RE­VIEWS Split the dif­fer­ence

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - THEMERCURY.COM.AU SUN­DAY OC­TO­BER 14 2018

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.

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