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ICYMI | SONY Pulls SPIDER-MAN Out of the MCU

Sony and Disney can’t come to an agreement! Keeping Spider-Man far from home and out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at least for the immediate future! 

Oh what a tangled web indeed! After years of back and forth, Sony and Disney had finally come to an agreement that allowed the studio to share custody of one of Marvel Studios biggest brands Spider-Man. After a series of very successful box office hits in the early 2000s starring Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst directed by Sam Raimi, Sony sat comfortably with its winning piece of the Marvel Comic icon grabbing big-ticket sales and breaking records — before the summer movie landscape would appear littered with the competition.

It wasn’t long before the franchise would suffer from fatigue and with an underwhelming performance with its third installment, Sony found itself in the peculiar predicament as Marvel Studios started spinning out its “Expanded Cinematic Universe” with hit after hit starting with 2008’s Iron Man and followed by Thor and Captain America. Marvel waited patiently for the ownership rights of its titular web-slinger to drop our of Sony’s hands, especially after the critically panned Spider-Man 3. In an effort to stay on top Sony went to work on a “reboot”!

The 2012 effort The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield didn’t hit the mark as had been anticipated, and with it running counter to the eventual blockbuster Avengers fans began to speculate whether Peter Parker’s friendly neighbor superhero would ever find himself in the same league as his Marvel Studio headliners. The answer to that question would have to wait, and in 2016 Disney which had since purchased the Marvel brand and all of its properties (including the film projects) introduced Spider-Man into the MCU in Captain America: Civil War.

SPIDER-MAN: ™ FAR FROM HOME

Homecoming

By the 2017 release of Spider-Man: Homecoming which spotlighted Tom Holland the latest actor to wear the fancy red and blue suit, the latest reboot joyfully indoctrinated Peter Parker into the MCU with none other than Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) as the aspiring hero’s benefactor. The film was also released as a studio cooperative between Sony and Disney, granting Sony co-partnership in the distribution of the feature film, while giving Disney ownership over the placement of the character throughout its franchises. Spider-Man would play a pivotal role in Avengers: Infinity War.

And although it appeared that the web-slingers fate was sealed at the conclusion of that epic battle, the follow-up feature Avengers: Endgame reconstituted Spider-Man just in time for the hero to headline his next big theatrical outing. Spider-Man: Far From Home the fourth film to feature Holland as Spider-Man also proved box office gold for Sony giving it the largest opening for the franchise, with a worldwide hovering over 1 billion, making it the studio’s biggest grossing release ever. With that record set, it’s curious that the studios would through a kink into the works.

This week Sony and Disney announced that effective immediately, Spider-Man would be exiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe! That doesn’t mean the future of the character is hanging from a thin web strand, it means that Spider-Man will not be part of the shared expanded cinematic universe that Disney reigns over, and going forward Spidey can’t Marvel Team-Up with any captain or doctor he may have saddled up to recently, and as for that special relationship between Peter and Tony Stark — yeah, that’s gone too!

Spider-Man (Tom Holland) takes MJ (Zendaya) out for a spin in New York City at the conclusion of “Spider-Man: Far From Home”.

A Multiverse of Possibilities

[Warning: SPOILER ALERT] Could the filmmakers have foreseen this descent into disillusion? Given the subplot context of the Marvel Multiplex in Spider-Man: Far From Home with the villainous Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) duping Peter and SHIELD into thinking he was the last survivor from an alternate-earth in the multiverse and the success of the animated full-length feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse could Sony had suspected that its partnership with Disney would become tarnished so quickly?

Inevitably this opens the way for Tom Holland (who apparently is locked in for 2 more pictures as is the franchise’s current director Jon Watts) to interact with Venom and expand on the much talked about inhabitants of the Spider-Verse. A film focused on the femme fatale Black Cat and one-time love interest of the web-slinger has been brandished about, so has another feature meant to capitalize on the hero’s rogues gallery. For a hot minute Sony had everyone waiting with bated breath on the arrival of The Sinister Six — it never happened.

