Venom 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review
There’s no doubt after watching Venom that the Lethal Protector’s solo flick is one of the weirdest comic book movies ever made. For nearly a decade, fans have been salivating for a proper interpretation of the character on the big screen. Everyone seemingly has an opinion on what they want to see in a live-action version of Venom. As a result, the film itself is so polarizing that fans either love it or hate it, with seemingly no middle ground. In many ways, Venom feels like a throwback to ’90s action films that just happens to have a modern look and a big budget. It’s a surprisingly silly movie, for better or worse.
Venom often plays out in a near farcical nature, creating an odd tonal balancing act that occasionally works. From the outside looking in, director Ruben Fleischer always seemed like an odd choice for a character like Venom. Fleischer does a good job with the comedic elements of the story, but it’s when Venom tries to be serious that it becomes utterly laughable. During most of its fairly short runtime, it’s actually difficult to distinguish how seriously this movie should be taken. .
Upon hearing that Tom Hardy had been cast to play the eponymous character, it was hard to believe that he was the right fit for the role. Now it’s clear that Hardy’s manic performance is really the only thing holding it together. While the movie does successfully paint Eddie Brock as someone who is worth rooting for, there’s something about Hardy’s performance that feels essential. Without Hardy’s absolutely subliminal work, this movie had no chance of succeeding. Although Michelle Williams gets a few great moments as well, the cast is largely wasted – especially Riz Ahmed. Each of the performers did the best with what they were given. But what they were given ultimately wasn’t that great to begin with.
Written by Kelly Marcel, Jeff Pinkner, and Scott Rosenberg with a story by Pinkner and Rosenberg; the screenplay for Venom is extremely rough, to say the least. Aside from playing fast and loose with the logic of how the symbiote actually works; the dialogue is laughable, the motivations are weak at best, the protagonist is often passive, and the plot is contrived throughout. Worst of all is the way that it rushes through Eddie’s journey far too quickly. This is especially disappointing after the first act of the movie did such a decent job of characterizing Eddie in a sympathetic manner. The rest of the movie absolutely wastes this goodwill. For a script that had nearly a decade of development before its eventual release, Venom features a surprisingly forgettable story with hardly any thematic resonance whatsoever.
In all fairness, this movie had the nearly impossible task of telling a convincing Venom origin story without the inclusion of Spider-Man. Although Venom never really addresses the exclusion of Peter Parker, it also manages to not really make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. It’s true that making a PG-13 film causes Venom to lose his edge. At the same time, it’s readily apparent that this movie was largely made for teenagers. Venom is at its weakest when it tries to lean too heavily on the seriousness of the plot. Conversely, the film is it’s strongest when it relies on Hardy’s engrossing talents. This is the type of movie that’s so bad that it’s almost good. Almost, but not quite.
The 4K UHD presentation of Venom’s home video release offers a noticeable improvement over the already impressive Blu-Ray transfer. Upscaled to 4K from 2.8K digital negative, the film was primarily shot digitally using Arri Alexa Cameras. Simply put, Matthew Libatique’s cinematography absolutely shines on this release. Although there’s a slight softness to the edge of the frame at times, this is not due to the transfer, but rather an effect of the lenses themselves. Otherwise, the clarity and detail are excellent, the textures are richly detailed, and skin tones are proper. There’s absolutely no artifacting, minimal noise in the image and the effects integrate surprisingly well into the transfer.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference with the 4K UHD version of the film is the significant boost in overall contrast. Venom is already a pretty dark movie to begin with, but this transfer manages to add a great deal of contrast on both ends of the spectrum. At the same time, being too reliant on black levels never hampers the clarity of the transfer. Similarly, Venom isn’t particularly colorful, but the color enhancement is noticeable – especially in the climax of the film. While upscales such as this one usually do not fully utilize the power of the format, Venom makes a solid case for the capability of 4K UHD – even if it isn’t a native transfer.
