For those moviegoers who believe there is no need for another comic book movie, you now have, Venom. This is the 5th Marvel film of 2018 (yep, that’s a new one every other month!), and it’s the first one proving challenging to say anything that is positive or complimentary.
It should be noted that this is not a Superhero movie, but rather a film based on the Marvel Comic characters and stories of Todd McFarlane and David Michelinie. Four writers are credited with the screenplay, and it seems they either needed more or fewer. Director Ruben Fleisher (Zombieland, 2009) apparently worked with what he was given, hoping the stellar cast or the CGI could salvage the project.
The always terrific Tom Hardy (Bane in The Dark Knight Rises) stars as Eddie Brock, an investigative reporter popular for breaking stories of corruption and fraud. Unfortunately, he has a significant lapse in ethics – an unusually forthright comment from Hollywood on today’s media. This lapse costs Brock his job, his girlfriend (4 time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams), and any semblance of normalcy. While investigating the unimaginable human-alien experiments of megalomaniac Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), Brock takes on the powers of the symbiote (Venom) and spends the rest of the movie either trying to control these powers, sitting back and letting the powers take over, or exchanging frat boy dialogue with the possessive being who picked up all nuances of the English language pretty darn quickly.
Venom was last seen in the lackluster Spider-Man 3 and was played by Topher Grace. This time out, Venom is the focus and Spidey is nowhere to be found or mentioned…at least not until post credits (a terrific animated sequence). The CGI is at times very impressive – reminiscent of something John Carpenter might have ordered. Two sides of the Transamerica Pyramid provide a nice visual, however, the effects are not at all consistent. Far too often -especially the battle between Venom and Riot- it’s just plain messy (like letting a group of toddlers play with black and gray slime).
The film’s saving grace could have been the interactions between Mr. Hardy and Ms. Williams, both stellar actors, but the dialogue and situations are so ridiculous that even those scenes don’t click. The moments that draw laughter from the audience may or may not have been by design, but there are far too many ‘forced comedic moments’ that just fall flat.
Composer Ludwig Goransson (Creed, Black Panther) delivers some nice moments with the score, but the Eminem song over the closing credits sounds amateurish. The film is very loud, and not so much lacking direction as it is burdened with too many directions and misfires. A comic book movie’s first priority is to be fun, and this one just isn’t much of that. Surprisingly, the film is rated PG-13 rather than R, so the excessive violence (and there is plenty) never actually spills a drop of blood. Perhaps the goal was to make a Marvel movie so uninspiring that Black Panther’s Oscar chances would be enhanced. Otherwise, there’s no excuse.