Audience's Spidey sense will be tingling during ‘Venom’

Spider-Man spinoff more hurried than horrifying

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While in previous iterations of the Spider-Man universe the symbiote tends to play the role of a villain, Fleischer’s spinoff has the titular character as more of a protagonist to Ahmed’s antagonist. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Since Sony Pictures first set its release date, audiences have been eagerly anticipating the release of “Venom,” hoping it would provide the advantages of a film related to Spider-Man but not actually featuring him — mainly, not having to witness Uncle Ben’s death yet again. As the first official installment in Sony’s own Marvel Universe, “Venom” had big shoes to fill, but ultimately, it gets two “tongues” down for being more cluttered than creepy.

The Spider-Man spinoff focuses on journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), who becomes inhabited by the titular parasite while trying to expose Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), CEO of the Life Foundation, for unregulated human experimentation with symbiotes from outer space. While facing all the complexities that come with subletting one’s body to an alien parasite for a couple weeks, Brock must also navigate an awkward yet persisting relationship with his ex-fiancée, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), whose new boyfriend, Dr. Dan Lewis (Reid Scott), is Brock’s primary care physician for all things parasitically inclined.

“Venom” builds off of the titular character’s introduction in “Spider-Man 3,” but, despite this and an optimal release date at the beginning of the Halloween season, it comes off more as a small scare than the main event. Part of this can be attributed to the PG-13 rating of the film — fans hoped “Venom” would be rated R instead — a change that may have decreased box office earnings but would have provided an opportunity for disturbing nature of the symbiote to shine. Also, the dialogue was painfully predictable at times, hurting the commendable acting of Hardy in this dual role, as well as that of his colleagues. The film feels rushed as well, with few scenes lasting more than about six minutes. While this proves to be sufficient time for Hardy to establish a solid relationship with Venom on screen, audiences are left wanting to know more about the secondary characters, who feel relevant enough to the main plot that they deserve more screen time. More time might also have given Williams the opportunity to come more fully into her role, as her character had the promise of being a strong female presence in a male-dominated film, if not for weak writing.

Director Ruben Fleischer’s vision of Venom plays an interesting role in the tone of the film as well. While in previous iterations of the Spider-Man universe the symbiote tends to play the role of a villain, Fleischer’s spinoff has the titular character as more of a protagonist to Ahmed’s antagonist. Since Spider-Man could not be featured in the film, as Marvel Studios owns the rights to the character, the ascension of Venom to fill the blank space of “hero” seems logical, but in reality, this decision detracts from the terror meant to be induced by the parasite. What’s more, this modification isn’t sufficient enough for audiences to empathize with the character, creating an awkward gap between what was expected and received from “Venom.” This dilemma proves the difficulty posed in creating a film adjunct to Spider-Man but not actually including him — Venom is defined by the presence of Spider-Man, so excluding the hero deprives the symbiote of its own “Venom-ness.”

All of this isn’t to say the film didn’t have its strong points. The chemistry between Brock and Venom was developed cleverly on screen, through a mixture of heartwarming sentiments and crude humor exchanged between host and parasite. The mid-credits scene certainly piques the interest of any fans familiar with Venom’s comic history. And often, the faults of the film keep it teetering on the edge of being bad enough that it’s funny.

“Venom” serves as the best bad movie likely to be released this Halloween season, as most viewers have enough of an interest in the plights of the titular character to turn a blind eye to the film’s more egregious technical flaws.

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