When a Marvel movie’s Stan Lee cameo is its highlight you know you’re in trouble.
“Venom” reimagines the Topher Grace villain from “Spider-Man 3” for a new generation weaned on MCU excellence.
The Tom Hardy vehicle is endlessly unfaithful to the Marvel Comics legacy. That’s forgivable given the medium jump and our hunger for content reinvention. What we can’t ignore is how unimpressive nearly every stage of the production proves.
“Suicide Squad” … most, if not all, is forgiven.
Hardy stars as Eddie Brock, an investigative reporter who sticks up for the little guy. If that means betraying his boss and fiance in the process, it’s all in a day’s work.
Only he’s suddenly out of work and back on the singles scene due to his latest bull-headed blunder. He vows to leave reporting behind but gets drawn back into the game fby a bespectacled scientist (Jenny Slate, miscast). She’s working with an Elon Musk clone named Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed, miscast) with visions of space travel.
She witnesses her boss’ inhumane experiments and hopes Eddie can help.
Meanwhile, Carlton has more than space flight on his to-do list. He harbors an alien presence in his poorly guarded lab that could save the world once Earth becomes uninhabitable.
If you think climate change is the laziest new plot device -- give yourself a prize.
It all leads to Eddie getting infected by one of Drake’s alien symbiotes, and a gooey one at that. Combining with the creature known as Venom grants Eddie super powers and an annoying inner voice.
Hardy’s transformation is hardly a must-see moment. It’s the sequence where the movie officially goes off the rails. You can mentally time stamp it by the second.
Director Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) can’t corral the film’s tone once Venom makes his not-so-grand appearance. We were led to believe “Venom” was an anti-hero in jet black disguise.
He’s more mischievous than malevolent. Even his fondness for devouring human heads is turned into a laugh line.
— Venom Movie (@VenomMovie) September 27, 2018
Eddie’s tortured romance with his former flame Anne (Michelle Williams, miscast), adds nothing to the project save taking the Oscar-nominee out of some superior project. Can’t blame an actress for jumping on the Superhero Movie Express, one supposes.
“Venom” packs modest potential in the first act, mostly because Hardy is such an engaging presence. By the final scenes he’s been reduced to a second banana to his CGI other half.
The film does move swiftly, although that may be due to a heavy-handed editor. Hardy himself threw early shade at the movie by saying the best scenes didn’t make the final cut.
That’s a “Green Lantern” sized red flag.
Superhero films struggle to resolve the big CGI question. How do you keep audiences engaged by computer generated fight scenes? Fleischer never comes close to answering that query. The title creature himself is party to blame.
Still, you’ll be excused if you nod off during one of the film’s dreary action scenes.
Four writers toiled to bring “Venom” back to the big screen. They clearly saw another franchise in the making, mentally rushing ahead without leaving a compelling origin story in their wake.
Here’s betting both Hardy and Williams will be free to tackle other projects over the next two to three years. At least let’s hope so.
Note: The film boasts not one but two post-credit sequences. The former is a yawn given the lackluster movie preceding it, while the latter serves as an extended movie trailer for a related project.
HiT or Miss: “Venom” radically changes the Marvel character’s back story, turning the creature into a