So we got this spaceship returning from somewhere. It's a private spacecraft run by a huge conglomerate under the leadership of Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed: CENTURION). But you know how sketchy these company space craft are, right? You've seen THE INVASION, SPECIES II, DARK UNIVERSE: Same deal. Earth spaceship crashes, varmint cargo escapes, they plug into people-chargers - Mass Hysteria!
Carlton Drake's people recover most but not all of their cargo, and that sends him over the edge.
Okay, so what is this cargo and what does he do with it?
It's some kind of gelatinous life form that eats people: Carlton feeds people to them.
But if these varmints need people to eat, how will they survive as mere symbiotes?
Well then, what is the point of symbiote human hybrids anyway?
Carlton believes that will enable earthlings to go out into space and survive the rigors of a non-terrestrial environment.
This opens up a whole Marvel universe of plot holes. I mean, seriously, why would Carlton think that? Who discovered these varmints in the first place and who survived to become some kind of super host? Where is that person or persons now? Why don't we ever see the him/her/it/them thing?
How is it that we know where to go to get more and why didn't Carlton send the human/symbiote(s) on the mission?
Send your most experienced, right?
In no time flat we see that these varmints are wild, vicious, and nearly unstoppable. How in the hell did the astronauts on the crashed craft get them in the first place? How did anybody?
How the hell does Carlton possibly know how to contain them?
Every contact with these varmints should have ended with no survivors. Which takes us back to square one. There is no reason ever given why Carlton believes what he does and is pursuing what he does, and has any idea how to go about it.
And you know what? That First Contact discovery scenario could have made one hell of a kick-ass story along the lines of ALIEN or John Carpenter's THE THING. Carlton as an evil mirror genius of the flawed Tony Stark, who makes the discovery of the century and brilliantly leaps to his out-of-the-box conclusions, would have meshed so well with the MCU.
For some inexplicable reason Columbia Pictures, famous for killing their GHOSTBUSTERS franchise - Twice.
Along for the ride on this second rate Marvel movie are the expert opinions of Avi Arad (BLADE [all], X-MEN [all], SPIDER-MAN [all], DAREDEVIL, HULK, ELEKTRA, MAN-THING, FANTASTIC FOUR [all], THE KILLING FLOOR, Cody The RoboSapien, GHOST IN THE SHELL ) and Amy "E-mail" Pascal (GHOSTBUSTERS , SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING).
However, Matt Tolmach (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN [all], FREAKS OF NATURE, JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE) is also involved and, considering that his handful of credits are far more audience savvy on their own, may have been the saving grace here.
But who really knows?
I do know that after Carlton, we switch to Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy: STAR TREK: NEMESIS, INCEPTION, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD). Eddie is a popular investigative reporter on video. He's also a lovable slob to his girlfriend, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams: SPECIES, HALLOWEEN H2O, SHUTTER ISLAND), and a trying employee to his boss, Jack (A mysteriously uncredited Ron Cephas Jones: MR. ROBOT [TV], LUKE CAGE [TV]).
Jack wants Eddie to interview Carlton Drake and he wants Eddie to be nice and polite about it. Everything Eddie is not. Eddie knows he's not the right guy for the job, as he's built his audience confronting shady company elite over their sketchy company ethics. Carlton has no desire to ever be questioned about anything uncomfortable and everyone knows it. Why on earth would his boss send him?
Jack: "Just do this Eddie."
So Eddie goes, his confrontational manner pisses off Carlton Drake to no end, and Eddie gets fired for his trouble.
Worse, Carlton burns him so no one else will ever hire him. Then - because he's a bit of a jerk - Eddie loses Anne too, and nothing about anything that just happened makes any sense at all.
That's the dominant theme of this movie. Nonsense is thrown out as motive and is Never explained.
During the following uneven pacing of the movie chronicling Eddie's fall, Carlton's top scientist, Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate: HOTEL ARTEMIS) has had all she can take of the senseless murders that Carlton personally commits and insists that she witness.
Tracking down the impoverished and elusive Eddie, she eventually persuades him to help her investigate Carlton's research. She of course already knows the dirt, but she needs a reporter beyond Carlton's claws to help her break the story.
Back at the secret lab that hides in plain sight before the eyes of San Francisco, the shit hits the fan and Carlton gets a parasite/symbiote in the form of, of course, VENOM.
Only at this point, and it was a long slog getting here, does the movie become fun. VENOM not only feels like the writers, Jeff Pinker (ALIAS [TV], LOST [TV], FRINGE [TV], THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, THE 5TH WAVE, THE DARK TOWER, ZOO [TV]), Scott Rosenberg (DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, IMPOSTOR, ZOO [TV]) and Kelly Marcel (TERRA NOVA), have styles that don't blend well, VENOM feels a lot like the producers' previous efforts which, all things considered, rank overall on the low, non-Kevin Feige/Disney end of the Marvel curve.
Director Ruben Fleischer, who had a surprise hit with Columbia Pictures on ZOMBIELAND, away back in 2009 - and nothing good since - is able to handle the fun and comedy well enough. Apparently actor Tom Hardy, who plays both Eddie Brock and the voice of Venom, chiefly credited the sound crew for the comedic timing of the dialogue interaction between his two alter egos.
The CGI is also appalling. To hide how bad it is, the CGI SFX whip everything around at a dizzying blur. This is in such stark contrast to Matthew Libatique's (Pi, PHONE BOOTH, GOTHIKA, INSIDE MAN, THE NUMBER 23, IRON MAN, IRON MAN 2, BLACK SWAN) Cinematography, that it often appears to Sit-On-Top of the picture instead of being a believable organic part of the picture. Remember the Blood God end boss in BLADE?
At best, VENOM can be considered an Isaac Asimov "Leave your brain at the door" experience, or a Robert Englund, "Disposable Fun" kind of flick. But we have enough of those empty cinematic calories to last a lifetime and it's not worth the price and time of theater admission.
Because you may have more fun with VENOM in home video, 3 Shriek Girls.
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