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  Venom Sharing And Caring
Year: 2018
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Stars: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Melora Walters, Woody Harrelson, Peggy Lu, Michael C. Murray, Sope Aluko, Wayne Pére, Michelle Lee, Kurt Yue, Chris O'Hara, Emilio Rivera, Amelia Young, Ariadne Joseph, Stan Lee
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A spacecraft returning from space hits a major snag when it begins to break up on re-entry thanks to trouble aboard with the living samples it has gathered. It crashes in Malaysia and rescuers are quickly on the scene, but they're not enough to save the crew, except for one who may be in a bad way, but remains alive. What the paramedics do not realise is, the reason he survived was down to a symbiote which merged with his body, and is now jumping from carrier to carrier in its journey to San Francisco and Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the genius billionaire who funded the space exploration. And Drake happens to be under investigation by journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy).

As with seemingly every Sony comic book movie other than Spider-Man, Venom had a bumpy ride to the screen, initially supposed to be a direct spin-off from Spider-Man 3 but sent into production hell for a number of years until Hardy decided to star, he said, as a favour to his son who loved the character. That sounded about right, as Venom, co-created by Todd McFarlane, was like all his ideas laser-targeted to appeal to fourteen-year-old boys with its conception as an evil, alien Spider-Man, resembling him only pitch black in colour, musclebound and with a mouthful of sharp fangs, all the better to bite off limbs and heads. Because of that, fans were anticipating an R-rated experience.

After all, Deadpool was winning through at the box office with that rating, but those fans of a more bloodthirsty, "it's clever to swear" bent would be disappointed as somewhere along the way Sony got cold feet and re-edited it to a PG-13. Nevertheless, the character was proving mightily attractive to a certain part of the potential audience, bafflingly to those others who didn't get the appeal, and as a consequence Venom turned into one of the surprise hits of its year, no matter that many naysayers were either complaining it was watered down, or that it was ludicrous juvenilia whose aficionados should really know better than to encourage: that merely made them more ardent.

Yet for all the detractors, there were a fair few who would admit that Venom, as a cliched superhero origin story given a twist by being about a villain, or an antihero anyway, was actually not too bad, in fact there were parts that were unexpectedly entertaining. It was as if director Ruben Fleischer, no stranger to comedy, found the humour in a character who was so macho, so butch, that it became camp - an issue that marks quite a few action flicks, sometimes consciously, sometimes not so much, and had done so since the days of Douglas Fairbanks. Therefore the special ingredient was not extreme violence, but a dose of self-awareness, saying yes, this is daft, but we can have some fun with it, and with Hardy in on the joke from minute one of his performance, this was enjoyable.

From some angles it resembled an update of The Thing with Two Heads, to the extent that there was even an extravagant motorcycle chase halfway through, only Hardy was playing both reluctant recipient of the new head (and body) and the invader itself, giving it a growly voice to speak to him that sounded a lot like Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. As if it wasn't preposterous enough. Once we had got stuck into a somewhat listless anti-corporate science plot with Ahmed as a Lex Luthor type, it was the action that suited the film best, as the visual effects leaned towards the obvious CGI rather than anything realistic, appropriate for such a cartoonish premise. Michelle Williams was the love interest, Eddie's ex Anne Weying, who even got to try the symbiote on for size at one point, but with little to do but look concerned and weary, much like the "sensible" female in a wacky comedy of ker-ay-zee males. If this was standard superhero fare even with the supposed villainy twist, Venom may have been as loose and shapeless as its titular alien's normal form, but it was better than you might have expected. Music by Ludwig Göransson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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