REVIEWS Split the difference
Ruben Fleischer ( Zombieland) Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate
THERE are a few things to set straight before we can properly address this haphazardly bent-out-of-shape superhero movie.
First of all, Venom is not so much a true Marvel Studios movie as it is a movie based on material associated with Marvel Comics.
So don’t hit Venom expecting the same high-spirited creativity and relative coherency of an Avengers- style production. This stuff doesn’t hold a candle to any Iron Man, Captain America or Thor instalment.
Secondly, this is a SpiderMan spin-off in which SpiderMan is nowhere to be seen. Venom was briefly spotted in a secondary villain slot in SpiderMan 3 all the way back in 2007, where he was represented in the not-so-convincing form of Topher Grace.
Now, after much umming and aahing over the past decade, this extraterrestrial megasymbiote is getting his own sub-franchise courtesy of Sony Pictures (who still control the rights to all things emanating from the Spider-Man universe).
In kicking off a planned series of Venom adventures to come — wishful thinking, possibly — what is basically served up is an origin story in which the title entity comes to occupy the body and mind of eccentric investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy).
The first half of the movie is marginally the better of the two, if only because it draws on an oddly endearing goofy quality Hardy finds in the character of Brock.
Even if you think Venom turns out to be a dud waste of your time — and the early consensus out in internet land is running along these lines — you won’t walk away thinking any less of Hardy for his committed, lively and often subtly amusing effort here.
Hardy also gets some great screen chemistry going with Michelle Williams as Brock’s on-again-off-again girlfriend Anne, even if the screenplay keeps conspiring to keep them wide apart.
Once Venom infects Brock as a host and begins a running commentary of explanations and exultations inside his head, Hardy is made to work twice as hard to sell a conceit that feels fine to try but hard to buy.
Later, everything Venom might have had going for it as a movie is steamrolled by some skewed editing choices and a wonky change of tone.
As a result, the whole experience devolves into a bit of a slick, FX-driven shambles as Brock/Venom slugs it out with a devious, Elon Musk-style tycoon (Riz Ahmed).
TWO SIDES: Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams create on-screen chemistry. Inset: Venom shows his darker side.