Review: “Venom” An Anti-Hero Gets “Spider-Man” Spinoff
“Venom” is the first of many planned spinoff films set in the world of “Spider-Man.” While not perfect, the film makes a solid first outing for Sony and a fun adaptation of one of Marvel’s most popular anti-heroes.
The story follows Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a confrontational investigative reporter who is also an on-again, off-again lover for Anne Weying (Michelle Williams). One day, he stumbles upon dark secrets regarding the Life Foundation and its head, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), involving alien creatures known as “symbiotes.” After a freak accident where he bonds to one, Brock must adopt the persona of “Venom” to confront Drake and his alter ego Riot, who could bring disaster to the world.
While not on the same level of recent superhero blockbusters such as The Dark Knight Saga or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, director Ruben Fleischer works the same blend of genre-busting magic he did in the 2009 film “Zombieland.” The film has a similar blend of action, horror, social commentary and dark comedy to bring its world to life. Tom Hardy’s grizzled portrayal of Eddie Brock also makes a more faithful take on the character than the much-maligned version played by Topher Grace in “Spider-Man 3.” Even before he gets the symbiote, he takes very little nonsense from anyone else; and is more intimidating in his very presence than most other actors can be in their entire range.
The film also boasts a $100 million budget, and it shows throughout its fast-paced 112-minute run. Though the film does take a bit to get going, once the first act is through; the second and third don’t let up at all. Once Venom’s symbiote bonds with Eddie, a standout action scene is a superpowered motorcycle chase on the streets of San Francisco that echoes the raw thrills of the Steve Mcqueen classic “Bullitt.” Without spoiling anything, the final battle between Venom and Riot at the HQ of the Life Foundation is definitely worth seeing on the biggest screen you can find.
However, the film is definitely not without its flaws. In addition to some pacing issues in the first act, a significant amount of scenes were cut from the film that impact the tone in places. The dark comedy scenes are also not quite as refined as they are in the “Deadpool” films, which results in a somewhat uneven narrative.
Still, the film shows that the spinoffs Sony has in mind have potential. In addition to future films centered around the characters of Black Cat and Silver Sable, the animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is on track for December 14. The company and many of the cast and crew behind the movie have also expressed interest in crossing over with Tom Holland as Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite tepid at best critical reception (32% Rotten Tomatoes rating as of this writing), the film is on track to set a new October box office record.
While not the best film of its kind, “Venom” makes a strong start to Sony’s planned fictional universe of “Spider-Man” spinoffs. With the company having the rights to around 600 characters in their wheelhouse, it will be interesting to see what they have planned next.
Review by Steven Pryor