Director: Ruben Fleischer;
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Melora Walters;
At the very onset, let me warn you, if you have expectations from a film coming from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, simply because you are looking out for a sleek, action-packed narrative, then you’d be disappointed.
Being an origin story of the Marvel Comics character, “Venom” which was briefly introduced in 2007 released, “Spider-Man 3”, the film displays mixed tonality as it pushes an arc played out over years in the comics of how Venom goes from a vicious alien entity to a somewhat righteous anti-hero.
Despite its 113 minutes run-time, the plot seems to be racing. We barely meet investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) before his entire life plunges into ruin thanks to his aggressive approach to his job especially when he is assigned to interview the powerful visionary and scientific genius, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed).
Through a clumsy prelude, we are informed, that Drake’s spacecraft returning from deep space were carrying a formless alien called Symbiotes. And now he is unethically attempting to combine them with human hosts in an effort to find a way to help humans survive in space.
A conscientious scientist, doctor Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) informs Eddie about Drake’s nefarious activities in his lab. And, before you know it, a symbiote wriggles deep into Eddie’s body, at first making him ill but then imbuing him with super-strength, incredible agility and the power to argue forcefully with a croaky voice that only he can hear.
It is because of Tom Hardy that one can say, “Venom” is watchable. Hardy has fun on screen with a weirdly bland character and his absurd, sassy alter ego. He goes a long way to giving Venom a reason to exist. With his off-kilter energy, nebulous American accent, and a garrulous delivery, Hardy livens up scenes just by making casually unusual performance choices. Both Hardy and the film excels whenever he plays possessed.
The scenes in which Eddie and Venom banter back and forth, along with some cringe-worthy dialogues, are amusing. But the standout sequences involve Hardy going through a whirlwind of insatiable hunger and mania. While the humor springs up sporadically and the action sequences has gravitas, the mix of tones during, the pre-venom and with venom scenes, are simply distinct.
With limited screen time, it is unfortunate that the actual Venom character feels so thin and corny. His power relies on his voice and his mask, both of which only frighten in theory but hardly in reality. The script wants Venom to function as a monstrous savage and comic relief, which is fine, but neither the script nor Hardy can manage both tones.
Carlton Drake is a stock evil character and Riz Ahmed’s performance does nothing to elevate him. The other fine actors in the cast include Michelle Williams as Anne Weying Eddie’s former girlfriend and Reid Scott as doctor Dan her boyfriend. They are lost in the poor writing of their graphs.
By the time Venom battles another Symbiote at the film’s climax, in an incoherent cloud of computer-graphics, you wouldn’t care less what you’re watching or what the stakes are.
But definitely look out for the sequel, it seems promising.