You have to admire Tom Hardy sometimes: an actor of tremendous talents and abilities, he has found himself taking on quite a few roles that have seen him cover up most of his face, whether in Mad Max: Fury Road, Dunkirk or The Dark Knight Rises, but such is his power that he transcends such things, rendering them mere fashion statements. In Venom, Sony Pictures‘ third attempt to reconfigure their Marvel properties led by Spider-Man who is currently “on-loan” to the MCU, Hardy is cocooned head-to-toe under the guise of one of comic-books’ legendary villains but after seeing the final outcome, he may want to stay buried forever.
It’s not the first time that we have seen the black-suit nemesis of the webslinger – previously shoe-horned into an already cluttered Spider-Man 3 by producers despite Sam Raimi’s protestations, it has taken the studio over a decade to get him back on the big-screen after a few false starts but just as they did back in 2007 it’s all gone horribly wrong. In the aftermath, fans will no doubt point to the lack of Peter Parker, his red-and-blue alter-ego and the classic symbiote story (edited back to the “correct” pronunciation after some online ridicule) but despite that Venom’s downfall is its own, another misfire for Sony after the excruciatingly awful The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
For a film all about life and the preservation of humankind, Venom has none: going for that “dark and gritty” look, its actually a dour, insipid looking film that lacks any real imagination to make it stand out from the continuously saturated marketplace, instead going for the Daredevil/Elektra/Jonah Hex school of superhero filmmaking, though not quite as bad. Why? Tom Hardy, who manages – just – to keep the film at least mildly amusing in places during some of the film’s strange “he’s talking to himself?!” sequences, a couple of which are very funny. In fact, the biggest take away from this “Where is that film?!”, where is the funny-but-scary-for-adults film we were promised for so long? Probably in those extensive cuts that Hardy loved so much but was nixed into the “PG-13” realm. And poorly at that.
Ruben Fleischer, he of Zombieland (yey!) and Gangster Squad (no!), is behind the camera and where he has shown buoyancy and pizzaz previously here he is all at sea, never gaining control of proceedings to form any semblance of character or story outside of Hardy’s tomfoolery. Indeed, how Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate and Michelle Williams saw anything – bar a healthy bank balance post-film – in this for them is beyond us. To be fair, Williams does get one “what the hell?” moment that’s at least interesting but is otherwise sidelined and ludicrously wasted.
And what of Venom himself? Well the design is decent enough despite the lack of a certain white spider and in those aforementioned sequences with Hardy looks and feels worthwhile but everything around them is so painfully stupid and dull that, even with healthy box-office numbers, we may never see him or Eddie Brock again which is just such a kick in the symbiote teeth.
Scott J.Davis | [rating=2]
Action, Sci-fi | USA, 2018 | 15| 3rd October 2018 (UK) | Sony Pictures Releasing | Dir Ruben Fleischer | Tom Hardy, Riz Ahmed, Michelle Williams, Jenny Slate,