- Kevin Harley
- 3 October 2018
Tom Hardy heads up this tonally haphazard origin story for the titular Spider-Man foe
Deadpool aside, comic book anti-heroes tend to look lost on screen without their better, heroic halves to chafe against. After 2016's floundering atrocity Suicide Squad, the villains land another fail with this headline gig for Spider-Man nemesis and toothy alien symbiote Venom. Thrashing its limbs between action, horror, romance, origin story, and an odd couple buddy-com about a parasite and its host, Venom can't decide which genre to inhabit, much less which of its diffuse tones to strike hardest.
Although star Tom Hardy has experience doubling up with roles (see Legend), he reminds us how indulgent he can be without firm direction in a bizarrely shifty performance as Eddie Brock, a reporter trying to expose experiments conducted under dodgy billionaire Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Drake's nefarious activities involve gloopy alien matter, salvaged from a shuttle crash. When Brock encounters one such goo-monster, the symbiote latches on to him, arming him with morphing superpowers and an almighty set of gnashers: useful weapons to have as Drake sets out to capture Brock.
Under-powered stabs at comedy and romance emerge – from Hardy's befuddled banter with the demanding beast within, to bids to reconnect with his ex, DA Anne Weying (a heinously wasted Michelle Williams) – before Venom devolves into an incoherent chase movie.
Despite his uproarious splice of comedy and horror in Zombieland, director Ruben Fleischer fails to get a grip here. Wobbling haphazardly between The Mask-style mischief and a more monstrous pitch, he winds up muzzling the film's potential as either an oddball curio or action movie. The climactic dust-up isn't just predictable, it's unintelligible because you can't tell which identical-looking CGI thing is lamping which. A more promising opponent arrives in a mid-credits tease, but don't get attached: this unruly muddle is unlikely to bank Venom a sequel.
General release from Wed 3 Oct.