Review – A Hardy Symbiotic (“Venom”)

Remember Sam Raimi’s 2007 Spider-Man 3 movie? In that film we got a taste of a certain photo-journalist and his accidental introduction to the icky black extraterrestrial goo that turned him into the villainous antitheses of Spider-Man—VENOM! Now, eleven years later, we finally get a full movie about him.
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Life just sucks for Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy). A hard-hitting ace TV news reporter and engaged to beautiful lawyer Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), he’s just been fired and then dumped by his true love, and all because of an interview. Y’see, Eddie smelled a story regarding Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmad), the diabolical genius & owner of the Life Foundation in San Francisco. Drake (like a deranged Elon Musk) sees Earth’s inevitable ecological collapse and has acquired some canisters filled with some ickky living symbiotic goop from outer space that, IF it attaches itself to a proper living human host, could be Earth’s hope. Or it could just kill them.

Hoping for a come-back, Eddie gets a tip from a frightened Drake scientist (Jenny Slate) who let’s him inside the lab for a look-see, but UH-OH! Looks like one of them gooey symbiotic thingys gets out and attaches itself to Eddie for a perfect match! Finally at the one hour mark, Eddie is introduced to Venom, a deep, menacing voice inside his head (sounding like the Djinn’s voice from Wishmaster) that is now calling the shots and using Eddie’s body as a extraterrestrial weapon. At first horrified and confused, he soon gets used to the awesome power and this alter-ego inside him… which comes in super-handy when Drake’s thugs come a’callin’.

Still the reporter, Eddie/Venom wants to shut-down the evil Life Foundation (with the help of his ex-girlfriend), but suddenly comes across a second symbiotic villain like him called Riot, that happens to be Drake paired with the leader of the space bad guys who, naturally, wants to invade and take over Earth. Will Eddie/Venom become the hero and stop Drake/Riot? Will Stan Lee make his usual appearance? Is it true fans of A Star Is Born tried an online smear campaign against this movie?

Jeff Pinkner (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), Scott Rosenberg (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), and Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks) wrote the screenplay, which has all the look and feel of a comic book come to life, much like Ant-Man did. The movie, vaguely similar to this years Upgrade, hits all the marks for bringing this anti-hero, and sometime Spider-Man villain, to life. Though the plot is generally weak and formulaic, the one thing the film isn’t lacking is fun. Not taking itself seriously, the two-dimensional characters are torn right from the comics and put through their paces with simple, humor-laced dialogue.

Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) takes charge and delivers an action-packed movie, but loses points in some of the fight scenes, especially the last crucial one where you can’t tell who is fighting whom. Looks like Fleischer studied under the Michael Bay School of Stupid Camera Work for that scene. Being a fan-boy, I did enjoy Tom Hardy’s performance as Brock, the loser sad-sack who tries to reason with an unbelievably dangerous alien inside him. His transformation is engaging and, given his ‘chameleon’ style of acting, is a gift to watch. Williams is terribly under-written, sad to say, and Ahmad is about as generic a mad genius as they come.

Let’s face it, this is a SPFX movie with a bite-sized story wrapped inside it’s creamy nougat center. Kudos to the FX and CGI people for some dazzling Venom effects; he looks great and, from what I hear, might be added in the same MC universe with the rest of the superhero guys. It would be pretty sweet to see Spider-Man duking it out with Venom at some point!          

 
Spider-man 3 (2007)

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After the jaw-dropping commercial success of his Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, director Sam Raimi met his Waterloo with sequel number three when he pushed the envelope and gave audiences THREE villains; which, apparently, was two villains too many. Sorry, Sam, you flew too close to the sun, and you know what happens then!

After Spider-Man (Toby McGuire), aka Peter Parker, has been chosen by NYC as a national treasure, much to the ire of Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson (the always fun J.K. Simmons), he finally decides to ‘pop the question’ to his long-suffering girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (Kristen Dunst). BUT things like proposing will have to wait, as Spidey has to deal with superhero problems first.

His former friend, Harry Osborne (James Franco), has gone ballistic and assumed the identity of the ‘new’ Green Goblin (like his late father) and wants to kill Peter. Then, Flint Marko (Thomas Hayden Church), a small-time thug on the run, is zapped in a bizarre experiment (very comic book-ish) and becomes The Sandman, a shape-shifting bad guy made of sand.

And if THAT wasn’t bad enough, Peter is playing host to an extraterrestrial symbiotic black goo from outer space that has attached itself to him, making his famous blue & red Spidey suit all black AND turning Peter Parker/Spider-Man into a world-class ass to others. This also means smashing the camera of aspiring go-getter (and total jerk) photo-journalist, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), and royally embarrassing Mary Jane at her new job as a nightclub singer.

Once Parker realizes the evilness the black Spidey suit has on him, he tears it off, but it falls on a vengeful Eddie, causing him to become VENOM! Venom calls upon Sandman to team up and kill Spider-Man using Mary Jane as bait. Fortunately, Harry has a change of Goblin heart, and he & Spidey team up as well to fight the bad guys.

Again written by Sam & Ivan Raimi with Alvin Sargent, this was a case of thinking, “we can’t go wrong!” Well, it DID go wrong and it went wrong spectacularly. Although it did make bank at the box office initially, word of mouth sank it later for its “too many villains” and confusing storyline. Sony Pictures cancelled any further Raimi sequels, even though he had one already planned: his Spider-Man 4 would have featured Dr. Curt Connors and his villainous alter-ego, the Lizard (which was seen in the 2012 reboot with Andrew Garfield). It also would have showcased the Vulture (as seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming) and his daughter, Felicia Hardy, aka Black Cat, who would later become the Vultress.

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