Venom (2018) ☆☆(2/4): A couple of losers

These days, some superhero movies are fairly good enough to entertain you for a while, but others are mostly bad enough to be forgotten sooner or later. While we had some notable highlights including “Wonder Woman” (2017) and “Black Panther” (2018), we also saw some glaring low points such as “Thor” (2011) and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), and I must tell you that “Venom” still belongs to the latter group even at present. Besides being your average superhero origin story, it has almost nothing to offer except the game efforts from its consummate lead actor, and it only ends up being a mere opener for its sequel, which will incidentally be released in this month.

In the beginning, the movie establishes how quickly things get pretty bad for Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a hot shot journalist who has been working in San Francisco since he moved from New York City some years ago. When he is assigned to reporting on the young CEO of some very powerful technology company, Brock is not that thrilled to say the least, but then he smells something fishy from a bunch of confidential documents given to his lawyer fiancée Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), who happens to be working at a law firm representing that company. Quite eager to get another hot news to be reported, Brock unfortunately tries a little too hard while interviewing that young company CEO, and, not so surprisingly, that results in not only his unemployment but also Anne’s breakup with Eddy.

Meanwhile, it turns out that that young company CEO, Dr. Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), has really been hiding something very serious behind his back. He and his scientists have been working on a mysterious alien parasite in their top-secret laboratory, and, like any other megalomaniac villain, he is willing to do anything for making a historical breakthrough via this mysterious alien parasite, which is named “Symbiote”. Although most of his employees dully obey his order, one of them becomes more conflicted as watching more of Dr. Carlton’s ruthlessness, so this person eventually attempts to make a contact with Brock, who has been more or less than being at the bottom of his life and career since he got fired at that time.

Thanks to this insider’s help, Brock sneaks into Dr. Carlton’s top-secret laboratory and then succeeds in recording what Dr. Carlton and his scientists have been doing, but, alas, there comes an incident which will change Brock’s life forever. He accidentally gets exposed to a symbiote which quickly goes inside his body, and, shortly after managing to escape from the laboratory, he is horrified as belatedly discovering what is happening to his body and mind. Besides often riddled with insatiable hunger, he can somehow exert incredible physical strength, and, above all, he frequently hears a strange voice inside him, which can reveal its true identity from his body whenever that seems necessary.

As Brock tries to handle his problematic situation with this Symbiote called, yes, “Venom”, the movie gives us a series of silly but amusing moments, and Tom Hardy, who also provided the voice of Venom in addition to serving as one of the executive producers of the film, has some naughty fun with the absurd comic struggles between his two characters. Like Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin in “All of Me” (1984), Brock and Venom constantly clash with each other over Brock’s body to our little amusement, and Hardy has a particularly uproarious moment when Brock desperately tries to explain his situation to Anne but then only ends up putting himself in a water tank full of living lobsters.

Anyway, Brock and Venom somehow get connected with each other as two fellow losers, and they certainly stick together when they face a matter of life and death. After finding that Brock can be a perfect specimen for his ongoing experiment, Dr. Carlton is certainly ready to dispatch a bunch of goons to retrieve Brock as well as Venom, and we accordingly get several action sequences including the one which is briskly and frantically unfolded along many tricky alleys of San Francisco.

However, the movie often loses its way as trying to do many other things besides comedy and action during its 112-minute running time. Although director Ruben Fleisher and his crew members including cinematographer Matthew Libatique did a fairly competent job on the whole in technical aspects, the movie is uneven and disjointed in terms of story and characters, and that is the main reason why its climactic part does not work as well as intended. To be frank with you, all I could see from that climactic part was nothing but heaps of CGI added during its post-production stage, and I was actually much more excited by the excerpt from a certain acclaimed superhero animation film around the end of the end credits (Hint: This animation film, which was also produced by Sony, was released in theaters not long after “Venom” came out).

Furthermore, the movie criminally under-utilizes not only Hardy but also several good performers around him. While Michelle Williams does not have many things to do because of her thankless supporting role, Riz Ahmed often stiffly struggles due to his mediocre villain character, and Jenny Slate manages to leave some impression despite her brief appearance.

In conclusion, “Venom” is disappointing for many reasons, and it felt like a tedious homework to me when I watched it yesterday for preparing for its upcoming sequel. It is not a total bore mainly thanks to Hardy’s amusing lead performance, but it could be better in my trivial opinion, and I only hope that the sequel will be a considerable improvement over this regrettable failure.

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