As impressive as the video for Venom’s 4K UHD release is, the audio track included on the disc is even more so. The disc includes a standard Dolby Atmos Track, along with Dolby TrueHD 7.1 & Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes respectively. In many ways, Venom’s sound mix is just as manic as it’s leading performance. The mix varies from long moments of near complete silence to explosive outbursts of bombast. This mix is particularly effective on the low end, even though it can sometimes drown out the rest of the mix. While the Atmos track certainly adds a bit of atmosphere to the presentation, there’s not a massive difference between the two. Otherwise, the dialogue is crisp and the overall clarity is excellent, which makes for a very spacious listening experience.
The Special Features
The UHD disc of Venom features a repeat supplement – the Spider-Man: into the Spider-Verse preview – albeit in 4K quality. All of the other special features remain on the standard Blu-Ray for viewing.
Venom Mode (1:52:08; 1080): Although the disc gives a very detailed description for this feature, it’s essentially a glorified trivia track. The description on the disc makes a big deal about the “hidden references & Easter eggs”, but most of the trivia is actually from the production side of things. Don’t go into this feature expecting much, unless you’re looking for more info on the more mundane aspects of making Venom.
Deleted & Extended Scenes (5:00; 1080P): The Blu-Ray for Venom comes with two entirely new scenes, along with an extended version of the post-credits scene. The first scene is easily the best of the three, featuring a hilarious dialogue between the symbiote and Eddie in a cab. It’s easy to see why all three of these scenes were cut, especially the silly scene of Venom trashing a car with an alarm that’s going off.
From Symbiote To Screen (20:03; 1080P): this in-depth featurette offers pretty comprehensive look at the history of the character. Although he wasn’t really involved with the movie, Kevin Smith leads us through the evolution of Venom from his comic book origins to the silver screen. The featurette also examines some of the film’s performances, the duality of the character, as well as a small look at Cletus Kasady’s inconsequential presence in the film.
The Anti-Hero (10:01; 1080P): This featurette hones in on the alchemy between Eddie and the symbiote. Once again leaning heavily on Kevin Smith’s knowledge, the featurette explores Venom’s turn from villain to anti-hero. It also digs further into the development and production of the film, putting an emphasis on getting the character right this time around. Additionally, the featurette showcases how Tom Hardy’s dual performance was accomplished in real-time on set, while also touching on what makes Venom such a unique character.
The Lethal Protector In Action (9:14; 1080P): This featurette focuses on the practical action in Venom. Even though there’s obviously a huge visual effect element to bringing the character to life, the video showcases the practical stunts utilized in the movie. While a lot of time is spent with the apartment fight and subsequent motorcycle chase, the featurette offers some great insight into how one of the film’s biggest sequences was executed by the second unit team.
Venom Vision (7:02; 1080P): This all too short featurette examines the direction of Ruben Fleischer. Aside from offering the most behind the scenes footage on the disc, we also get some great looks at the on-set dynamic.
Designing Venom (5:34; 1080P): A quick featurette that takes a look at the design of Venom in the film. It’s a discussion on how the filmmakers grounded the character in his look from the comics, while also acknowledging the lack of a spider-emblem on his costume.
Symbiote Secrets (2:40; 1080P): A quick and semi-pointless feature that shows off some of the more obvious Easter eggs, such as Stan Lee’s cameo.
Select Pre-Vis (13:53; 1080P): A collection of various pre-visualization sequences from the film. The animated storyboards are accompanied with a side-by-side comparison from the final film. A play all function is included.
Music Videos (1080P): Two music videos; one for Venom and another for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Sneak Peek (3:34; 1080P): This offers a quick look at one of the best movies of 2018. You can find this very same clip after the credits of the movie.
Previews (1080P): Select previews for other Sony releases.
As a movie, Venom is a bit of a failed experiment, at least creatively speaking. With a runtime that’s roughly ninety minutes, there’s something about the film that feels arduous, contrived, and unnatural. Even though the eponymous character is mostly given his due, the movie around him is so bad that it fails to add any meaningful depth to Venom. Aside from the quality of the film itself, both the Blu-Ray and 4K UHD discs shine from a technical perspective. Even though the latter is the preferred viewing method, both releases offer near reference-level audio and video all around. The special features are solid, but a lack of a proper commentary track hurts this release. Taking all of this into account, we still recommend the 4K UHD release of Venom to anyone who loved the movie and fans of the character in general.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5