After the failure of the The Amazing Spider-Man series and with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man loaned off to the MCU, Venom marks the first attempt in Sony’s efforts to create a string of arachnid-related spin-offs. And boy, it looks like they might have another failure on their hands.

Venom retells the origin story of the popular anti-hero, removing his connection to Spider-Man and instead introducing Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) as the struggling reporter attempting to expose the crooked Dr Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). After Brock bonds with the titular symbiote, the film follows his attempts to control his newfound powers, win back his ex-girlfriend (Michelle Williams) and stop Drake’s murderous plans.

Hardy is easily the film’s greatest strength, with the back-and-forth dynamic between Eddie and Venom – both played by Hardy – being the highlight of the movie. As for Hardy’s cast mates, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed are fine but given little of interest to do other than play the stereotypical love interest and villainous scientist respectively. It is a shame as the symbiotes offer an interesting premise and raise several questions about symbiote bonding, but these are ignored in favour of a noticeably generic and occasionally illogical plot involving shady pharmaceutical companies, evil experiments and, of course, the end of the world.

For those wishing to see a symbiote-driven rampage, there are several enjoyable action scenes right up until the unintelligible CGI-heavy ending. However the full bloodlust of the comic book character is never fully realised – despite being rated a 15 in the UK, Venom’s oft-mentioned habit of eating heads is shown off-screen and bloodless, barely warranting the rating and the possibilities brought with it. An inability to commit to either kid-friendly anti-heroics or a bloodthirsty romp leaves the film confused about what it wants to be, something also shown in the tone. The film often flips between dark seriousness and absurdist comedy, which do not gel well together. The end product is a series of jokes which either don’t land or just seem out of place, which is somewhat surprising given director Ruben Fleischer’s (Zombieland) comedy background.   

As with so many films these days, there is a post-credits scene which rather unsubtly sets up a sequel. There’s certainly potential next time with an actor as good as Tom Hardy in the lead, but the sequel will need to take a long, hard think about what film it would like to be if it is to avoid the pitfalls of Venom.

2 stars

Image Credit: Movie DB

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