Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Melora Walters, Peggy Lu, Malcolm C. Murray, Sope Aluko, Wayne Pére, Woody Harrelson
Written by: Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Kelly Marcel
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for language
Running Time: 112
Date: 10/05/2018

Venom (2018)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Stumbling Brock

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's somewhat fast and good-natured, but otherwise this flatly written, uninspired, comic book-inspired action movie feels more like a paycheck-driven business decision than an artistic inspiration.

In Venom, a spaceship containing alien specimens crash-lands on earth. One of the samples, a symbiote, gets away, but the others are taken to San Francisco for testing by the Life Foundation, and its wealthy CEO Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed).

Meanwhile, investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) accidentally discovers damaging information on Drake on a computer belonging to his lawyer girlfriend, Anne (Michelle Williams), and tries to use it during an interview with Drake. The act costs him his job and his relationship.

Later, Drake's assistant (Jenny Slate) begins to feel guilty about what's going on there, and sneaks Eddie onto the premises. There, he becomes the host for another symbiote, and turns into the powerful Venom. But Drake wants the creature back, and will stop at nothing to get it.

It's no secret that Sony no longer holds the rights to the Spider-Man character, in whose universe the Venom character originated, so Venom could have been an attempt to hang onto some kind of money-generating superhero franchise. Aside from the interesting creature visual effects, Hardy is the only one that seems to be trying, but he's miscast in a character that's part intrepid reporter and part comical buffoon. The marble-mouthed actor can't manage the timing of the jokes.

The other characters are badly underwritten, especially Williams's girlfriend character and Ahmed's soft-spoken, psychotic villain; they're never more than just types, or plot place-holders. As for Venom, while he's a full-fledged villain in the comics (and, when last seen on screen, in Spider-Man 3), the movie does several highly implausible twists and turns of logic to make him into a hero, and to justify Eddie wanting to leave the intruder inside his body.

It's softened into a cheerful, good-guy romp rather than taking the character to its natural extremes in what could have been a flat-out scary monster movie. It feels like a bungled attempt to make a movie that's widely appealing, but this Venom is now a movie that will appeal to very few.

Sony Pictures's Blu-ray release includes "Venom Mode" (popups throughout the film with insight to the character's relationship to the comics and hidden references), deleted and extended scenes (5 mins.), several featurettes: "From Symbiote to Screen" (20 mins.), "The Anti-Hero" (10 mins.), "The Lethal Protector in Action," "Venom Vision," "Designing Venom," "Symbiote Secrets," and "Select Scenes: Pre-Vis," music videos: "Venom" by Eminem, "Sunflower" by Post Malone, Swae Lee (from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), and a Sneak Peek of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Picture and sound are top-notch.

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