With so many ideas to mine, perhaps it isn’t such a bad idea after all. With out the distraction of having to find a way to place mild-mannered high school student, turned Avenger, Peter Parker into a more elaborate storyline to service a grander theme, the future of the Spider-Man features could be far more incapsulated and center on the hero’s own trials and tribulations. With more than 6 decades of comic book stories to draw inspiration from, it could turn out far more profitable for Sony to hold onto the character.

Fans biggest fear though may be that away from the creative lead of Marvel’s chief creative mind Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal, the Spider-Man brand will suffer without the proper amount of coddling and support from the bigger cast of characters. Certainly the upcoming slate of films on Marvel’s slate may not have to worry about it; without a “next” Avengers on the horizon, it may not even matter. In the meantime we’ll have to accept that Spidey may inevitably remain far from home and has reached his own endgame.

Spider-Man: Far From Home has gone on to become the top-grossing film in Sony Pictures entire history, taking its predecessor Skyfall down a notch with a worldwide gross of $1.1 billion.

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iFeature | Marvel’s Cinematic Universe on AVENGERS Heading Towards the “ENDGAME”

The final curtain is about to drop on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and after “The Snap” heard around the universe, it’s anyone’s guess how it’ll all play out, but invariably MARVEL STUDIOS redefined the superhero movie!

All it may have taken was a single “Snap!” to tragically undercut the growing legacy of the Marvel Studios heroes, in Avengers: Infinity War the big bad that has loomed in the shadows, puppeteering events across a decade of blockbuster films, the Mad Titan Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) altered the course of the history by annihilating half of the entire galaxy’s population — and taking with him some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s newest stars including Black Panther, Doctor Strange and the newly integrated Spider-Man.

The third installment in the Avengers franchise, crushed under its heel any anticipated hope fans may have had of a new “phase” elaborating on an ever-expanding universe capturing the spirit of the Marvel Comics that many movie goers had been thrilled to see come to life, since the introduction of Robert Downey, Jr in 2008s Iron Man. Studio chief Kevin Feige envisioned a theatrical experience that replicated the serialized episodic world these characters had inhabited in their 2-D incarnations, fleshing them all out fully to properly transition to the big screen.

By the time all the main players converged onto widescreen for the Avengers team movies, the film just couldn’t get any better, the action more dynamic and the stakes always higher, but at its core the players remained rooted to the core of their origins — their creator Stan Lee had always believed in the premise that as extraordinary as the circumstances that were that made these individuals heroic, they were always as “real” as real could get — especially in the case of sharing hall space with a thunder god and a radioactively rage-filled hulk.

The Avengers (2012)
L to R: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)

A Marvel Indeed

When the titular heroes including Iron Man, Captain America and Thor (and arguably The Hulk) were corralled under one umbrella to be featured in the team film Avengers the studio blockbuster would immediately be altered forever! Successful franchise films had become regularly expected, especially with genre-inspired material like the X-Men or Spider-Man films, although by the time those features hit their third installments the narrative often felt stale, leading to the inevitable reboot. Kevin Feige imagined a longer, more linear experience and inspired a universal story arc.

Avengers bent that rule by landing all the separate or anticipatory franchise characters inside of a team roster. The first film released in 2012 introduced the “founding members”, its follow-up 2015s Avengers: Age of Ultron expanded upon the roster, and by the time we’d arrived at 2018s Avengers: Infinity War the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was recruited to take on the larger than life adversary. It was also necessary since the team was essentially disbanded.

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo Captain America: Civil War (2016) the third film in that franchise disassembled our core heroes, but introduced Black Panther, initiated the Ant-Man and gave us an amazing Spider-Man: Homecoming. The Avengers may have come to an impasse but movie audiences knew that the real war was infinitely on the horizon, and that when the stakes were raised to upwards of a cosmic scale, it would take all of our muscle to fight back — unfortunately we hadn’t factored in that the bad guy might win in the end!

