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Can Tom Hardy play comedy – intentionally? The question remains worryingly unanswered in this clumsy, monolithic and fantastically boring superhero movie-slash-entertainment-franchise-iteration. The supposedly massive final showdown is so anticlimactic and pointless that it was only when it was followed by Hardy ruminatively sipping coffee on a stoop and chatting that I realised… that was it. That was the big finish. Hardy himself has said that the film’s best 30-40 minutes have been cut. At least that makes this shorter than it would otherwise be.
Venom is one of the Marvel characters still owned by the Sony corporation and not under the control of the legally separate Marvel Cinematic Universe, although it is still entitled to the statutory Stan Lee cameo. Venom was first glimpsed in Spider-Man 3 and this cumbersome movie – so different from the recent nimble, populous and often genuinely funny Marvel films – feels like something that should be facing off with Tobey Maguire.
The idea is that an amorphous extra-terrestrial being, a slithery CGI jellyfishy creature known as a “symbiote”, has been recklessly imported to Earth by a visionary biotech baron: the Elon-Musk-y figure of Dr Carlton Drake, played by Riz Ahmed. He wears a sleek black fleece, initially zipped right up to the top but then progressively unzipped to help show how terribly stressed and ANGRY he is getting with his white-coated underlings who fail to carry out his crazy bidding.
This grisly organism is kept in a super-secure facility (with others); it’s like The Shape of Water in some ways, only instead of having soulful bathroom sex with a sensitive young woman, the creature needs to merge parasitically with just any old human body to survive – and not only survive, but boost that human host’s normal bodily powers to extraordinary levels, with violence in mind.
And this is where Hardy comes in, playing tough investigative reporter Eddie Brock whose weekly half-hour show takes down officialdom’s rancid time-servers. Eddie is dating smart lawyer Anne Weying – an outrageously boring and submissive role for poor Michelle Williams, who looks just as pained in that part as Kirsten Dunst did playing Mary Jane back in the day. But Eddie’s happy world is due to be rocked on so many fronts: chiefly in that the evil symbiote gets out, snakes its sinuous way into his body and turns Eddie into the twin-identity monster called Venom. Other symbiotes are due to get out as well and we are eventually forced to witness the tiresome and self-defeating spectacle of a “good” symbiote hybrid battling a separate “bad” symbiote hybrid, this cancelling the dramatic importance of the original contest: Eddie Brock getting invaded by that hideous organic entity.
Hardy does an awful lot of very broad-comedy split personality acting once the symbiote is inside him. They squabble. “Hungry!” the symbiote will boom inside his head in a deep growly voice and Tom will immediately convulse into a: “Wha…? What was that..?” routine. He thrashes and lurches around the streets like Jerry Lewis’s The Nutty Professor. Desperate for live food, Eddie/Venom crashes into a restaurant and sploshes hungrily into the tank where the live lobsters are displayed.
There are in fact one or two big gags, but no real sense of fun – not compared to something like Thor: Ragnarok. Director Ruben Fleischer, who made Zombieland and Gangster Squad, is uninspired. Venom is riddled with the poison of dullness.
Source: The Guardian
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