‘Venom’ is ready to take a bite out of the box of­fice

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - Brian Truitt

We have an­swers to all your burn­ing ques­tions as an­other Marvel Comics fa­vorite hits the big screen.

Are you ready for the story of a man and his snarky, limb-rip­ping, alien par­a­site best friend?

An­other Marvel Comics fa­vorite hits the big screen with “Venom” (in the­aters Fri­day), star­ring Tom Hardy as San Fran­cisco in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Ed­die Brock and the hu­man host of a black sym­biote that in­vades his body but gives him crazy-cool pow­ers such as in­stant heal­ing and su­per-strength in his mon­strous crea­ture form.

We know you might have some burn­ing ques­tions about “Venom” – such as, why does Hardy look so crazy in all the trail­ers? – so here are some (mostly) help­ful an­swers.

Why are we just now get­ting a ‘Venom’ movie?

It’s not a bad ques­tion. The char­ac­ter first ap­peared in comic books in the 1980s as a foe of Spi­der-Man (fun fact: The alien sym­biote ini­tially in­fected Peter Parker!) and be­came a fan fa­vorite, es­pe­cially with teenage boys, who dug his vi­o­lent an­tics. Venom is one of many Spi­der-Man char­ac­ters to which Sony owns the movie rights – he showed up in 2007’s “Spi­der-Man 3” played by To­pher Grace, though the less we talk about that, the bet­ter – and the new film con­ceiv­ably be­gins to build out a Spidey uni­verse.

Does that mean Venom will meet Cap­tain Amer­ica and Thor?

Not nec­es­sar­ily. “Venom” isn’t part of Dis­ney’s Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse – at least not yet. Although Venom does en­joy bit­ing heads off bad guys when hun­gry, the movie is PG-13, pos­si­bly al­low­ing Marvel to bring Venom into the Avengers’ world later.

Is ‘Venom’ like any other su­per­hero films we’ve seen?

No joke, it’s as if “Venom” was made in the mid-2000s, and some­one for­got to re­lease it. It’s very much along the lines of “Dare­devil” and “Ghost Rider” as a movie that’s heav­ily dark and sim­plis­tic in story but does some stuff re­ally well – mainly the in­ter­ac­tions be­tween Brock and Venom. Those su­per­hero films back then usu­ally had some sort of big sound­track artist (see: Nick­el­back and “Spi­der-Man”), and “Venom” of­fers up a new Eminem jam.

How is Tom Hardy as a guy pos­sessed by a man-eat­ing alien?

The Os­car-nom­i­nated ac­tor turns in by far his most bonkers per­for­mance. It’s a whole Jekyll-and-Hyde thing, as Brock learns to deal with his vis­i­tor and of­ten talks with Venom as they team up to take down tech bil­lion­aire Carl­ton Drake (Riz Ahmed), who has a deadly evo­lu­tion­ary plan for hu­man­ity. It’s more fun, though, to watch Hardy gorge on frozen tater tots and chomp on crus­taceans while sit­ting in a restau­rant lob­ster tank.

And how is Venom as a char­ac­ter?

There are some good parts and some bad. Di­rec­tor Ruben Fleis­cher def­i­nitely cap­tures the look from the comics, with his wag­ging long tongue, huge fangs and hulk­ing pres­ence. Venom also tends to run around like the su­per­nat­u­ral dogs in “Ghost­busters,” so that’s a sight in it­self. But alas, the sym­biote-on-sym­biote ac­tion in the movie is a bit rough in the ef­fects depart­ment.

Who else is in the movie whom we might rec­og­nize?

Ahmed (of “The Night Of” fame) is def­i­nitely the big bad, who also har­nesses the abil­i­ties of a sym­biote named Riot. Michelle Williams plays Brock’s lawyer love in­ter­est Anne Wey­ing, who breaks up with him af­ter a be­trayal but still cares for the big lug. And Jenny Slate plays a sci­en­tist with Drake’s Life Foun­da­tion who tells Brock about Drake’s vil­lain­ous ac­tiv­i­ties.

Is ‘Venom’ OK for kids?

The body hor­ror and vi­o­lence is some­what in­tense for lit­tle ones, but it’s ac­tu­ally not that gory. Teenagers who dig the Marvel movies will find stuff to en­joy, es­pe­cially the in­ner Venom voice (also Hardy) who acts as Brock’s sin­is­ter con­fi­dence coach and some­time voice of rea­son.

If Venom’s a Spidey guy, is Tom Hol­land in this film?

Sadly, no. But any­thing can hap­pen in the fu­ture if “Venom” is suc­cess­ful. Brock hints he has con­nec­tions back in New York City, which is Spidey’s home turf.

Ugh. Fine. Is there at least an end-cred­its scene?

There are ac­tu­ally two, so you’re go­ing to want to stay till the bit­ter end. (One in par­tic­u­lar sets up fu­ture ad­ven­tures for Hardy.)

So is the movie any good?

While not great, it does hit on a soridicu­lous-it’s-fun level at times. It’s at least bet­ter than the very worst su­per­hero flicks (“Elek­tra,” that hor­ren­dous “Fan­tas­tic Four” re­boot). But, at the risk of an arm be­ing ripped off, it doesn’t even come close to most of the Marvel slate, though you have to re­spect its supreme wack­i­ness.

SONY PIC­TURES

SONY PIC­TURES

Tom Hardy says Venom is “an alien that’s liv­ing rent-free in a hu­man be­ing.”

FRANK MASI

Anne (Michelle Williams) and Ed­die (Tom Hardy) share a laugh in “Venom.”

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