All teeth, no bite

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 06 Oct 2018 12:14:51



By Farina Salim Quraishi

So alright Marvel Studios was not kidding when it said they had another 20 movies in the docket after bankrolling a staggering 22 films already. Keeping up the promise and leading from first is comic-book anti-hero, Venom. For die-hard comic book fans, a Venom movie without Spider - Man is akin to eating a burger without the customary patty! And Venom is just that; a saga of a highly-rated villain forced to double up as a vigilante in a movie which is just as dry and dreary. After making a full-fledged, if lacklustre appearance, in Spider-Man 3 (2007), the friendly neighbourhood web slinger’s arch enemy is back to shine on the silver screen in Venom, but not as a dark deadly force, but rather as a dark ray of hope that twinkles feebly.
After a string of mysterious deaths in San Fransisco, investigative journalist Eddie Brock is snooping around in the dark alley of the city in general and around the lab of mad billionaire scientist Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) in particular. Dr Drake’s company - Life Foundation a bioengineering firm - had sent probes into space for new habitable worlds. While out in space, the probe discovers four symbiotic lifeforms and brings them back to Earth.

One of the symbiotic escapes the pod on the return journey, while the remaining three are bought back to Dr Drake’s lab. Dr Drake wants to tame these specimens for the good of mankind which is heading towards extinction courtesy the ecological destruction. The symbiotes are shiny, slimy sentients who require a human host to bond, in order to manifest their powers. Dr Drake attempts to bond the DNA of humans with those of the alien symbiotes to recreate super beings but ends up killing nearly all of the subjects.

After receiving a tip from Dr Skirth, who works in Life Foundation, Eddie breaks into a lab to collect evidence that Drake has been killing homeless people for trials. Things do not go as planned and a symbiote - Venom - inhabits Eddie’s body. Instead of getting assimilated, the association turns a conflict- allergic Eddie into a killing machine called Venom with a fetish for chomping off the head of the bad guys.

Venom’s fire -in the comics -was fuelled by his hatred for Spider-Man, while Eddie Brook too had an axe to grind with the web-slinger. So with Spider-Man out of the picture, both Eddie and Venom needed a common goal to team up their forces in the film, but the makers fail to provide them with one in Venom. Rather than the sinister force they are famed for, the duo comes across as loveable losers and go as far as to say it in words, “On my planet, I’m a kind of a loser, like you…!”

Moreover, despite Venom’s villainous history, the movie doesn’t allow him to take too dark a path and lets him linger in the greys. Much like Deadpool, Venom too is a funny anti-hero who is ultimately a heroic loser. In being the proverbial Mr Goody Two-Shoes Venom holds back, perhaps a bit too much, effectively becoming toothless despite the enormous number of teeth.

Though the Marvel Studios’ spinoff isn’t connected to Marvel’s extended cinematic universe, it’s easily the most un-Marvellous film of the year. With an overtly simplistic plot and confused about the genre it wants to belong, Venom tries to be many things and succeeds in none. The lopsided film is funny one minute, sombre the next, serious now and generic the very next. The writing is very sloppy with major howlers and Venom remain predictable and clichéd all through its 2-hour run. The flashes of novelty, seen in the trailer remain just that - snatches - and the film by and large toes the formulaic line to a T. Post-interval the movie gets increasingly sillier, even the pace becomes frantic after a second hungry symbiote enters the scene creating chaos all around.

In another comic book breakaway, the humour quotient in Venom is amped up to the maximum, and we for once don’t complain. Venom is surprisingly funny, especially in the sequences wherein Venom takes over Eddie’s head and admonishes him for being too cowardly. The childish insults and the wacky exchanges between them are plain good fun! The CGI is really neat as well. Venom looks disgustingly fearsome. For a mountain of a creature, he moves gracefully enough and the way Venom chomps on the heads is bound to make one more than a little queasy.The face-off of symbiotes and Eddie pitted against Dr Drake is awesome and a full-on riot. The symbiotes ripping each other, the cascade of punches and bloodless destruction are a visual masterpiece.

Not one to do things in halves, Tom Hardy gives Venom his all and some more. Hardy’s verbal and physical performance lend a delicious heft to the film and he is perfect in the dual role of cowering pacifist Eddie Brock and Venom, the flesh-eating marauder. Michelle Williams playing Eddie’s fiancee shines strong but is sidelined ‘monstrously’. Riz Ahmed is fantastic as a cold and sorted baddie. But given that he is one-dimensional old-world villain with no backstory, his character remains uninteresting and dull.

After the emotionally rousing Black Panther and the mind-numbing spectacle of Infinity War earlier this year, the bar has been set super high. Venom, with its funny mayhem and the loose plot, is just not potent enough even with an outlandish alien superbeing thrown in for good measure.

The Hitavada Rating: O O

PS: Do stick around for the customary post-credit scenes, they sure will be a ‘Carnage’!