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Tom Watches Movies: The (Other) Problem With CGI



Movie nerds sure do love to hate on CGI, don’t they? Since being introduced to movies around the 1990s or so, computer-generated imagery, or CGI, has become an essential tool for filmmakers….and a frequent punching bag for audiences and critics. Usually their criticisms aren’t without merit, as despite the advances made in the technology, CGI still has a host of problems. Objects and characters created with CGI will appear somehow “off,” lacking an almost indescribable sense of weight and mass. Characters will have a very subtle “wrongness” about them, a strange quality to the facial movements or the way light reflects off skin. CGI creations will look fake, lacking a sense of tangibility or depth.

They’re all valid complaints, and they all come from the same place: a lack of visual fidelity. CGI objects will all too often fail to look “real” in a convincing way. But there’s another problem that CGI brings to the table, or at least seems to foster. Rather than being a problem of visual fidelity, this is a problem of aesthetic.

CGI, now more than ever, gives filmmakers and designers a palette to work with that has no limits. Through computer effects, almost any visual you can dream up can be put to the screen, from fantastical alien landscapes to mind-bending cosmic vistas. There are no limits to what CGI can create, or at least very few. Designers are no longer limited to working with physical materials, subject to the laws of physics and the need for construction and maintenance. They can design whatever they want, free from any kind of practical limitation.

The problem is, this opportunity opens up the door to a very real aesthetic concern, which for our purposes we’ll call aesthetic overindulgence.


Not too long ago, a new photo was released for the upcoming Justice League movie, showing the entire team (minus Superman) about to head into action. Front and center in this lineup is Ray Fisher’s character, Cyborg, and you couldn’t ask for a better example of aesthetic overindulgence. Cyborg’s body is a sea of tiny details. Polygonal-looking geometric patterns, dots of light, and exposed cybernetic inner workings are all jockeying for the viewer’s attention. The result is that Cyborg’s body is made up of a sort of visual noise, an overwhelming deluge of detail and information. Nothing about it sticks out in the mind, because there are almost no striking, iconic aspects for the eye to catch on to. In the same way that someone could be said to “not see the forest for the trees,” in this case you can’t see the design for the details.

This “overdesigned” aesthetic is nothing especially new for Hollywood. Michael Bay’s Transformers movies have been emblematic of this problem from the get-go, and the Iron Man suits in recent Marvel movies have been edging towards it as well. Rather than striking out for a design that captures a memorable iconography, designers are overloading their creations with detail and visual information. They start designing a thing, be it a character, an object, or a creature, and never stop.

To lay the blame for the rise of this aesthetic tendency entirely at CGI would be reductive, but all the same, CGI’s hand in this shouldn’t be ignored. In the days when creations like Cyborg had to be physically built and filmed, designers had to work under the constraints of their medium. They were working with physical materials, and as such had to design something that could be easily built, maintained, and transported, something that could stand up to the rigors of a movie set, that could be easily touched up and repaired as needed. These constraints dictated, or at least influenced, the aesthetics of their creations. The medium, to one degree or another, always influences the aesthetic.


But objects designed and rendered in a computer follow no such constraints. With CGI you can create an object which would either be impossible to replicate with physical materials, or that would be an absolute headache to fabricate, maintain, and film. You can make a design as intricate as your heart desires. But to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park, designers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

CGI gives designers and visual artists the freedom to overdesign like never before, to detail their creations so intricately that an essential quality is lost. It’s opened the door to an aesthetic which is, purely and simply, ugly. Indulgent designs like Cyborg aren’t memorable because it’s literally impossible to easily process that much visual detail. And that detail becomes the aesthetic, rather than things that people can more easily remember like color, silhouette or the overall shapes and “gestures” of a design. The human memory simply isn’t clear enough for most people to be able to remember that much detail, and as a result the design just doesn’t stick in your head.

Now obviously, physical designs aren’t immune from this problem either. As materials and fabrication methods become more advanced, designers working in physical materials can become prone to this sort of design indulgence as well. Just look at Cyborg’s Justice League teammate, The Flash, whose costume is overloaded with panel lines and what look like pieces of baling wire holding the whole thing together. But even Flash’s new look is preferable to Cyborg’s aesthetic, which pushes well past the limits of visual restraint.

