Monster mess just doesn’t cut it
Having been given a bum steer in the disappointing mess that was 2007’s Spider-Man 3, Venom branches out into his own solo flick.
Though Marvel does have some involvement, this spin-off is being led by Sony whose Amazing Spider-Man series lasted only two movies before the webslinger swung over to the MCU.
Tom Hardy stars as investigative reporter Eddie Brock who turns into the titular anti-hero after acquiring the powers of an alien symbiote.
You could be forgiven for wondering if the MCU-led last decade of comic book films actually took place as Venom is a throwback to the simpler era of genre entries where superior efforts like Batman Begins, Spider-Man 2 and X2 were overpowered by duds including Catwoman, Jonah Hex and Ghost Rider.
While not quite as bad as that latter trio, Venom is an uneven, tonally-uncertain oddity that brought back unwanted memories of 2015’s Fantastic Four reboot.
The film’s shining light is Hardy, no stranger to comic book roles after his seminal turn as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
The Londoner gives an enormously committed performance as he battles with the voices in his head in a neat modern take on Jekyll and Hyde.
You ride along with his not always convincing accent and while not everything he does works – I could’ve done without one scene where he yelps in fear and his lame ET joke – there’s rarely a dull moment when Hardy gets into full flow, peaking with a surreal scene where he hops into a water tank and eats live lobsters.
It’s a pity that director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) waits nearly an hour to unveil Venom in all his glory – and the effects used to bring him to life are very hit and miss.
Despite a sharp tongue and cool attacking powers, including using an unfortunate man to beat up other men, the Venom character is also neutered by the studio’s lack of conviction in aiming for the movie’s initially-speculated R rating – or 18 certificate for us Brits.
Hardy apart, the cast is remarkably unremarkable; while Michelle Williams (Anne Weying) and Riz Ahmed (Carlton Drake) aren’t given much to work with by the script – the latter playing the most generic villain imaginable, who even dresses in black – they both sleepwalk their way through the flick with less energy than an insomniac after an hour on a treadmill.
The dialogue gets progressively worse and we rush towards an unsatisfying climax hindered by the standard CGI-heavy showdown that lets down many a comic book film.
Like 2015’s Fantastic Four, this feels like it’s missing a few beats, lending credence to Hardy’s claims that 40 minutes of his favourite scenes were cut.
If Venom had come out 15 years ago I may have enjoyed it more; but genre standards have risen so high that misguided, erratic fare like this just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Double actTom Hardy’s Eddie Brock battles the symbiote