When word first emerged that we were going to be getting a Venom movie, people were excited at the prospect. It was always a popular Spider-Man storyline from the post-Secret Wars era. Then the next news hit: while it’s still a production by Sony (the company who holds the reins on the use of the Spider-Man characters), there wouldn’t be any web-slinger. Instead it would focus on the character of Eddie Brock (played by the latest Mad Max, Tom Hardy). The questions swam around, what would it be like? How could it hold up without being set in a Spider-Man framework? Well, it holds up alright.
If that sounds like an entirely lackluster response, it’s because the film itself begins to fade from memory almost as soon as the credits start to roll. That’s not to say that it’s a bad film, because people who watched Batman v. Superman will not soon forget that experience. In fact while watching it, the hour and forty minute runtime doesn’t really drag, the set pieces are spaced such that there’s not a lot of downtime to start looking at your watch.
The film revolves around a set of alien biological entities which are being returned to Earth after being found on an asteroid. The shuttle crashes while landing and one of the entities bonds to a first responder to the crash. The rest are taken to a large bio-company set in the Marin headlands North of San Francisco where homeless are sent in to try to achieve a perfect bonding with the aliens with little success. Finally Brock as an investigative journalist breaks in to find proof about their unethical treatment of human subjects, one of the entities latches onto him and they bond. The rest of the film’s pieces are around the company trying to get him (and the alien) back, and him not being highly motivated to go along with the plan.
However the secret sauce of any superhero genre film that makes it stick is to have characters that resonate with the audience. Hardy is fine but not the kind of standout that immediately makes you think that it’d be hard to see the role played by anyone else. Michelle Williams as Brock’s fiancé Anne Waying is entirely forgettable and is the shallowest kind of female secondary character writing – serving only to help as a script anchor. Riz Ahmed as the super evil corp ceo and bad guy Carlton Drake is better than Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, but that’s about the most that can be said about him.
Being a San Franciscan, watching the film unwind in and around The City is a blast, however the locals were all laughing at some of the chase scenes which show various streets being shockingly empty of traffic (which never happens in real life).
The action is fine, the banter between Brock and the alien in his head is fine. The story in this year’s film Upgrade is far more compelling story, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Venom is an alright way to spend a few hours, especially if that MoviePass card in your wallet is still working. The main problem with the story remains, that it never really connects, the characters aren’t ones you leave the theater eager to hear if they’ve been rolled into the next MCU film, and really, it does fade pretty quickly from memory.
Besides, A Star Is Born is probably sold out anyway, so why not give Venom a go.
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