is a review of VENOM — Directed by Ruben Fleischer.

Last year, director Daniel Espinosa’s sci-fi film LIFE was released to mixed-to-positive reviews. I liked that film much more than I thought I would, and I was impressed with how such an under-the-radar sci-fi film somehow had a cast with A-list stars in it. Back when we were still only waiting for LIFE to be released, a fun fan theory surfaced online: what if LIFE was actually a prequel to the then-upcoming Sony Spider-Man spin-off film known as Venom?

It was a fun scenario to discuss, and, although always unlikely, it was a theory that I thought made a lot of sense. After I had seen LIFE and no actual Venom easter egg had appeared in it to surprise audiences, I was, at the very least, happy with what I still think is a solid modern sci-fi space film. After having now seen Venom, which is a much inferior film to LIFE, I realize that LIFE easily could have been the secret Venom-prequel we were all hoping it was, with basically only one major change needed to be made to Espinosa’s film.

You see, the very first thing you see in Venom is a sequence that really resembles the end to LIFE. At the beginning of Venom, a spacecraft carrying hostile alien symbiotes crash-lands on Earth somewhere in Malaysia. At the end of LIFE, a spacecraft carrying a hostile alien lifeform lands on Earth in the ocean, and it is intercepted by, what I believe to be, Asian fishermen. The evil foundation in Venom is even called the Life Foundation.

I mention this because Venom would’ve been a much more interesting film, if it were attached to LIFE. It would’ve worked a lot better for fans of the comic book, if the film had had some sort of link to the Spider-Man character (sorry to say, but there isn’t much to search for. Don’t expect to see Peter Parker walk into frame. The best you get are a reference or two, and then a Stan Lee cameo).

Venom follows Eddie Brock (played by Tom Hardy), a former journalist, who got himself and his fiancee, Anne Weying (played by Michelle Williams), fired when he secretly read a classified document on her computer and spoke of its content in an interview with her boss, Carlton Drake (played by Riz Ahmed).

When Brock later finds out that Drake is experimenting on homeless people with the alien symbiotes, he breaks into the research facility and attempts to rescue a homeless acquaintance of his. However, after he breaks her out, she attacks him and the symbiote inside her is transferred to him. In the following days, Eddie Brock begins to learn that an alien lifeform known as ‘Venom,’ which has an appetite for human heads, is inside of his head, perfectly able to control him and turn him into a gigantic monster with sharp teeth and a long tongue.

Remember Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man? No, not Spider-Man 3, which actually had the Venom symbiote in it. No, I am talking about the first Raimi-Marvel collaboration. You remember? Good. There is a scene in that film when Peter Parker uses his spider-sense and his new abilities to catch Mary Jane Watson, her tray and her lunch from falling to the ground. It’s a good moment. It’s memorable. That is Tom Hardy in this film.

When all else fails, Hardy is there to (almost) save the film with some inspired and insane humor that might as well henceforth be known as his impromptu and informal Saturday Night Live audition tape. There is a scene where he ends up sitting in an aquarium at a fancy restaurant while he eats a lobster. That is in the movie. It is absolutely hilarious.

Tom Hardy is in a different movie than everyone else in the film, and that is a great thing because Hardy’s Venom-film is much superior to the rest of Fleischer’s film, wherein every notable actor not named Tom Hardy is given nothing to do, and some of them are even wearing laughable wigs.

When Tom Hardy isn’t having the time of his life seemingly improvising strangely comedic takes on dialogue, reacting to the sound of Venom’s voice, or talking to himself, the film is pretty dull. The first act is really poorly paced as the film rushes from one scene to the next in a mad dash towards the finish line. Throughout the film, there is an over-reliance on expository dialogue, there is very little chemistry between the male and female leads. There are logical problems, poor continuity editing, and boring and visually uninteresting action.

Venom is the type of film that you can recommend, even though the product is fairly sloppy when compared to modern superhero filmmaking. Somehow an inspired and crazy performance from Tom Hardy makes a below-average superhero film much more entertaining than it has any right to be.

5.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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