By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
With Sony Pictures having to share the Spider-Man character with Marvel Studios, the company remains undaunted in their desire to maintain their own comuc movie universe. Because of this deal, Sony has decided to reinvent the Venom character without any current ties to Spidey. Now I know this sounds like blasphemy to diehard Marvel Comics fans, and even I was a somewhat wary going into this movie, but after watching the film, I can honestly say that Sony, director Ruben Fleischer, and his writers have managed to make it work. That said, the resulting movie is somewhat messy and clunky, but it is still highly entertaining despite its hiccups. And with Tom Hardy delivering a gonzo tour-de-force performance in the lead role of Eddie Brock, Venom manages to accomplish its mission, warts and all.
Despite getting disgraced as a journalist in New York, Eddie Brock has managed to rebound as a television investigative reporter. Now liviing in San Francisco with his successful attorney fiancee Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), Eddie is enjoying a good life. That is until he bites off more than he can chew. After overzealously using Anne’s confidential information about an impending lawsuit involving the Life Foundation, Eddie not only gets himself fired, he brings Anne down with him.
Once again in a low, dark place, Eddie attempts to redeem himself once again when he gets a tip regarding The Life Foundation’s secret experiments involving bonding alien symbiotes with unwilling human hosts. When he sneaks into the lab to further investigate, Brock gets infected with a symbiotic organism that gives him increased strength, agility and regenerative powers. Though the organism might be killing him, he faces a greater threat from Life Foundation’s leader Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) a genius scientist desperate to retrieve what Eddie took from him.
Written by Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, and Kelly Marcel, Ruben Fleischer’s Venom is a dark, thrilling, and highly amusing film that suffers from sloppy writing and tonal confusion. The film attempts to include slapstick physical comedy, thrillng action, monstrous horror, and superherouc material. So basically, the movie us all over the place. I am giving the film a generous three star rating because despite its problems, I found myself laughing heartily, biting my nails during the taut action sequences, but also cringing at the cliche superhero beats. Though the Eddie Brock character and the Venom symbiote get better character development, the Carlton Drake vilkain is about as thin as a cardboard cutout.
Riz Ahmed is fine in the role, but is working with really terrible writing. Michelle Williams also doesn’t have much to do either, but still does her best with the limited material. However, major, major kudos must be given to Tom Hardy who gives his all to this version of Eddie Brock. During the not-so-physical moments, Hardy brings a genuine self-loathing and self-pity to hapless loser Eddie Brock, a man who always seems to screw up when things are going well. He is absolutely amazing once his character becomes enveloped with the Venom symbiote. He completely commits, body and soul, to this major metamorphosis and is the main reason why I enjoyed the movie so much.
Now, I’m not exactly sure if this movie will lead to further adventures, or if Spider-Man will ever get to face off with Venom, but I like where this possible franchise is headed. If Sony decides to make a sequel, I hope they get better writers because Tom Hardy is way too good in this role to not get a better follow up. Though this first installment is problematic, the potential for more amazing adventures is there. And if Tom Hardy returns, I guarantee I will be looking forward to his reprisal of Eddie Brock.