DIRECTED BY Ruben Fleischer STARRING Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott DURATION 113 minutes RATING P13
MORE than anything, Malaysian moviegoers would probably be delighted to see East Malaysia “featured” in the opening scene of Venom. The story begins with a rocket on its way back to Earth crashing into a thick jungle said to be somewhere near Sibu, Sarawak. This enables one of the alien symbiotes being transported in the rocket, which belongs to the Life Foundation, to escape. The search and rescue team then arrives at the crash site and heard conversing in Malay. Next, the film moves on to a Malaysian village where violence soon rears its ugly head as the symbiote moves from one human host to another.
Interestingly though, the filmmakers have revealed that these locations were not even filmed in Malaysia. The village was actually a set constructed in the middle of Georgia in the US!
While the “Malaysian” element does not linger for long, it does provide the backdrop in which the audience is introduced to what a symbiote is generally capable of.
The film’s main spotlight rests on investigative reporter Eddie Brock (played by Tom Hardy), whose life turns upside down when he bungles up an interview with Life Foundation head, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed).
Brock then gets the scoop of a lifetime when he gets into the Life Foundation facility where Drake is using humans as guinea pigs in experiments involving symbiotes. But this is when the symbiote Venom manages to fuse with Brock and all hell breaks loose.
As a comic book character, Venom’s first full appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man issue #300 happened about 30 years ago. Initially, Venom was portrayed as a terrifying antagonist but as fans fell in love with him, the freaky anti-hero with white eyes, razor-sharp fangs and an incredibly long muscular tongue was given his own eponymous comic book series.
At the centre of the Venom movie is not one but two anti-heroes in one body: The ego-driven Brock who is obsessed with exposing the powerful and corrupt; and Venom, the alien symbiote with chilling superpowers.
The character has its own fan base because of its interesting traits and personality as a multi-faceted and quirky being who goes against the flow. Unfortunately, Venom’s badass charisma in the comic book has not been transplanted well onto the silver screen.
No doubt the CGI character’s personification with tendrils, webs, sheets, and tentacles shooting out of its body looks impressive. But there is a feeling of unnecessary restraint when it comes to the depiction of the character Venom at this juncture — which leaves us to wonder if this is an intentional move by the producers to give more room for a Venom 2 in the offing? And it does not help either that the film’s first act is spent mostly on the unravelling of Brock’s life from a respected investigative journalist to a loser, simply because of his own unethical manner of snooping on girlfriend Anne Weying’s (Michelle Williams) work and using the classified information to his own advantage.
More than the first act, the narrative itself feels lost in its own blob of an incoherent mess. The script lacks depth and some scenes look rather contrived. It takes too long for Venom to actually make his presence felt and start terrorising onscreen. Even then, it is a tame appearance, to say the least — lost are the gruesome head-chomping action by those gnarly gnashing alien teeth that one is so familiar with in the comic books.
To label the film as formulaic would be too obvious. Even the characters appear flat and unrelatable. Given that Hardy and Williams are two of the most recognised talents in Hollywood, it is downright perplexing to see no chemistry whatsoever between Brock and Weying.
And what a waste of Hardy’s acting chops too. The actor has so much potential to bring to life the complexity of BrockVenom and yet he is left to exhibit facial contortionist acts and sub-par performance for most of the time.
Truth be told, although I am not a Hardy fan, I had some hopes that Venom could be an interesting watch due to him taking on the lead role. It could have been like how Deadpool had worked so well, thanks to Ryan Reynolds’ zany ways. Alas, this is not the case at all.
And don’t get me started on the villain. A textbook evil nemesis, Drake is dull and unconvincing as the visionary genius scientist hell-bent on taking human evolution to the next level. Again, another example of wasting good talent. Looking back at his previous films, you know that Riz Ahmed is capable of so much more.
Nonetheless, if you are going to watch this, please stay in your seat after the end because there are two post-credit scenes you won’t want to miss. Unless, of course, you wish to give the film a miss altogether.
Nobody can stand in Venom’s way. Venom is all razor-sharp fangs and an incredibly long tongue.
Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) is Eddie Brock’s archnemesis.
Tom Hardy portrays investigative reporter Eddie Brock in Venom.