The Next Phase

So perhaps now would be a good time to catch our breath before the next, and fourth film in the franchise hits theaters worldwide. Avengers: Endgame is not shying away from admittedly letting its audience know upfront — however this plays out, the title should be taken very seriously. Inevitably some of our favorite characters may live, and others might die, and still some others have to determinately crawl themselves back from where ever they may have found themselves after that fateful “Snap!”

Marvel Studios has proven in its premiere decade its dominance over the superhero film franchise, a formula that others have attempted to emulate with mixed results, but never as effortlessly as Marvel appeared to master the medium. With the theatrical experience marking a steadfast transition to the home, the Marvel catalog is now getting the 4K respect that it widely deserves. In the Ultra HD resolution that 4K offers the Avengers franchise especially has never looked or sounded so epic!

Picture quality is unmatched and this is most evident in the heavily CGI moments that often occur when the screen is inhabited by Hulk and an army of Ultron robots. 4K also enhances the environment that these actors exist in, turning their highly futuristic war rooms and battle sites, whether deep on the edges of the earth or on the streets of New York appear all the more textured and tangible. The cinematically profound depths of the audio bombardment is also something to behold! With all three of the current film’s available on 4K, this is the only way to assemble proper!

iReview | JUSTICE LEAGUE vs. THE FATAL FIVE

The present is in great peril from an invading threat from the future and the Justice League’s newest members may find themselves paralyzed and unable to stop The Fatal Five from destroying the future.

The future’s most dangerous villains are facing off against the World’s Greatest Heroes in a fight for the fate of all time. The latest DC Entertainment/Warner Bros Animation full-length animated adventure Justice League vs. The Fatal Five takes us back to the much-beloved heroes of the popular Justice League Unlimited television series. Executive produced by Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett this unique exploit introduces several new characters into the ranks of the Justice League roster and further establishes the heroes and villains that populate the 31st Century.

The Legion of Super-Heroes, a team of young people from all across the galaxy that has united to defend their present era in the 31st Century, are facing off against the vile Fatal Five and have succeeded in immobilizing two of their most powerful members. In order to keep the Emerald Empress and the mindless monster Validus prisoner, the Legion decides to imprison them in the only place that can hold them — the past! The remaining members of the Fatal Five travel back to the present day, but they aren’t alone — the villains are followed by the legionnaire Star Boy.

It doesn’t take the Fatal Five’s Mano, The Persuader and Tharok long to exact their reign of terror on the 21st Century, fortunately for us we have the Justice League, but it appears that these invaders are almost as powerful as Superman (voiced by George Newbern) and they are seeking someone the call “Limelight”. Batman (Kevin Conroy) stumbles upon the mysterious Star Boy (Elyse Gabel) who may hold the key to stopping these new enemies, but not even the alien Miss Martian (Daniela Bobadilla) can penetrate the legionnaires fractured memories.

With the help of Jessica Cruz (Diane Guerrero) a reluctant Green Lantern, and one of the league’s newest recruits, our heroes may be able to stop the Fatal Five from releasing their captured accomplices and exacting their plan to destroy the league preventing the modern day heroes from inspiring the Legion of the future, ensuring their dominance of the 31st Century! Justice League vs. The Fatal Five is a time-traveling escapade with the excitement of a summer blockbuster, while nostalgically reminding us of what made Justice League one of the best animated series ever.

The feature-length animated movie reunites some of our favorite voice actors from Justice League including Kevin Conroy who has voiced Batman since the days of the Emmy® Award Winning Batman: The Animated Series Susan Eisenberg who has become, for many, the most ideal Wonder Woman ever, and joining them in the cast are Diane Guerrero who voices the role of Jessica Cruz, the newest Green Lantern, as well as pulling double duty as a regular cast member on the DC Universe Original Series Doom Patrol playing Jane.

Tackling Bigger Issues

Recently the heroes of the DC Comics Universe had been facing bigger problems than just the nefarious deeds brought upon by their archenemy. Currently playing out in the DC comics event Heroes in Crisis a nine-issue limited series written by Tom King, the revelation of a “sanctuary” a place of respite the heroes use to seek support from the trials of their experiences and emotional support has shaken the perception of how the public perceives its masked defenders. When Sanctuary is compromised a mystery unfolds that has everyone feeling vulnerable.