Had the design team behind Justice League been forced to design Cyborg’s look as a physical suit rather than an all-CGI creation, the design would have almost certainly been more restrained and less focused on detail, and would have in all likelihood been better for it. There’s no guarantee of course, because as much as this style is dictated and influenced by the medium it thrives within, it’s also an aesthetic, a trend, a fashion. This is just how a lot of aesthetic design looks these days. It isn’t exclusively because of CGI, but it can be argued that the ability to design objects in a computer has fostered and encouraged this aesthetic.


The good news is that this isn’t a universal problem. The last two entries in the Star Wars franchise have had fantastic visual designs, striking a perfect balance between detail and bold, iconic designs. Admit it; right now you can picture K2SO in your head more clearly than you can Optimus Prime or Cyborg. The bold, simple shapes, at once simplistic and expressive, the clean lines and memorable silhouette stick in your mind like a catchy tune, one built around a clear, well-defined melody. That’s what good visual design is.

CGI is fraught with many problems, ones that probably won’t go away very soon. But the problem of the visual fidelity is just one of the many hurdles that computer effects have yet to overcome. Another one, just as important, is how CGI removes many of the constraints designers working with physical materials had to work under. Though many doubtlessly chafed at these constraints, they also encouraged designers towards an aesthetic which ultimately served the audience: one of clean, bold visuals. The loss of these constraints is probably ultimately a good thing, as the range of visuals and stories that filmmakers and designers can now play in is virtually limitless, but the lessons learned from these constraints, lessons about what makes for interesting, memorable visuals, are showing signs of being lost. CGI is allowing movies and other visual media to move deeper into an aesthetic which does not serve the audience, one in which overwrought detail is taking the place of iconography. More than the discussion around visual fidelity, this is the discussion we need to be having about the problems CGI brings to the table.

Beginning as a co-host on a Concordia TV film show before moving on to chief film nerd at, Thomas is now bringing his knowledge of pop-culture nerdery to Sordid Cinema. Thomas is a Montrealer born and raised, and an avid consumer of all things pop-cultural and nerdy. While his first love is film, he has also been known to dabble in comics, videogames, television, anime and more. You can support his various works on his Patreon, at You can also like the Tom Watches Movies Facebook page to see all his work on Goombastomp and elsewhere.

Fantasia Film Festival

Fantasia Film Festival 2019: Thomas O’Connor’s Most Anticipated Films

There are plenty of films to look forward to at 2019’s Fantasia Film Festival, but a few selections have Thomas especially excited.



Fantasia 2019

The Fantasia Film Festival is once again looming on the horizon, promising three weeks of fun for Montreal film geeks. As always, the lineup is chock-full of new works by familiar creators and promising new talents, and it can be intimidating to decide where to start. But worry not, for GoombaStomp has you covered. In the lead-up to our coverage of this year’s Fantasia Fest, we’ll be bringing you some of our most anticipated films from the selection.

Also, be sure to check out:

Fantasia Film Festival 2019: Patrick’s 5 Most-Anticipated Films

Fantasia Film Festival 2019: Edgar’s 5 Most Anticipated Films

Fantasia Film Festival 2019: Ricky D’s Most Anticipated Films

Critters Attack!

The 80s nostalgia craze seems to be winding down a bit, but that hasn’t stopped numerous franchises from getting revivals and reboots. After all, a new Child’s Play reboot only just landed in theatres. The Critters franchise is the latest to board the revival train, with a quasi-reboot from series producers Barry Opper and Rupert Harvey. Critters is probably the best-remembered product of a wave of “tiny terrors” movies that sprang up in the wake of Gremlins. In the case of Critters, the titular pint-sized creatures are ravenous aliens that devour anyone and anything in their path.

The original films are fun, creative creature features with a dedicated fan following, and while the new installment seems to be positioning itself as a soft reboot, there also looks to be a lot of love for fans of the originals. The new film will continue the franchise’s commitment to practical creature effects, and at least one cast member from the original (Dee Wallace) is returning. Critters Attack! promises a lot of what Fantasia audiences love: nostalgia, gore, and black humor, and seeing it with a lively audience will no doubt enhance the experience of seeing this franchise make its return.

Garo – Under the Moonbow

If you’re into Tokusatsu, the colorful world of live-action Japanese superhero shows, you’re probably familiar with Keita Amemiya. Amemiya has worked with numerous major Toku franchises, having directed episodes of Super Sentai, a pair of short films in the Kamen Rider franchise, and even an installment in the Metal Heroes series. But Amemiya seems to prefer playing in his own sandbox, and projects like the feature films Zeiram, Mirai Ninja, and especially his long-running Garo franchise prove that. Garo follows the adventures of a number of armored demon hunters, men and women dedicated to the destruction of the demonic “Horrors” who prey on unsuspecting humans. Garo in many ways acts as a continuing showcase of Amemiya’s talents for atmosphere and visuals, with ever-expanding mythology thrown in for good measure.

