Mon­ster mess just doesn’t cut it

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - The Ticket -

Venom (15) 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 act Tom Hardy’s Ed­die Brock bat­tles the sym­biote

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