Venom – Ruben Fleischer (2018)

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Failing to do anything special, Venom hardly stands out in a market that is drowning in Superhero and comic book films. With few bright sparks the film is ultimately a disappointment. However those bright sparks are bright indeed which save it from being the train-wreck many expected it to be.

Following the lacklustre Gangster Squad (2013) Ruben Fleischer returns to directing Hollywood features with Venom (2018). Starring Tom Hardy as the titular anti-hero, Venom tells the story of an alien symbiote, that is required to bond with a host in order to survive on Earth, and how it comes into contact with reporter Eddie Brock and changes his life forever. Unfortunately, the film is equally as lacklustre as Fleischer’s last feature, losing itself in a drawn-out origin story followed by a horribly rushed ending, ultimately concluding with a cringe-worthy post credits scene. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, a lot of the action scenes are well put together and the quips between Brock and the symbiote do result in some comical moments but ultimately, it goes little way to redeem an otherwise rather dull affair.

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Venom feels like a paint by numbers effort in terms of the plot. It tells an unoriginal origin story that is more apparent due to the inundation of Superhero/Comic book films circulating in modern Hollywood. Particularly in today’s market you would hope that producer, writer and director alike would attempt to bring something different to the table or at least an interesting spin on something we are utterly familiar with at this point, but sadly Venom hits all of the origin story beats that we as audience members are drowning in at the moment and as a result doesn’t stand out at all in the world of film today.
The main flaw throughout the film however is its pacing. The first hour drags along at such a snail crawl that you may find yourself forgetting that this is supposed to be a Superhero movie. It takes just over an hour before we see Venom in his full glory, and by that point there’s only about 45 minutes left of the film, which results in a rushed ending that doesn’t really make much sense, but since the tale is kind of boring anyway it is difficult to really care about the intricacies of the plot.

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Tom Hardy’s performance of course steals the show. As charismatic as ever he does a brilliant job at bringing Eddie Brock to life and lends an utterly ridiculous but perfect voice for the symbiote as well. He is undoubtedly the selling point of the film and is clearly the best part of the project. Riz Ahmed does do well as the main villain Carlton Drake, but he’s given very little to work with, his character having an utterly one-dimensional motivation resulting in him being completely forgettable.

Visually the film is impressive. The second half of the film features some quite exciting action scenes and the liduidy fluidity of Venom’s powers is done brilliantly. However much of these action sequences take place at night, in poorly lit areas and feature fast cuts and a fair amount of shaky cam making it difficult to keep up with what is happening. However, when the film does shine, it shines bright. There are some great ideas here and I do believe the film warrants a sequel where the good ideas can be developed into something unique that will stand apart from the MCU and the DCEU. Unfortunately, if the studio were to continue with the next film in the same fashion as this, there’s not much to look forward to.

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One does wonder what Sony were aiming to do when they put this film together. Obviously, they were attempting to kick off their own cinematic universe as that is all the rage in today’s market, but Venom doesn’t stand out in any way. It’s a perfectly average pop-corn flick with nothing within that suggests it is a must see for this year. However, the bright sparks throughout are there, and one hopes that when it comes to cultivating ideas for subsequent films, the right ideas are expanded and expressed and the wrong ones are gently pushed under the rug.

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