It’s that last part that may keep some audience members at arm’s length from Garo – Under the Moonbow. This is a franchise that’s been going on since 2005, and the chances of the new film sparing much time to get newbies caught up is low. But there’s another element worth considering: Amemiya will be there in person not only to present the new film, but also to offer a Master Class to fans. Even if you can’t tell your Kamen Rider J from your Kamen Rider ZO, the chance to hear an industry veteran with a clear and distinct voice and passion share his experiences as a filmmaker is not one that should be passed up lightly.

Ride your Wave

Anime director Masaaki Yuasa has become a regular presence on Fantasia screens, and you’ll get absolutely no complaints from us. Yuasa quickly stood out from the anime pack thanks to his 2004 breakout Mind Game, and he hasn’t slowed down since. His films are singular in most regards, often sporting a signature flat animation style, a wonderful surrealist edge, and a mile-a-minute rhythm. His films are like jazz, as trite a comparison as that is. They’re uptempo and bold, determined to take the audience by the hand and pull them on a wild ride.

But what makes him especially exciting is his refusal to become too bogged down in a style. He equally comfortable with light, enchanting fare like last year’s excellent The Night is Short, Walk On Girl, and the infinitely darker Devilman: Crybaby series. You never know quite what you’re going to get with Yuasa, but you do know it’s going to be something worth seeing. Fantasia always boasts a solid anime lineup, and this year appears to be no exception.

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy

The Ip Man franchise has become a mainstay of modern blockbuster martial arts films, with new installments every few years. While Ip Man 4 will be releasing in China towards the end of July, its 2018 spinoff will be making its Fantasia debut. Max Zhang stars as Cheung Tin-chi, a Wing Chun martial artist who was defeated by Donnie Yen’s Master Ip in the previous installment.

Whether you’re invested in the series or not, Master Z has enough sheer talent in its roster to draw in fight movie fans in droves. Zhang proved beyond a doubt in Ip Man 3 and SPL 2: A TIme for Consequences that he’s one of the martial arts actors to watch out for, with a dazzling onscreen presence and some seriously impressive fighting chops. But throw in a supporting cast that includes Michelle Yeoh, Dave Bautista, and Tony Jaa, and you’ve got the kind of cast guaranteed to fill seats. As if the film didn’t already have enough winning cards in its hand, the legendary Yuen Woo-ping sits in the director’s chair, bringing his decades of experience to the table, making this an absolute must-see for fans of martial arts films.

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Tom Watches Movies: ‘Pet Sematary Two’ is a Forgotten Oddity

While the original was streamlined and relatively timeless, ‘Pet Sematary Two’ is clunkier, more awkward, and more 90s.



Pet Sematary Two

The original Pet Sematary made enough money to warrant a sequel, and director Mary Lambert was brought back to helm it. This must have put Lambert and screenwriter Richard Outten in an interesting position — one where they could take the basic concept then go somewhere entirely new, given that King’s novel didn’t have a follow-up. As a result, Pet Sematary Two feels at once more adventurous and less sure of itself. Yes, the film feels more personal, but it’s also more scattershot than the focused original. The result is almost doomed from the start to remain an oddity, a footnote without even the benefit of being a direct King adaptation to keep it in the discussion. After all, would we really ever need to mention The Tommyknockers if it weren’t for King adaptation retrospectives? Pet Sematary Two isn’t nearly that bad, but it’s just weird and offbeat enough to keep it from finding a real audience.

With the events of the original film relegated to a local legend, the sequel instead follows an entirely new cast. Edward Furlong (looking pretty much unchanged from Terminator 2) leads as Jeff Matthews; his mother, a famous actress dies in the opening scene, prompting Jeff and his father to relocate to their summer home to a place not too far from the Creed house from the first film. You can already see where this is going, can’t you? But it’s not that simple. Jeff also befriends Drew, the stepson of the swaggering local sheriff, who kills Drew’s dog in a rage. This kicks off a chain of events that sees multiple resurrections, which go about as well as those from the first film.

