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Venom Review - A loud, vapid pile of garbage


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Verdict: Venom isn't so much a step back for superhero movies as it is a gigantic leap into a cinematic past best left forgotten. It's like someone opened a time capsule from the mid-00s - Venom fits neatly with the likes of such a awful movies as Catwoman and Ghost Rider, and not even a fully committed performance from Tom Hardy is enough to salvage it.

The very idea of making a movie about one of Spider-Man's most well-known and powerful foes without Spider-Man in it has received its fair share of ridicule, but it's not without merit - Venom's popularity extends beyond his rivalry with Spidey and he has a history of solo adventures and stories as an anti-hero. 

Between that and the Jekyll & Hyde dynamic between the alien symbiote and its human host, there's certainly enough material and clout to justify a feature length Venom movie that doesn't even mention Spider-Man. Unfortunately, this outing fails completely to capitalize on that potential.

Tom Hardy in Venom (2018)

(Allegedly) hotshot investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) tanks his career and relationship with lawyer Anne (Michelle Williams) because of a decision so incomprehensibly stupid, that even the man-eating alien symbiote with no concept of basic morality later tells him to apologize. 

The symbiotes are on Earth courtesy of the Life Foundation, led by the evil Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) who wants to use them to save the human race from itself, blah-blah-blah. These alien creatures need a human host to survive and thrive, and through a series of stupid contrivances, disgraced reporter Eddie Brock gets bonded to Venom. 

Soon after this happens, the movie devolves into a non-stop barrage of noise and overkill. It rarely, if ever, stops to take a breath, instead throwing action sequence after action sequence at the audience and maintaining full throttle momentum all the way to the end. 

Not only does this onslaught of carnage and destruction not help hide the countless plot holes and logic gaps (more on that later), it very quickly dulls the senses. It's not long before the movie's action loses any impact, becoming little more than just noise and tentacle shapes smashing together.

Eddie and Venom's dynamic is all over the place. At first, Venom shows little interest in what his human host wants or says, taking direct control over his body and making it clear that he's going to be calling the shots. Moments later, the symbiote indulges Eddie by letting him go to his old workplace.

Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams in Venom (2018)

Eddie can hear Venom's voice in his head, but talks back to him out loud. Venom says he knows everything that's in his head, but when Anne calls, he asks Eddie who that is. 

The lack of consistency from scene to scene, combined with the rushed pacing, makes it so that character progression - what little there is - isn't developed, it's simply stated. When Venom says he's decided to stay on Earth and fight the other, evil symbiote, it's not because he's actually grown as a character because of something he's experienced. It's because the movie says so. 

It certainly doesn't help that the whole thing is a giant tonal mess. There's an on/off horror vibe that falls flat both because of the complete lack of build-up and tension, and the movie's attempts at comedy. 

In terms of laughs, Venom is a somewhat even mix of genuine and unintentional ones. If you've seen the trailers, then you already know about the jaw-droppingly awful 'turd in the wind' scene, which is a good example of how the movie fails when it tries to be funny. 

The only bright spot in this entire trash pile is Tom Hardy himself. I hesitate to call his fully committed, manic performance good, but it's certainly memorable and entertaining. He has the right energy and it's easy to see that with much stronger material, he would have been a great fit for the character.

When the comedy works, it's mostly because of Hardy's body language and delivery. What is sorely missing is any semblance of aggression or suppressed rage, which we know for a fact is comfortably within the actor's range. There's nothing threatening or intimidating about this Eddie Brock, which feels like a missed opportunity.

The guy's a loser who's just along for the alien symbiote ride. All the intensity that Hardy brings to the role ends up going to what can be best be described as a homeless Looney Tunes act. 

What else? Riz Ahmed and Michelle Williams are wasted on boring, one-dimensional characters. The special effects are barely comprehensible, due to most of the action not only moving at a relentless pace, but also taking place at night. 

Mercifully, it all goes by quite quickly - but as far as live-action Venom goes, this is only barely a step up from the character's horrible, tacked on appearance in Spider-Man 3. 

Venom is out in cinemas now, distributed by Sony Pictures.

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