I’ll admit I had some anticipation leading up to the release of this Marvel comics adaptation. Last time we got to see the character was in the ill-fated Spider-Man 3, of which I recall the Venom aspect being one of the better parts. So with the casting of Tom Hardy, an actor who often takes to a challenging role with relish and (usually) delivers … this just couldn’t fail.
Hardy plays TV reporter Eddie Brock who comes into contact with the alien substance after investigating a crooked business man who is doing shady experiments, and soon finds himself part man part alien when the substance uses Eddie as a way to break free from a top secret facility. Nothing that original plot-wise and an underwhelming feeling doesn’t stop there despite some recognisable names amongst the cast and a cool shape-shifting character at it’s core. Yet as it turns out neither the film makers nor the cast seem to know how to handle the material. This is not helped by actors (especially Hardy) who come off as uncomfortable and uneasy with their own performance (along with a dodgy American accent) and even Michelle WIlliams, usually dependable (she’s great in The Greatest Showman) phones her role like she’s only eyeing up a pay cheque. Villain Riz Ahmed, decent in other movies I’ve seen him is is woefully miscast here also.
The movie does have a couple of things going for it … when the action finally turns up it’s pretty fun with the way Venom / Hardy uses his powers to take on bad guys and scale buildings, and the effects work is generally decent. Also once we get he banter going between Venom & Hardy, there’s some fun interplay between the two characters. However as a movie it’s far too focused on a limp script and under-developed characters I’m not sure what went wrong. Studio interference? Bad direction? Whatever it was, the problems are all their, clear as day on the screen. Disappointing.
There seems to be a theme of late in these continuing comic book franchises, that of repercussions and casualties of otherwise heroic endeavours. First we had Batman facing off against Superman after the fall out from Superman saving the world from the threat of General Zod, and now we have the Avengers turning against each other when a government initiative tries to Police them. Tony Stark / Iron-Man (Robert Downey Jnr) feels his band of heroes, that he helped put together has caused too any deaths in their bid to save the greater population, but Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans) doesn’t feel having to await orders from a higher power is the way to go if or when a new threat appears. Then in the midst of their conflicted beliefs, Steve’s old friend, elite brain-washed super assassin The Winter Soldier is supposedly linked to a terrorist bombing.
This complex plot at least on paper is aided immeasurably by a wealth of solid, at times stellar performances and it’s ensemble cast, that also includes Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and even Spider-Man to name but two, never feels bloated or confused. The writing is key here and everyone’s agenda and personality gets time to shine and despite a ton of superbly executed fights, chases and battles the focus on character and agendas is brilliantly done.
However once again rather vague references to the other movies in the series gets a bit mind-blowing at times unless you’ve you have a cast-iron memory for the Marvel movie cannon (including Iron-Man 3 and Avengers 1 & 2). Also, I thought how the villain’s master plan seemed to rely on a rather convenient plot development was a little cheap … but this isn’t a movie that follows a tried and tested route and how things eventually turned out surprised and shocked in equal measure … not something we normally get in these kinds of movies.
I had a great time with this as you’ll probably have figured out and along with the last two movies in the Captain America franchise, you can consider this a hat-trick of quality entertainment. And it delivers the ‘heroes turning against each other’ better than Batman V Superman.
The super hero / comic-book movie just doesn’t seem to fail these days, what with The Dark Knight & Hellboy 2 hitting hard this summer. So we must not forget the first out the blockbuster-cannon, that much celebrated but painfully ignored hero Iron Man, a Marvel Comics stalwart for several decades.
Casting one of my favourite actors, Robert Downey Jr as billionaire weapons developer Tony Stark was my first bet that this was going to rock, and I wasn’t wrong – Downey Jr is every bit the likable, suave, charismatic lead, and although the origin story that is par the course for a super hero franchise is a little thin, and the climactic battle all too brief (with a deja vu Transformers-style); in between we get some priceless moments of comedy, stylish, feel-good action and plenty of personality (mostly from Downey Jr) that just makes for a guaranteed ‘fun’ two hours.
Jeff Bridges (another fave) is excellent as Tony’s business partner, and a surprisingly sexy Gwyneth Paltrow is on hand as Tony’s ever-faithful secretary / assistant where thankfully we don’t go the love-interest route. So much of this movie plays against genre conventions that it just feels fresh and exciting from the start – and I think this is going to become a great franchise. Roll on Iron Man 2!
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