Pet Sematary Two

Mary Lambert’s direction in Pet Sematary Two feels in many ways more confident than her work on the previous effort, as well as more personalized. This is both a good thing and a bad thing; on the one hand, the film isn’t afraid to get weird with it. It’s more out there than the original, with more Giallo-inspired lighting and the occasional appearance by a naked woman with a dog’s head. It also draws a bit more on her background directing music videos, which often leads to more flashy visuals and a music-heavy soundtrack. On the other hand, this sequel feels infinitely more dated than its predecessor. The aforementioned soundtrack is rife with 90s rock hits, and the bully character that torments Jeff and Drew is possibly the most 90s bully you’ve ever seen. A movie feeling like a product of its time isn’t strictly a bad thing, but in this case, it doesn’t really help.

More pressingly, the script feels all over the place — too full of characters and concepts that don’t go anywhere in the long run. Our introduction to Jeff and his father’s new housekeeper seems loaded with foreshadowing, as though this is meant to be an important character. That doesn’t turn out to be the case, and it’s just one of several dead-ends that dot the entire story. Again, this is rather reminiscent of some Giallo films (Fulci’s House by the Cemetery comes to mind in this case), but only in a superficial way. And the time spent on these dalliances often feels like it would have been much better devoted to fleshing out the primary characters. Jeff, in particular, feels like he’s missing one or two pivotal scenes, as he goes from fairly normal to borderline crazy virtually between scenes.
Pet Sematary Two

If anything makes Pet Sematry Two definitely worth watching, it’s Clancy Brown as Sheriff Gus, a performance that ironically comes alive only after Gus is (spoiler alert) killed and resurrected by the titular burial ground. Brown goes full-Kurgan after his resurrection, growling, and cackling and hamming it up like an absolute champ, and it’s a joy to watch.

It’s not too hard to see why Pet Sematary Two hasn’t even been remembered enough to warrant a Blu-ray release. While the original was streamlined and relatively timeless, the sequel is clunkier, more awkward, and more 90s. In many ways, it also feels more creator-driven, more prone to eccentricities. This alone at least makes it more interesting than the second adaptation of the novel from 2019. Maybe that’s enough.

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Tom Watches Movies: The Original ‘Pet Sematary’ Still Terrifies After 20 Years

1989’s ‘Pet Sematary’ is one of those rare adaptations that doesn’t feel overly compromised by the transition.



Pet Sematary

1989’s adaptation of Pet Sematary hasn’t quite reached the pop culture ubiquity or infamy of many fellow Stephen King adaptations, but it has enjoyed a cult following since its release. Far from the lofty heights of The Shining but further still from the bargain-basement lows of The Tommyknockers or Cell, it’s remembered fondly by those who remember it. But why exactly has it managed to stick around in the hearts of horror fans? With the upcoming second attempt at a direct adaptation, many will be revisiting the original and trying to decipher that for themselves. Many will also likely come to the same conclusion: that rather than doing any one thing spectacularly well, Mary Lambert’s adaptation does almost everything just right enough.

Dale Midkiff stars as Louis Creed, family man and proud new owner of a house in rural Maine. After their pet cat is killed by a truck, new neighbor Jud makes the terrible decision to show Louis a Native American burial ground deep in the woods that causes anything buried there to return — albeit with more aggressive tendencies and a bad smell. But when Louis’ young son meets a similar fate as the cat, he decides to ignore Judd’s advice that “sometimes dead is better.”

Pet Sematary

The overall atmosphere is top notch, with sharp camera work and lighting adding to a spooky, faintly Gothic vibe that the film has overall. The effects, courtesy of now-industry vets David LeRoy Anderson and Lance Anderson, are usually effective at bringing to life sights like the mangled spectres that haunt the characters. The cast, however, are easily the most mixed element; Midkiff, despite his best efforts, seems to strain under the burden, often coming across as flat and wooden in the demanding role of a grieving father. Perhaps he was trying to exude a sense of weariness or numbness, but more often than not he just seems half-asleep. At the complete opposite end of the spectrum is Fred Gwynne as neighbor Jud. Where Midkiff feels flat, Gwynne’s performance is vibrant. His often-imitated turn is easily half the reason the film is remembered as much as it is, with just the right mix of paternal warmth and folksy wisdom. He can sometimes be more than a bit hammy, but the memorable kind of hammy.

Being one of very few King adaptations scripted by the man himself, the script also does an excellent job at paring down the story to the essential elements. Pet Sematary is one of those rare adaptations that doesn’t feel overly compromised by the transition. King’s dark tale of mourning and desperation feels as comfortable on screen as it did on the page, lacking the telltale marks of botched adaptation that leave many of its peers feeling constrained by the medium.

