Sony’s ‘Venom’ loses a lot of character’s bite (review)

“You should be extremely afraid…”

We are well into an era where the box offices are flooded with crazed comic book fans! Every where we look now, if there isn’t currently a comic book movie in theaters, there are posters for upcoming ones on every wall. In an age where Marvel and Disney rule the roost, other studios who have rights to certain characters from the comic book powerhouse are trying to capitalize on the fame. From Dark Phoenix out of 20th Century Fox to Spider-man: Far From Home out of Sony, many upcoming projects based on Marvel’s famous lore. Now we get a glimpse at one of the most recent explorations of the Marvel comic universe, with Sony’s recent film, Venom. Does it meet expectations, however?

Tom Hardy brings one of Marvel’s most enigmatic, complex and badass characters to the big screen. Venom tells the story of the symbiote known as Venom, an alien who needs to have a host or else it will die from Earth’s atmosphere. Once bonded with Eddie Brock, a discredited journalist, however, Venom and Eddie embark on a fight to save the ones they love, even if it means biting a few heads off. Directed by Ruben Fleischer, stars the talented Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, and Reid Scott.

“Eyes! Lungs! Pancreas! So many snacks, so little time!”

Venom has been long-anticipated by many comic book fans, especially since the “interesting” iteration of the character 2007’s Spider-Man, starring Tobey Maguire and Topher Grace. The character, first debuting in its full glory in 1988’s The Amazing Spider-Man #300, holds a special place in a lot of Spider-Man fans. So moving forward with creating a film based on Venom, one could say that there was a lot riding on this project.

Fleischer, known for his work on 2009’s Zombieland, 2010’s 30 Minutes or Less, and 2013’s Gangster Squad, does a decent job of creating a cohesive storyline for the film. Venom carries the unique allure of establishing a fresh new take on the story we’ve all come to know and love. This version of the alien Symbiote, however, seems much more tame than what we’re used to.

Holding tight to their PG-13 rating, the film plays it safe quite often with the characters and carnage. Normally, most Marvel films play in the space of this type of rating, but certain character such as the Defenders, Deadpool and other anti-heroes have to reside in a R-rating arena. Venom is one of those heroes where, and as much as they try to fill the film with fun nods and moments, the character needs to have full reign to be truly him. The film sadly lacks in that area, and it is definitely noticeable.

“I have a parasite. Good night, Mrs Chen.”

Tom Hardy has always been one of my favorite performers. His ability to be versatile in whatever role he’s in is incredible, and his filmography is a huge testament to that. His role in this film is one that varies throughout the film. As simply a New York transplant who lives in San Francisco, he’s phenomenal! His accent and his ability to show his New York countenance in a San Francisco tech-laden environment really are on point. His ability to translate, however, Eddie Brock, is kind of goofy and slapstick-ish. Knowing where the character is from, but also watching him become bonded with Venom, makes the overall character a bit silly. Tom Hardy essentially becomes a great Marvel interpretation of Jerry Lewis.

Other performers in this film aren’t as enigmatic as Hardy. I’m not too sure of Michelle Williams character, or her necessity in this film. Her role doesn’t seem that important to have had Williams play it as opposed to any random actress. She seems to be having fun, however, and I suppose that’s what’s most important. Riz Ahmed, unfortunately, seems completely out of his element. Portraying his Elon Musk-esque evil character, Ahmed forces his ability to embody a villain type character, and it shows in the film. His mild-mannered voice struggles to rectify his attempt to create an imposing presence. The film only makes good on what it’s trying to do by replacing Ahmed’s character with a larger Symbiote.

“Giant leaps will always come at a cost.”

The film isn’t without its shining moments, however. Seeing Venom become fully fleshed out, even with the rating restraints, make for some fun and exciting scenes. The pairing of Hardy with the Symbiote make for silly moments that actually pay off, almost as if they are a comedic duo. These moments do occur quite often, and in between some of the most action-focused scenes, they make for great breaks. It is unfortunate that there aren’t many scenes with the full Venom character, but with the PG-13 rating, it doesn’t seem that missed.

When Venom was first announced, as I stated earlier, comic book fans were excited. Now that the film has made its way to theaters, however, we’re seeing a mix of responses from fans all over. It’s easy to see what Marvel has already created, and assume that every other film in the overall franchise is going to knock it out of the park, but sometimes, much to the chagrin of fans, it isn’t always (I’m looking at you, Fan4Stick). But as comic book fans, in general, we have to make an effort to give things the benefit of the doubt that they are trying to deliver the best product they can to the masses. Venom may not have been the best Marvel film to date, but it sure as heck  beats out some of the other super hero films that came before it. So if you’re looking for a reason to enjoy this film, and see it as the good film that it is, all you need to do is look towards what’s already been, and be thankful it isn’t one of those.

Rating: 3/5 Atoms

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