The idea that even superheroes require special attention to deal with daily stresses is a fairly new idea, and perhaps among some of the most recent characters to have come out of the closet to reveal their emotional instabilities include the time-traveling Booster Gold, the Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn, and the newest Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz, who came about her role as a ring bearer rather reluctantly. Cruz was initially seduced into taking the ring from the alternate-earth villain Power Ring, but after standing up to its corruption was made an official Green Lantern.

Left traumatized after a terrifying experience, Cruz was very easy prey from the Ring of Volthoom which feeds off of fear. When it makes Jessica Cruz its new host, it doesn’t bargain with the young woman’s own strength of will. With the help of The Flash, and the other members of the Justice League, Jessica perceivers, using her newfound powers to rise up against Darkseid and the imminent threat of the Anti-Monitor during “The Darkseid War”. Battling through her own fear, Jessica proved herself worthy of wielding one a Green Lantern’s ring.

The inclusion of the character in Justice League vs. The Fatal Five is a welcome examination of the heroine’s journey and goes deeper inside her psyche then has ever been explored in the books. There’s a magnificent dimensionality that is revealed of the newest Green Lantern in this animated adventure that makes her magnificently worthy to wear the ring. Hopefully, this isn’t the last time audiences will be given the chance to revisit the animated exploits of the Justice League especially given how much the heroes have evolved.

Justice League vs. The Fatal Five is available now across Digital Platform and will be released by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation wide across all additional platforms on April 16 with a running time of 87 minutes.

ICYMI | HALLOWEEN (2018) on Digital HD

Available now on Digital HD the sequel a generation has been waiting for! Halloween continues the story of the night that he came home. The original scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the nightmare that started it all.

In the horror film genre there is perhaps no more terrifying film than Halloween — the original released in 1978 directed by John Carpenter turned its leading lady Jamie Lee Curtis into a star and ignited a phenomenon. Carpenter’s original, produced on a shoe-string budget, did more with very little and terrified audiences while hardly showing any blood on film. In its wake there came a series of sequels and reboots and even some more far fetched stories that would turn Michael Myers, the film’s psychopath, into something supernatural.

For the most current interpretation of the series, director David Gordon Green revisited Carpenter’s original and focused completely on that film’s “Final Girl” answering the question: What kind of life did Laurie Strode (Curtis) have after the fateful babysitter massacre of 40 years ago. Co-written by Danny McBride the film explores the lengths to which Strode has gone to survive, choosing not to be victimized in the murderous wake of Michael Myers. Unfortunately, she has existed only in the memory of the terror she experienced that night.

When Myers escapes from the mental asylum, the monster returns to Haddonfield, Illinois to finish what he’s started, though Myers may not have anticipated the distance to which Strode has gone to protect those that she loves. Curtis is exceptional as the film’s iconic heroine and doesn’t miss a beat stepping back into the skin of one of cinema’s most legendary roles, and by Halloween’s conclusion you’ll be reminded of why this has proven one of the most endurable blockbuster franchises, but has the nightmare finally ended? After all Halloween comes once every year.

Sequel or Reboot?

Green and McBride approached their screenplay from a uniquely unexplored perspective. While many of the previous films in the franchise put the peril of the antagonist as the driving narrative for Halloween (2018) the pair decided that the story would be more interesting if it was perceived through the experience of the original’s lone survivor: Laurie Strode. Curtis admits, in one of the home releases bonus features, that she was committed to their vision after only reading the first few pages. 

At the beginning of the feature, a pair of investigative journalists are chasing down the legend of Michael Myers…

…the pair set in motion a series of events that lead back to Strode her has dedicated her life extreme survival, and in the wake of that clear focus compromised the life of her daughter, who is now all grown and steadily convinced that Laurie is not far from a good influence on her granddaughter. When Strode’s worst premonition comes true and Michael returns reign terror on their town on Halloween, this time Laurie is ready! Green convinced John Carpenter to return, and the filmmaker who created the mythology bestowed his seal of approval on Halloween (2018).

