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Venom (2018) Movie Review

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'Venom,' vs. 'Upgrade.' A Film Review.

'Venom,' vs. 'Upgrade.' A Film Review.

The Plot *Spoiler Alert*

Venom starts off with a spaceship crash landing on Earth, which 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.

My Thoughts: Satisfied

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 of 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, and I thought that the fight choreography and action beats, in general, were well done. That's about all I really got...

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Up to You to Choose Your Favorite

So I know that I basically bashed on Venom for most of this review. In all honesty, I do recommend 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.

Sound Familiar? It's for a Reason

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.

The Similarities

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 affected, 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 symbiotic 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. This 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 is 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 slight 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.

Venom on Amazon Prime Video

© 2018 John Plocar

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