Venom (2018)

Venom poster.jpgDirector: Ruben Fleischer
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Michelle Lee, Mac Brandt

It's difficult to believe how much the superhero genre has changed over time, where attached filmmakers actually show what could be if care, effort, and respect for the source material were included in the films. When that's such a large part of it all, it's no wonder the genre is bountiful with heroes getting their own feature films. It makes sense for the anti-heroes to also get the big screen treatment, and by adapting the classic Spider-Man nemesis, director Ruben Fleischer has delivered something different in this day and age. A cinematic time capsule that feels at home pre-2008, disregarding the positive influences left on the genre, for something which gives dumpster fires a bad name.

San Francisco reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is working on uncovering the secrets which lie within the Life Foundation, a company run by scientist Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Sneaking into the lab, Eddie discovers proof of the Foundation using the homeless population as Guinea Pigs, to bond with potentially dangerous beings named Symbiotes. An accident leads to Eddie bonding with such a being named Venom, which leaves him with enhanced strength, an appetite to bite the heads off living beings, and a sinister voice speaking to him inside his head.

As our lead, Tom Hardy portrays a hard-hitting reporter who asks the tough questions, which has previously led him to burn bridges with a former employer. This is what we're told, but we're never allowed a chance to see such aspects put into action. In the one interview we see him conduct, he approaches it pretty half-cocked, coming off more like a child on a sugar rush, rushing his questions with a lack of subtlety, or effort. Outside of that, he still pines for his ex, a thankless girlfriend plot device that wastes the talents of Michelle Williams, and leads Hardy to delivering some of the most stilted line readings you'll see this year.

But what's most bizarre is Tom Hardy's overall performance. The potential is there for a black comedy double act to be born out of the Eddie Brock/Venom relationship, but Hardy seems to be under the impression he's in an outright comedy. This leads to a baffling performance resembling Jim Carrey in one of his 90s comedy roles, acting the over the top, comedic goofball, while everything else is po-faced. It's true that comedic potential lies in Eddie undergoing such startling changes, especially when hearing such a booming voice in his head, but by the time he sits in a Lobster Tank, and bites the head off a live Lobster, one wonders if this was a cut scene from Liar Liar. Then, once you witness Eddie Brock making out with the Symbiote, you're confused by the creative process that went into this film.

In the villainous role of Carlton Drake, Riz Ahmed monologues, a lot, and wears a fleece that becomes increasingly unzipped, to symbolise how increasingly frustrated he becomes. For all his talk of space travel, he's incredibly one-note, and forgettable. Less interesting is Riot, a symbiote the plot makes bounce around for no discernible reason, before we see the visually ugly creature. As for the titular anti-hero, credit where it's due, Venom looks pretty good in his slimy design, extended tongue and all. Of course, that praise can be applied to when you're actually able to see him, as he regularly appears among choppy, and darkly lit, action scenes.

Venom is a disjointed mess which squanders a talented cast, in favour of perplexing moments destined to live in infamy. On the basis of this picture, Sony's need to capitalise on the shared universe craze is not going swimmingly.