‘Venom’ Blu-Ray Review: An Erratic Adventure In The Marvel Universe
Venom was formally introduced as one of Spider-Man’s villains in 1988, and he was swiftly cemented as a fixture within Marvel’s universe. Eddie Brock was the first individual to take on the Venom identity, becoming the most famous one to do so. In the comics, the black Symbiote, a parasitic alien, bonds with Eddie after it’s forced away from Peter Parker, a union that grants him superhuman abilities and a magnified hatred for Peter.
Many incarnations of Spider-Man have a Venom of their own, although 2007’s Spider-Man 3 remained the only live-action take on the rogue for over a decade. However, Sony held unwaveringly high hopes for the iconic character, always intending for him to headline his own film. After many attempts, a movie starring Venom finally materialized this year, but was it worth the wait?
VENOM BLU-RAY REVIEW
Tom Hardy portrays the hapless reporter and the sentient lifeform he bonds with. Contrary to the demeanor one might have expected, Eddie spends much of the movie in an emotional rut. It’s fairly believable, however; he loses his job and fiancee (Michelle Williams) within the first 20 minutes, and later gets attacked by and subsequently becomes the host to a corrosive alien. As Spider-Man was barred from appearing in Venom, his origin was adjusted accordingly, focusing on the extraterrestrial aspect of the character’s lore.
Director Ruben Fleischer sought to highlight the Jekyll and Hyde-esque dynamic between Eddie and the Symbiote, something that had interesting narrative potential. Can the unwieldy duo learn to trust each other and function as one entity? We’re given the answer — they do, of course — but not enough time is spent developing how they arrive there, especially on the Symbiote’s end. It went from merely viewing Eddie as a means to an end at the midway point to abruptly acknowledging him as its partner before the climax, even claiming Eddie is to thank for its more heroic resolve. Nevertheless, Hardy is the movie’s strongest asset. Riz Ahmed, meanwhile, plays the villainous hybrid of businessman Carlton Drake and silver Symbiote Riot, all of whom drain the life out of any scene they’re in.
Owing to today’s practice of differentiating superhero films through their genres, the horror genre was cited as inspiration for Venom and it’s a fitting match for its violent namesake. John Carpenter‘s name was specifically mentioned as an influence, although Venom sadly bears no resemblance to his genre-defining work; superficial horror beats are periodically accounted for, but Venom fails to organically develop a foreboding sense of dread that strengthened titles like Carpenter’s Halloween. Venom’s rapid pacing and forced humor contribute to that, ultimately coalescing into an incoherent tonal mishmash.
And everything accumulates into a weak final confrontation. Heretofore, the Symbiote’s powers effortlessly surmounted every physical challenge Eddie was confronted with, consequently disallowing any tension from being instilled in the audience. However, as the black-bodied Venom and silver-bodied Riot’s fight occurs atop metal constructions during the night, their showdown becomes visually incompressible as everything blurs together. It was the first and final moment in Venom to bare any semblance of tension and it was wasted.
Iron Man and The Dark Knight hit theaters in 2008, both of which helped hone what cinematic adaptations of comic books could be. That’s not to say all superhero movies prior to them were poor, but many were unpolished. Venom feels reminiscent of those movies (and its CG often looks as if it hails from that era), leaving us with a picture as erratic and incoherent as Hardy’s take on the anti-hero.
However, to close on a positive note, the Blu-ray disc offers over an hour of bonuses detailing the process behind creating Venom, most of which I enjoyed more than the film itself. Venom’s a character who has never resonated with me, but the special features portray the studio’s earnest enthusiasm for the Spider-Man stalwart, helping me understand why he’s endured for as long as he has.