OUT NOW / RATED M / 112 MINS
DIRECTOR Ruben Fleischer
CAST Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott
MOVIES HAVEN’T BEEN kind to
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