Though it may disappoint some of the fandom that this installment erases many of the stories that followed after the original (including the landmark H20: Halloween 20 Years Later) as a proper sequel to John Carpenter’s narrative it stands up and is very well made to appeal to contemporary audiences. Choosing to dictate the story from Strode’s own psychosis has given Curtis a reinvigorated entry into the franchise with a very deliberate purpose and direction that is truthful and appealing.

Available for home viewing the feature includes bonus content including Extended and Deleted Scenes not seen in theaters, a Making Of featurette and several behind-the-scenes looks at the film including “The Legacy of Halloween”.

Halloween (2018) directed by David Gordon Green and starring Jamie Lee Curtis is available now in 4K Ultra HD | HDR digital download on iTunes and will be available in additional formats on January 15, 2019.

iReview | HALLOWEEN (2018)

Set 40 years after the events of the original, the masked serial killer returns on the fateful night to the scene of the crime, in search of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, the lone survivor of the Halloween massacre of 1978.

In 1978 filmmakers John Carpenter and Debra Hill didn’t plan to redefine the horror genre, but set an unprecedented standard with the original Halloween. Produced on a shoestring budget and under a tight 21-day shoot, the story about a serial killer loose on the small town population of Haddonfield, Illinois terrorizing a group of teenagers on the night of All Hallows Eve, turned its aspiring ingenue Jamie Lee Curtis into an instant screen queen and ignited a genre phenomenon that captivates audiences even still today.

In fact Halloween has just been revived — again! The horror franchise that turned its masked murderer Michael Myers into an icon, has actually continuously tracked with 8 sequels since the 1978 film’s release, and a 20th anniversary iteration H20 that reunited Curtis with the mythology she hadn’t revisited since Halloween II (1981) supposedly concluded Laurie Strode’s story. The latest version of Halloween is less a reboot and more a retconning of much of the serialized canon that has followed the franchise (not including the Rob Zombie re-envisions).

Directed by David Gordon Green and co-written by Danny McBribe, the filmmakers pursued Carpenter’s consent before going forward with their project to resuscitate Halloween and let Michael Myers loose once again. Director David Gordon Green also pulled out all the stops to make sure that Jamie Lee Curtis read the script and even asked a mutual friend, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, to persuade Curtis to seriously consider taking one more trip back to Haddonfield, Illinois on the most precarious night of the season. Getting John Carpenter onboard proved much easier.

The original film’s director and co-creator also provided an updated take on the soundtrack, in particular the movie’s theme that became instantly identified with Michael Myers march.

Halloween Takes Shape

On this night in 2018 Michael Myers (Nick Castle reprises his role as “The Shape”) returns to his old stomping grounds, after escaping from a prison transfer. Myers had been captured and incarcerated for 40 years ever since his first rampage on Halloween that claimed the lives of five teenagers and left Laurie Strode scarred from the experience. Obliterated from canon is the assault on the Emergency Room hospital that is tending to Strode (Curtis) after The Shape’s spree, thus erasing the backstory that suggested Strode was related to the boogeyman.

Myers returns to Haddonfield, and it isn’t long before he takes up some old habits. Laurie, who has become estranged from her family, though her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) has made considerable efforts to bring Laurie out from her self-imposed isolation. Laurie’s grown-up daughter Karen, played by Judy Greer, has given up on her mother’s psychosis and survivalist tactics, but inevitably Laurie’s worst fears are realized and Michael Myers returns! With the help of Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) Laurie begins the hunt to end Myers reign once and for all.

There are several interesting parallels between this version and it’s predecessor(s). The teenagers themselves with the exception of Allyson (the Laurie Strode archetype) are largely unimpressive or underdeveloped. This was a similarly exploited trope of the first Halloween. Both Carpenter and Curtis added a depth and layer to Laurie that guaranteed her survival and made her the film’s heroine. With the auxiliary assortment of mostly annoying characters on the peripherals, it’s easy to watch the body count add up, and not care as Myers goes on his merry way.

