Who asked for any of this?
Who demanded a Venom movie? Who wanted to add 4D to our cinematic experiences? You’ll find it hard to answer these questions after a viewing of Venom in Event Cinema’s new 4DX experience featuring a sensory overload that is more of an occasional rollercoaster ride than any sort of meaningful cinematic splendour.
Before we go deep into the movie review, let’s explore this mystical new device that is 4DX, which has finally made its way into Australian markets following its apparent popularity abroad. Motion chairs are installed into the cinema featuring vibrations, ticklers and air jets that assault your body when the movie scene demands it. This is also in conjunction to the smoke machines, LED washes, and light water sprayers situated throughout the cinema to help you immersed in the cinematic experience. Oh, and don't forget the 3D glasses as well.
Ignoring the 3D glasses, these new 4D features all sound very cool and awesome but can sometimes just be distracting for the actual storytelling and cinematic experience when you consider how many people work so hard to get every frame’s detail just right on screen.
There is a science on how our senses perceive and process external stimulus. Watching a movie is no exception. A lot goes on consciously and unconsciously through your brain, eyes, and ears as you disseminate every scene, it’s lighting, the characters, their motivations, and even the symbolism of it all as a whole. The film editor Walter Murch made a great point in his classic editing manifesto, that the viewer’s eyes are constantly searching for patterns on screen down to the tracing of an actor’s eyes from cut to cut. So, when you see an intense action scene of bullets impacting only to be coincided with a back-rub coming from your chair followed by a series of chair swivels shaking you about, you better hope you weren’t holding popcorn or cared too much about the details of the scene. Filmmaking, like the many endeavours of the creative arts, is an exercise in restraint. 4DX clearly doesn’t get the memo.
Venom as a movie suffers from similar symptoms of superficiality as the 4DX experience. Here you have a fascinating anti-hero from the comics where an alien life-form calling himself 'Venom' is actually a ‘Symbiote’ that needs a host to survive. Venom by his own personality is not such bad a guy, his personality and powers is just dependent on the human host’s attributes which made for a compelling series of problems jumping from host to host. Most people probably know Venom from all the Spider-man movies and video games where he plays one of his iconic villains.
In this movie however, you do not get such a compelling personality out of the alien. He starts off being kind of nasty in his motivations but seemed to want to become good just when the plot needed him too. The bond he shares once he infests himself with our leading man Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), is mostly of comic relief. The two bicker with Venom being the voice in Hardy’s head that likes to hijack the body sometimes. It's a shame that the many chances to explore this fascinating psyche between human and alien has been reduced to cheesy one-liners. These two unlikely comrades soon sort out their differences and decide to fight against another evil Symbiote that has taken host of a CEO that is conveniently, quite evil as well. The rest of this plot is pretty by-the-book.
Tom Hardy’s performance in this movie seems miscast. The guy gives his all for his performances but his mannerisms and physique just doesn’t seem to fit the reporter type figure that Eddie Brock is known for in the comics. The well-respected Michelle Williams does not fit well here either. Her role as the love interest that becomes a sidekick spouting quippy one-liners came across as awkward in contrast to her spellbound academy-award grade performances in My Week with Marilyn and Manchester by the Sea. The CGI of Venom's suit integrating with Hardy looks pretty cool and real though!
Venom in its execution does not seem necessary on the screen at all despite an intriguing and original concept for this anti-hero in the comics. Not even the forgettable action scenes can save this movie from feeling trivial once you head out the cinema. It’s direction from Zombieland’s director: Ruben Fleisher, should’ve been a great fit, but is mired by a suite of generic steps that makes Venom a poison that can’t even be had for a guilty pleasure.
What were you thinking Sony?
Venom is in Australian cinemas now with or without the 4DX experience that is exclusive at Event Cinemas George Street. The 4DX can be fun matched with the right scenes. It just doesn’t hold much meaning for cinematic storytelling.