venom_poster
Released October 5, 2018
Rated PG-13 (Language, Sci-Fi Violence and Action)
2 hr. 20 min.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer (ZombielandGangster Squad)
Written by Jeff Pinkner (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Dark Tower), Scott Rosenberg (Con Air, High Fidelity), and Kelly Marcel (Terra NovaFifty Shades of Grey)
Cinematography by Matthew Libatique (Iron ManA Star is Born)
Music by Ludwig Göransson (CreedBlack Panther)
Edited by Alan Baumgarten (American HustleMolly’s Game) and Maryann Brandon (Star TrekStar Wars: The Force Awakens)
Produced by Avi Arad (X-Men, Spider-Man 2), Amy Pascal (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Post), and Matt Tolmach (The Amazing Spider-ManRough Night)
Starring Tom Hardy (WarriorDunkirk), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the SeaThe Greatest Showman), Riz Ahmed (NightcrawlerRogue One), Jenny Slate (Parks and RecreationZootopia), Reid Scott (MotorcityVeep), Peggy Lu (Kung Pow: Enter the FistAwkward.), Emilio Rivera (Sons of AnarchyZ Nation), and Sam Medina (Olympus Has FallenMile 22)

One fateful day, Eddie Brock is just doing his job. The next, he’s talking to himself and everyone thinks he’s crazy, and they can’t get far enough away from him.

Isn’t that just what happens to us all?

Except Eddie isn’t talking to himself. Not exactly anyway. See, this symbiote thing named “Venom” has morphed into his body, and now Eddie had better figure out a way to work with Venom . . . or Venom will eat Eddie’s organs.

☆☆☆☆

So, against all odds, Venom is actually a good bit of fun! And, as a movie, it is surprisingly, well, fine. The promotional material for this movie, all of it, worried me. They made it look terrible! The slapped together posters, the slapped together trailers, the slapped together Eminem song. . . Ugh, you get it. But Venom is competent where I expected incompetency and fun, especially in its last half, where I expected boredom.

Yes, as a movie overall, Venom is fairly bland, but Tom Hardy makes it work with an energetic performance, wherein he appears to be having a blast. He knows exactly the sort of movie he’s in, and he acts accordingly. Plus, his mismatched buddy movie relationship with the “Venom” symbiote (whom Hardy also voices) is great! They have a fantastic back-and-forth.

As an aside, the slimy CGI for the symbiotes worked well. The rest of the CGI on the other hand . . . not so much.

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Image via Twitter

I think Riz Ahmed also knows the movie he’s found himself in, despite many saying he doesn’t, but his side is classic B-movie tropes, as is this movie’s story, and Ahmed plays into the seriousness of a crappy, ’50s, sci-fi B-picture. He also leans into the persona of the real-life tech bro the movie is poking fun at: Elon Musk. Jenny Slate’s casting as Ahmed’s right-hand woman further displays, to me, the underlying awareness coming from the movie’s writers (which include a guy, Scott Rosenberg, who wrote on Con Air, which should tell you something . . . more about that later) and director Ruben Fleischer (who directed a personal favorite of mine, Zombieland.)

This is not a good movie. Don’t get me wrong. The dialogue is clunky; the plotting and pacing ham-handed; the action often unnecessarily confusing; the score inconsistent, sometimes exciting and sometimes completely forgettable; the editing, cinematography, lighting, etc. uninspired; and Michelle Williams is wasted and stereotypical as the love interest. Yet anyone who would get excited at the prospect of seeing Venom on film will probably enjoy this flick. I did, on a “fun schlock” level, that is.

Basically, this is a second-rate ’90s sci-fi action flick. By that, I mean it’s not True Lies; it’s Eraser. Plus modern special effects and some modern sensibilities. Also, if you look at the previous credits of the folks who worked on this film, that will be a review of the movie in and of itself. Director Ruben Fleischer directed Zombieland and Gangster Squad. Writer Jeff Pinker wrote a lot on the shows Alias and Zoo and the movies Amazing Spider-Man 2, Dark Tower, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Writer Scott Rosenberg wrote a lot on the shows Life on Mars, Happy Town, and Zoo and the movies Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, Con Air, the Gone in 60 Seconds remake with Nic Cage, Imposter, Kangaroo Jack, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Writer Kelly Marcel wrote a lot on the show Terra Nova and on the movie Saving Mr. Banks.

I’ll put it this way:

If I say, ” ’90s action movie!” and you say, “Fun!” check out Venom.

On the other hand, if I say, ” ’90s action movie!” and you say, “Not unless it’s directed by James Cameron!” you might want to miss this one.

I’m going to give Venom a 60%.

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