The interesting decisions to also cover or otherwise not exploit the kills is also a factor borrowed from Carpenter’s original, which used no blood in the depiction of its murders. It doesn’t make the act any less frightening or shocking, and not all of them are dismissed to the imagination, but in some cases not seeing the dismemberment of a victim is more than compensated by the eventual reveal. Among the most troubling murders though, involves the reporters we meet early in the film, who are physically assaulted by Myers in the confines of a rest stop’s toilet stall!

SPOILER ALERT! We all know how this is going to end, and Halloween (2018) follows the beats per minute of its genre, with little deviation, as is expected, though the doctor played by Haluk Bilginer, (the “new” Loomis) does throw audiences a curve. The film’s final shot is perhaps the most puzzling, as it focuses on the events of the perilous night’s survivors making haste their escape of a burning compound. The family, reunited, huddles closely, looking mostly exasperated and spent, Allyson still appearing in shock clutches tightly to the large kitchen knife still in her grip.

If this is some kind of foreshadowing of events to come, it would be terribly not well thought out, as one might expect Laurie to interject herself (given her experience) to assist with rehabilitating Allyson. If it might predict that Allyson will now become the target of Myers mercilessly primal instinct, then she’d better hold on tight! She might need that knife, if The Shape escapes (once again) the villain’s fate. Without a doubt, Curtis’ return to form as Strobe is spectacular and is just proof at how diverse her skills are, especially to revisit this character and reveal another layer.

The Original Turns 40

In September the original John Carpenter classic was up-converted to 4K Ultra HD, presenting the film in an incomparable high dynamic ranger (HDR) with a wider color spectrum and an immersive audio experience that goes beyond the theatrical Halloween experience. Reportedly the film’s redux was overseen by the film’s cinematographer who carefully took into account the depths of the dark shadows and colors of the fall foliage, making certain the audience has far more to fear as The Shape emerges from the darkness.

With an opening weekend of over 77 million at the box office and breaking records for an October opening for a horror film with a female headliner, it bodes well for the franchise that audience interest is still at a peak, but is Halloween 2.0 in the cards especially given the fate of its psychopathic killer? Is this really the last theater goers have seen of the boogeyman? 

Halloween (2018) starring Jamie Lee Curtis is directed by David Gordon Green and playing in theaters nationwide now.

iReview | VENOM

Street journalist Eddie Brock has just stumbled upon an alien invasion of epic proportions in Sony Pictures VENOM based on the Marvel Comics anti-hero, though don’t expect an ever-loving web-slinger to make any appearances!

The year was 2007 and although there weren’t very many superhero franchise films saturating the summer blockbuster season, genre-films were starting to make significant strides winning audiences and luring fans into the multiplex. Though clearly there were signs that fatigue was starting to set in — no where was that more evident than in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise and especially when it entered into its third installment. Spider-Man 3 didn’t enjoy the same critical appeal as its predecessors, neither did it ooze with charm.

In fact it oozed into obscurity and the critics pretty much tore it to shreds, inspiring Sony to immediately demand a “reboot”. Many cited that the film was particularly dense, having added too many extraneous characters — one in particular came at the demand of the studio. Hoping to send a more contemporary message, Sony requested that a modern villain be added to the line-up; particularly the studio requested that Venom be added into the mix. The black-clad alter-ego of Eddie Brock represented the antithesis of everything our hero stood for.

Unfortunately the character was largely lost in the melee that climaxed the film, but Sony held on to the property hopeful that one day they could resurrect the villain; holding most of the Spider-Man properties even as the web-slinger slipped through their grip (even after a pair of largely unpopular reboot attempts with a new Spidey under the hood). Now making good on their promise to steal some of Marvel Studio thunder, Sony unleashes Venon starring Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, and the unwitting host of the titular anti-hero.

Enough Superheroes

The idea of Venom as a stand-alone franchise is obscure enough, and the fact that Sony plowed ahead with the feature without incorporating Spider-Man into the origin story is simply arrogant. The studio, of course, is banking on the conceit that audiences are willing to accept “alternate facts” when it comes to their genre fandom and comic book favorites. It’s worked for HBO and their hit series Game Of Thrones which has gotten tired of waiting for fantasy novelist George R. R. Martin to complete his saga and decidedly spun the narrative in its own direction.