Pet SemataryCrucially, the film also doesn’t hold back when it comes to the third act ramp-up, and the rampage of a certain character after having been resurrected by the cursed burial ground remains shocking to this day. The film goes to places that many other horror films would consider off-limits when it comes to child characters, and alongside Fred Gwynne’s performance, that willingness to dive headlong into the darker aspects of the material probably ensured its legacy. That’s not to say it’s preoccupied with transgression, but just that it doesn’t hold itself back.

The Pet Sematary remake has a high, if not insurmountable legacy to overcome. The original, for everything it does well, does suffer from its lead actor. That slack, however, is mostly picked up by the supporting cast — Fred Gwynne chief among them, and it’s his shoes that will be toughest to fill. Even if the remake is a flop, it’s good to know we’ll always have the original.

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Tom Watches Movies: ‘Strange Shadows in an Empty Room’ takes 70’s Cop Action to the Streets of Montreal

While far from an archetypal (or even all that good) example of Poliziotteschi, ‘Strange Shadows in an Empty Room’ has enough charm and novelty to make it worth tracking down.



Strange Shadows in an Empty Room

When people think of Italian genre movies, they generally think of Giallo — lurid colors and knives flashing in the dark. But it bears remembering that Italian pop cinema, especially in the 60s and 70s, wasn’t just about the masked killers, spurting neck wounds, and shambling zombies of horror films. Take the Poliziotteschi genre, which focused more on two-fisted action than thrills and chills: these films took cues from American works like Dirty Harry and The French Connection, but dialed the police brutality and overall cynicism up to often uncomfortable levels, with heroes who would treat things like due process and human rights as vague options rather than rules. For the most part, Poliziotteschi films were set in Italian cities like Naples, Rome, and Naples, but once in a blue moon one would come along that took place outside of the genre’s native country. Alberto Martino’s 1976 film Strange Shadows in an Empty Room is one such film, having been shot and set in Montreal. This alone should make it something for Montreal and Canadian genre fans to seek out, even if the film is quite uneven in a number of regards.

The action begins when a university student is killed in an apparent poisoning case. As luck would have it, her brother (who looks old enough that he was almost certainly intended to be her father, or at least one would hope) is a Dirty Harry-style, loose-cannon cop, who comes to Montreal from Ottawa to investigate the murder, with nary a word about jurisdiction or the ethical minefield of a cop investigating his own sister’s murder.

Strange Shadows in an Empty RoomWhile that description of the premise could be taken to indicate a fairly straightforward plot, it becomes apparently fairly quickly that Strange Shadows is one of those films that consists more of a number of very loosely connected scenes than an actual A-B-C narrative. Most of the runtime is spent watching our hero stumble from one lead or hunch to another in what quickly becomes a confusing jumble of characters, ideas, and even moods. It’s not what you’d call a focused movie, to put it mildly. One minute the cop is interviewing a blind woman (whose exact role in the film is rather unclear), and the next he’s getting into a punch-up in an apartment full of trans sex workers; even while watching the movie it’s hard to describe the process that took him from one to the other.

The film’s tone comes off as similarly cobbled together, with some sequences clearly shooting for a Giallo horror vibe, while others are straightforward cop action. One has only to look at the various titles ascribed to the film to get a sense of the identity crisis going on. Strange Shadows in an Empty Room sounds much more like the title of a suspenseful horror/thriller, while the film’s alternate title of Blazing Magnum feels much more suitable. Just as the lead spends the film wandering about without an especially clear path, the film itself will sometimes switch gears seemingly to kill some time, seemingly trying to appeal to a broader audience. One sequence suddenly takes us to a murder in a darkened alley, followed by the gruesome discovery of the body in a rock crusher, and later on that blind woman is stalked by an unseen assailant in a scene that could almost be out of a Fulci movie. These could, in theory, have been integral scenes, but ultimately come off as non-sequiturs, jarring for their tonal shifting, and of questionable importance in the film’s overall structure.

But then there’s the car chase. Strange Shadows, while certainly entertaining overall, definitely falls into that category of films worth seeing just for one particular scene. In this case, the scene in question is an absolute ripper of a car chase through the streets of Montreal that deserves an honorable mention at the very least on any list of great movie car chases. Impeccably presented and very deftly executed, the sequence is without any doubt the centerpiece of the production, a ten-minute sequence that takes the two cars involved over jumps and through barriers, all while performing more skid turns than any tire has a right to withstand in one sitting. Watching this absolute mayhem play out across familiar streets is a real treat for Montreal movie fans, but even those who can’t tell St. Jacques from Somerled will find plenty of enjoyment in this sequence.

