Empire (Australasia) - - On.Screen -


DI­REC­TOR Ruben Fleis­cher

CAST Tom Hardy, Michelle Wil­liams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott


Venom. Third-wheel­ing be­hind Sand­man and the New Goblin in Spi­der-man 3, and with a back­ground nod in The Amaz­ing Spi­der-man 2, David Miche­linie and Todd Mcfarlane’s un­friendly neigh­bour­hood sym­biote now stars in his own film that mostly botches its at­tempts to bring the anti-hero to life. Lack­ing the we-knowhow-to-do this con­fi­dence of Dis­ney’s MCU, Ruben Fleis­cher’s film never finds a strong foot­ing, mix­ing drab stretches of plot, ef­fi­cient but flat ac­tion, mis­han­dled com­edy, a few fun el­e­ments and squan­der­ing one of the most ex­cit­ing casts of the year.

The first act is ham-fisted, charm­less and dull. There is a pro­tracted set-up where Ed­die (Hardy) loses his TV re­port­ing gig, his lawyer girl­friend An­nie (Wil­liams) and his life by go­ing off-mes­sage when in­ter­view­ing sci­en­tist Carl­ton Drake (Ahmed). The lat­ter is push­ing for­ward with dan­ger­ous ex­per­i­ments com­bin­ing hu­mans with sym­biotes, icky shape-shift­ing blobs that en­ter the body by os­mo­sis.

The sto­ry­telling here is blunt, but what’s even more sur­pris­ing is the lack of chem­istry be­tween Hardy and Wil­liams, two of the most charis­matic ac­tors on the planet. Hardy’s per­for­mance in par­tic­u­lar is fid­gety, muted and cu­ri­ously un­en­gag­ing; Wil­liams also toils away in a noth­ing-y fi­ancée-mov­ing-on role. Com­plet­ing the troika, Venom also has an­other col­lec­tor’s item — a bland Riz Ahmed turn as an Elon Musk-y vi­sion­ary sad­dled with dread­ful di­a­logue

(“Find my Sym­biote NOW”).

On pa­per, Fleis­cher is a good fit for the ma­te­rial. His best work, Zom­bieland, found a sweet spot of laughs, gore and en­ergy, a good check­list for any Venom movie. Yet he can­not find the cor­rect tim­bre here.

Venom is nei­ther tri­umph nor train-wreck. It’s a me­diocre ori­gin story, a su­per­hero host that sadly fails to bond with its com­edy par­a­site. Which is a shame, as there is enough here to to sug­gest it could have been a blast. IF

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