The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - VENOM | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - VENOM

venom review
A down on his luck reporter becomes the host to an alien parasite.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ruben Fleischer

Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Woody Harrelson, Jenny Slate

venom poster

Back before Sony and Disney shook hands on a deal to share the coveted Spider-Man screen rights, the former studio announced plans for a series of movies based around the villains of the Spidey universe, but which wouldn't feature the webslinger himself. "How can you have a super-villain without a superhero?" the internet asked, mockingly. Well I guess the internet never watched any horror movies, because what are Michael Myers, Freddy and Jason if not super-villains who find themselves up against mere mortals?

Plans for the series were tossed on the fire when the under-appreciated Amazing Spider-Man series was cancelled, but out of the ashes comes Venom. Having appeared in the maligned Spider-Man 3 back in 2007, the alien symbiote now gets his own movie.

venom review

As journalist Eddie Brock, Tom Hardy plays host to the parasite, an alien lifeform brought back to Earth aboard a space probe under the control of the Life Foundation, headed by the Elon Musk-alike Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Brock loses his job, along with his engagement to attorney Anne Weying (an underused Michelle Williams), after asking some uncomfortable questions of Drake. Months later he's approached by Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), a doctor at the Life Foundation who wants Brock to expose the dodgy practices Drake is fostering in his experiments with the alien parasites.

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At the Life Foundation, Brock discovers homeless people acting as guinea pigs in Drake's efforts to have a symbiote attach itself to a human host. Attempting to free the human lab rats, Brock lets loose the titular parasite, which attaches itself to his body, imbuing him with superpowers which Brock has no control over. Brock and the alien find themselves on the run and must work together to foil Drake's nefarious plans.

venom review

I know I'm in the minority, but I quite enjoyed Sony's two Amazing Spider-Man movies. With their retro, campy vibe, they were a breath of fresh air from the brooding superhero movies of the modern era, a throwback to the Richard Donner Superman movies. Much of Venom has a similar vibe, and for its first half it's a breezily enjoyable watch, thanks largely to a uniquely quirky turn from Hardy as a sort of streetwise Bob Hope nebbish.

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Venom collapses as soon as the eponymous alien shows up, as the film doesn't seem to know what to do with its concept. Hardy has complained publicly that the movie's best 40 minutes were excised from the final cut, and that's regrettably plain to see. I suspect the bulk of those 40 minutes involved Brock becoming accustomed to his newfound status as Venom's human host, and we've probably been robbed of a great comic performance from the British actor.

venom review

We recently saw Logan Marshall-Green deliver a similar turn in Leigh Whannell's smart low budget sci-fi actioner Upgrade as a quadriplegic whose limbs are taken over by a sentient microchip, and the result was a stunning physical performance from an actor who genuinely appeared to have lost control of his own body. Where that movie relied on Marshall-Green's performance to sell its concept, Venom employs CG effects rather than any physical miming from Hardy, and it's a very poor cousin to the lower budget movie in the entertainment stakes.

Once Venom takes over Brock's body, the movie rushes towards a lazy climax, yet another generic superhero smackdown set against an ambiguous digital backdrop. Only a closing coda involving a Superman II style moment of redemption reminds us of the potential for comic book amusement the premise initially offered and subsequently squandered.

Venom is on Netflix UK now.