Brock — who pays a price for his first encounter with the mogul, which also has implications for his girlfriend (Michelle Williams) — ultimately gets exposed to the malevolent alien presence, providing the movie a fleeting spark as the man struggles to coexist with his body’s ravenous, ill-tempered occupant.
After that, “Venom” descends into a series of uninspired action sequences, including a climactic battle that’s so dark, rapidly edited and murky it’s difficult to identify who’s up or down. It gives nothing away, moreover, to note that the during-the-credits sequences (or Easter eggs) merely add to the malaise.
Director Ruben Fleischer has an eclectic resume that includes plenty of work in sitcoms, and in theory there’s nothing wrong with bringing a lighter touch to the genre. The problem is that the movie seemingly can’t make up its mind, half the time resembling one of Marvel’s gritty Netflix dramas — only with considerably more lavish (and gruesome) special effects.
Purists who feared the movie might sanitize the violence, alas, needn’t worry. While second-guessing the ratings board is generally a pointless task, it’s fair to say that “Venom” fell under the bar that would have warranted an “R” rating by limbo-ing as close to it as the judges would allow.
Sony is clearly hoping that “Venom” will help expand its superhero footprint beyond Spider-Man, which the studio secured years ago, having since forged collaborative ties to Marvel over its creative stewardship. Still, if the goal was to spin this introductory strand into a broader web of projects, that thread is already looking awfully shaky.
“Venom” premieres Oct. 5 in the U.S. It’s rated PG-13.