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Blu-ray review: ‘Venom’

December 22, 2018

Reviled by critics but embraced by audiences worldwide, the cinematic origin story of Spider-Man’s symbiotic enemy slithers over to high-definition home theater screens in Venom (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 112 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $38.99).

First a bit of history, viewers last saw the creature attached to actor Topher Grace as sad sack photojournalist Eddie Brock while dealing with an emotionally weepy web slinger way back in the 2007 movie “Spider-Man 3.”

Now, actor Tom Hardy takes on the role of Mr. Brock, an aggressive investigative reporter who gets accidently bonded to a chatty and hungry extraterrestrial entity after his investigation into a shady human research facility called the Life Foundation goes bad.

Adaptable to any terrain, highly intelligent and shape shifting (down to liquid form, turning into tendrils and even forcing tentacles to shoot from a host’s body), the creature often speaks inside Mr. Brock’s head as his unfiltered doppelganger.

It also offers the host super strength, healing powers and a black gooey exoskeleton with a large mouth of razor sharp teeth used to consume living human morsels, especially devouring heads.

Director Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) tries his best to balance the intense, in-your-face action with some humor while displaying the creature’s awesome computer-generated onscreen presence (like a cross between an unstoppable T-1000 Terminator and a Xenomorph).

Mr. Hardy must contend with some mind-numbing dialogue (“My legs were broken and now theyre not broken. What is happening?” he exclaims after returning to his human form) but still manages to deliver a likable, Jekyll-and-Hyde performance amid this bedlam.

However, the biggest mistake the director and producers made was not creating a hard R-rated movie. If ever there was a comic book character that thrives in bloody chaos and gratuitous violence, its Venom.

It’s worth noting, though, that Marvel Comic’s Venom fans will appreciate plot points plucked from various sequential art series including the 1993 six-issue “Venom Lethal Protector” and the 1995 five-issue “Planet of the Symbiotes.”

They can also watch familiar characters such as Life Foundation leader and bad guy Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed); Mr. Brock’s former fiance Anne Weying (Michelle William); serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson); astronaut John Jameson (Chris O’Hara), son of Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson; and Riot (another symbiote).

Unfortunately, much to my chagrin, Spider-Man currently does not exist in Venom’s universe. I am sure that will be fixed in future sequels.

As much as I enjoyed getting reacquired with a cinematic version of Venom, those unaware of its mythos may find the story more akin to such B-movie style comic book films such as “Blade” “Robocop” and “Spawn.”

Best extras: Blu-ray developers go old school and provide an optional fact track called “Venom mode,” mainly offering production fodder about the film that pops up at the bottom of the screen during the movie.

The information nuggets include stunt designers preferring Ducati Scrambler motorcycles as Mr. Brock’s favorite mode of transportation, Mr. Hardy entering into a strict martial arts workout to prepare for the role and that Venom debuted in the comic book Amazing Spider-Man, No. 300.

Unfortunately, its mostly a bust, offering only a smattering of facts throughout and presenting any deep background on Venom’s comic book origins or any Easter eggs inserted into the film associated with the character.

Next, a pair of featurettes delivers a 20-minute overview of Venom in the movie and his comic book roots featuring words from the director, producer Avi Arad and pop culture purveyor as well as super fan Kevin Smith.

Mr. Smith specifically discusses the character in sequential art, the authenticity of the movie and its fit into classic Marvel storytelling.

The segments also display an avalanche of comic book covers and panels with the symbiote in action.

Now, it would have been nice to get an interview with the character’s creators, Todd McFarlane or David Michelinie.

Best of the rest of the featurettes includes a nine-minute deconstruction of the harrowing motorcycle chase scene and five minutes on designing the character for the movie.

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