Venom (2018) Movie Review
*Minor Spoilers Ahead*
"Venom" starts off with a spaceship crash landing on Earth that is filled with alien entities , later labeled as 'symbiotes'. A secret science facility under the control of a powerful corporate tycoon, Carlton Drake, performs experiments with these symbiotes in an attempt to merge them with human test subjects. Eddie Brock, an investigative journalist, finds himself in the mix when he breaks into the facility to find out what's going on which winds him into a symbiotic relationship with the alien entity who calls himself Venom. Venom starts speaking to Eddie and even supplying him with special abilities. From there Eddie and Venom have to work together to save the day by stopping Drake's experiments and his diabolical plans to combine humanity with man eating symbiotes.
I enjoyed this film, seemingly more than what a good portion of people thought of it. I avoided as many spoilers as possible, but it seemed like the word of mouth about "Venom" was relatively mixed. Either people hated it or they thought it was fine. I'm with the latter half and thought it was fine. Don't get me wrong, I don't think this was great or any sort of masterpiece because I had my fair share of issues with the film which I will get to, but for what I got I was decently enough satisfied.
I would like to get into the positives before the negatives because I feel like the negatives may take up a bulk of this review honestly. Before we get to that, let me point out what I liked about "Venom". Number one being Tom Hardy; he is easily the best part about this movie. His performance as Eddie Brock and voice work as Venom was solid, I was mainly entertained by a lot of the humor found in their banter with one another; honestly the film could have used a lot more screen time of their quirky, opposing odds relationship. The look of Venom is pretty cool, it's nice to see a fairly accurate visual representation of the comic book character translated to the big screen. The action was fun to watch, aside from some poor CGI in parts, I thought that the fight choreography and action beats in general were well done. And that's about all I really got...
This leads me to the negatives, a lot of which aren't necessarily the movie's fault, however the similarities between "Venom" and "Upgrade" are so undeniably there I can't help but compare. If you haven't seen Leigh Whannell's "Upgrade" here is a quick synopsis: "Upgrade" is set in a not so distant future where a mechanic, Grey Trace, and his wife are attacked by vicious criminals. The assault leads to the unfortunate death of Grey's wife, as well as Grey becoming a quadriplegic. Weeks later, Grey is approached by an old acquaintance that claims to be able to give him the ability to walk again with the help of an implant called Stem. After the surgery to implant the Stem microchip, Stem reveals that it can actually speak and begins to help Grey seek revenge on his wife's killers by supplying a set of new special abilities to him. And what you get is a superior version of "Venom".
Both films involve a second party taking control of a man's body while this second party also has the capabilities of conversing with the human being effected, not only is this a major part of their stories but it also feeds into the action and the comedy of the films. However the symboitic relationship between Stem and Grey is far more developed and goes into far deeper themes than the one between Eddie and Venom which mostly feels simplified and more acceptable for mainstream audiences. Plus, as decent of a job that Tom Hardy gives with his physical performance, it really doesn't compare to the one Logan Marshall-Green gives in "Upgrade" where it truly feels as though there really is something else actually controlling his body functions. Both films deal with a romantic tragedy of sorts and "Upgrade" is the far more effective one because the one portrayed between Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams just feels underwhelming. The villains in "Upgrade" are so much more menacing and memorable than the corporate baddie or the other CGI splooge monster that I've seen a million times in other comic book movies. Which also brings me to the effects work; some of the CGI in "Venom" is bad. I mean really, really bad. Once it got to the third act climax when all I could make out from the action was the occasional face and a bunch of rubbery alien gack all over the screen, I was relatively annoyed by the incomprehensible mess on screen. Some of the effects were okay, but when you compare them to..."Upgrade"...there is no comparison. The practical effects in "Upgrade" are simply phenomenal and even the rare use of CGI in the film are decent, but with "Venom" it was severely hit or miss.
Seeing how these are both action films, it only makes sense to touch on that aspect of course; and I've got to say that the action was more visually interesting and innovative in "Upgrade" with its concise camera movements and amazing fight choreography. "Venom"'s action was good, but with all the bad CGI and the fact it was so obviously afraid to go for an R rating, it does sully the action a bit. It teases trying to insert a very light amount of gore, but because of how "Venom" is shot and edited it is barely coherent of what even happened. "Upgrade" keeps its story tight with an hour and forty minute run time while "Venom" pushes its run time to nearly two hours; which would be fine if it was filled with more of the arc and relationship between Venom and Eddie, but it squanders a good portion instead on unneeded scenes that only reiterate what the audience already knows. My last criticism is the ending; "Upgrade" has an ending that is risky and provocative while "Venom" has a very generic 'setup for sequels' type ending that was extremely on the nose and just simply lame.
So I know that I basically bashed on "Venom" for most of this review, in all honesty I do recommend that you watch "Upgrade" over "Venom" any day of the week, but I actually still liked "Venom". I just had my issues with it. The villains, the special effects, the arc between Venom and Eddie, and the story all had their problems. But there was also enough entertainment gained from Tom Hardy, the action and comedy that it did carry me through easy enough. So if you are in the mood for some light action fluff, then "Venom" is perfect for that.
© 2018 John Plocar