While far from an archetypal (or even all that good) example of Poliziotteschi, Strange Shadows in an Empty Room has enough charm and novelty to make it worth tracking down — especially if seeing your hometown as the backdrop for rock ‘em sock ‘em 70s police action sounds like it would be your thing.

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Tom Watches Movies: ‘Venom’ Has Little to Offer outside Tom Hardy Antics

‘Venom’ is at its best when it’s just Tom Hardy being twitchy and weird, mumbling away in a New York accent and sweating profusely. The rest of the time it’s merely a bland superhero movie.



Ten years ago, Venom would have been pretty rad. Which is not to say that it’s necessarily terrible here in the far-flung future of 2018, but it does feel like an anachronism — a film out of step with the current trends in superhero movies, and one that spends most of its runtime struggling to find a voice. There is amusement to be had in the (overlong) two-hour and twenty-minute running time, and upcoming superhero movies like Aquaman won’t need to work particularly hard to snatch away the crown of “worst comic book film of 2018,” but with lackluster visuals and action, there’s very little this movie has to offer to keep it from becoming more than a footnote in comic book movie history.

Tom Hardy stars as Eddie Brock, a version of the character who’s never heard of Peter Parker, Spider-Man, or the Daily Bugle as far as we know. A journalist and minor TV new personality in San Francisco, Brock stumbles upon the machinations of the Life Foundation, a seemingly benevolent company secretly experimenting upon symbiotic alien lifeforms harvested from a comet. One of these beings bonds with Eddie, turning him into the titular anti-hero.


Like many early superhero films, Venom feels divorced from any larger context, seemingly operating within a universe where superheroes don’t exist. In some senses this actually works in the film’s favor, helping it avoid the problem of obvious “franchise baiting;” Venom doesn’t seem overly concerned with laying the groundwork for a cinematic universe (or at least future spinoffs and sequels), a preoccupation that helped bring The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to ruin. There are some fun Easter eggs and nods, but nothing that derails the film or feels like a distraction. Still, the characters and concepts that Venom plays with also feel smaller and less interesting without the larger mythos of a comic book universe looming in the background. This is, again, a Venom without Spider-Man, and is anyone really much interested in that? Because the film doesn’t give us much reason to be.

There’s not much new or exciting in the way of action either, with the symbiote’s shapeshifting and tendrils making for only an occasionally interesting action beat. The film’s major action set piece — a motorbike chase — feels like it would have been pretty neat if Incredibles 2 hadn’t pulled off a much better version of the same sequence mere months ago. Other action sequences are made less interesting than they should be thanks to shaky, inconsistent camera work, and the climactic final showdown between Venom and the film’s villain relies on the audience’s ability to tell one shapeless black goop monster from another. It’s almost like fight scenes from the Transformers movie, where the business of the robot designs and frenetic camera work turn everything into a jarring mess of whirling mechanical bits — only here it just looks like we’re just watching a whole lot of printer toner slosh around in a dryer.


Venom is at its best when it’s just Tom Hardy being twitchy and weird, mumbling away in a New York accent and sweating profusely. The best scene in the entire movie is when a crazed Brock, still not fully aware of what’s happening to him, storms a fancy restaurant where his ex-fiancee and her squeaky clean new boyfriend are eating. He rants and raves and grabs food off of plates to shove messily into his face, eliciting shocked looks from well-dressed patrons who all but drop the monocles and exclaim “my word!” The scene ends with Eddie lowering himself into a lobster tank, a moment Tom Hardy improvised because he’d clearly been waiting to do the “freak out the squares at a fancy restaurant” scene for his entire career. If the entire movie were just Tom Hardy having a ball being weird, it would honestly be a heck of a good time.

Sadly, Venom eventually remembers it’s supposed to be a superhero movie (or something theoretically similar to one), and scenes like this drop away in favor of uninteresting action and fairly standard Earth-saving antics. When the film is trying to be a big-budget superhero blockbuster, it just comes across as dull, not even bad enough to be interesting.

Venom is no Suicide Squad. It’s no Amazing Spider-Man 2 or Green Lantern. It’s not even in the top ten of the worst comic book movies ever, despite some of the reports. It’s mostly blah, sparking some life only when it’s completely distracted from what it’s supposed to be. If this is the pitch Sony has made for a series of Spider-Man-adjacent movies that borrow from the webhead’s world but have no blue and red spandex in sight, it’s a pretty weak proposition indeed.

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