The entire CW primetime line-up has been switching up, enhancing and taking major liberties with its adaptation of DC Comics properties for upwards of a decade now, so theater goers shouldn’t be too traumatized with the creative directions that screenwriters have taken with director Ruben Fleischer’s vision of the slick black insidiously predatory goo from space that instead of piggy-banking on Peter Parker ends up latching onto Brock (Hardy) who is still a street reporter chasing down political scandals and civil injustices on the streets of San Fransisco.

When Brock gets assigned to profile visionary industrialist Carlton Drake played by Riz Ahmed at his hyper-secret lab complex, he takes the opportunity to grill Drake on the accusations surrounding his firm — accusations that Drake’s team of scientist are exposing innocent people to dangerously unstable antigenes and using them as lab rats. Drake doesn’t take it kindly to the possible exposure and instead goes about shattering Brock’s credibility and firing his lawyer girlfriend, Anne Weying played by Michelle Williams, effectively ending his relationship!

Two Is Company!

Down and out, Brock has become a mere reflection of himself until another opportunity to expose Carlton Drake as a threat presents itself. Sneaking into his lab, Brock is exposed to an alien symbiote that attaches itself to him; most of Drake’s attempts to merge with the alien have proven unsuccessful, but in Brock’s case “Venom” takes to Brock very easily. The two soon form an uneasy alliance, as Venom begins to comfortably set into his new surroundings (Brock) and reveals to Eddie that Drake intends on bringing a symbiote invasion force to Earth!

Drake bonds with the murderously fowl “Riot” and exerts a plan to launch a shuttle into space to intercept that asteroid home of the symbiotes. If Riot is successful, the human race will effectively be wiped out and replaced by the predatorily merciless creatures. It’s up to Brock and Venom, with the help of Anne, to thwart Drake/Riot’s plan and save the planet! Venom nearly sacrifices itself to save his human host, and Eddie returns the favor. The two enter into a bargain to protect the innocent and only eat the bad guys, but only the really, really bad guys.

For most of Venom the audience gets to know Eddie Brock. The largely unlikable character from the comic has been reimagined to suit the star quality of Tom Hardy, who is largely charming in the role. It’s unfortunate though that Venom is anything but charming. The creature is crude and unappealing to look at; a CGI monstrosity that once it takes over the film becomes a monster movie, and that’s perhaps where it loses its thrust. With a new superhero adaptation taking to the big screen almost every season, these films have had to evolve to meet audience expectations.

An example of which is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy which is a modern space opera, and a complete flip to the more grounded world of the Avengers. When Marvel continued to expand its brand it introduced the multiverses of the Marvel Comics with Doctor Strange and Ant-Man both features dramatically different in tone, one skewed toward the metaphysical, the other more science-fiction, but each providing a different tone and pushing the boundaries of the genre into all-new, all-different arenas — thereby bringing in new audiences.

With Venom Sony had an opportunity to make a significant departure and deliver something that would have been completely unexpected — taking advantage of the anti-hero’s darker tone and violent nature to make a genuine horror-monster movie. Venom eats most of his victims when it isn’t impaling them on its prehensile spikes, but most of that happens off screen during the action scenes. Drake’s ultra-secret science lab where he conducts his experiments of the symbiotes had most of the trappings of a chamber of horrors, but just suggest how lethal his intentions are.

Venom instead sticks to the tropes of its genre, doesn’t really change the beats established by its predecessors and ends with the CGI slugfest that has permeated most of the other superhero movies of late. With the exception of the credit stinger (which leaves some glimmer hope), Venom doesn’t really get as dangerous as you’d hoped it would be, and is simply as adaptive as the symbiote it portrays. Perhaps if Fleischer is inspired by the recent comments Tom Hardy made while promoting the film, he’ll re-edit a “director’s cut” and put some R-Rated content in!

Venom starring Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams; directed by Ruben Fleischer | Rated PG-13