Venom

 

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The latest Marvel superhero fails to mine its comic potential, resulting in a dark, violent and ugly express ride.

   
Venom

Two's a crowd: Tom Hardy and his alter ego

 

Even if one were sick and tired of superheroes, Venom looked promising. For a start, Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams, in spite of their physical appeal, resemble real human beings. And the director, Ruben Fleischer, has exhibited a flair for genre filmmaking with such titles as Zombieland and Gangster Squad. But even the right ingredients cannot guarantee the loaf will rise.

 

A new addition to the cinematic Marvel Universe, Venom is what’s styled as a symbiote, a combination of man and extraterrestrial, drawing on the strongest qualities of both. But before we arrive at this remarkable revelation, we are introduced to Eddie Brock, allegedly the best investigative reporter on the planet – definitely a loftier hack than Clark Kent. And, in the form of Tom Hardy, he is certainly a more believable character than, say, Captain America or Thor. At least, initially. Being British, Tom Hardy presents a dentally challenged, somewhat grungy figure, an unlikely partner of the sharp, sartorially superior district attorney Anne Weying, played by Michelle Williams. But, hey, opposites attract. Eddie has his own show, The Eddie Brock Report, on which he roams San Francisco covering stories about the homeless and illicit landfills. But in his zeal to uncover the darker side of the tech mogul Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), he hacks into his girlfriend’s computer and gets himself fired. 

 

Cut forward six months and Drake is experimenting with alien lifeforms, conducting his scientific trials on homeless ‘volunteers’. There is a lot of backstory in Venom, long before we get to the eventual reconciliation of Eddie and his extraterrestrial other half. But just as the film gets promising, it stops. The double-act recalls the 1984 comedy All of Me, in which Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin were forced to share the same body. Unfortunately, there is scant humour in Venom, unlike such recent Marvel jaunts as Deadpool and Ant-Man and their respective (highly accomplished) sequels. Instead, Ruben Fleischer piles on the violence and combat with such intensity, that the result is a very dark, pessimistic and ugly express ride. And there’s another problem: the carnage and mayhem is so over the top that the action quickly becomes abstract and has no discernible effect. It’s like looking for the emotional connection in a painting by Jackson Pollock. Nonetheless, the franchise would seem to have a future, as the pairing of Tom Hardy and his alter ego does have some comic mileage. The next director just needs to ease his or her foot off the pedal.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Melora Walters, Woody Harrelson, Peggy Lu, Michele Lee, Ron Cephas Jones, Stan Lee.

 

Dir Ruben Fleischer, Pro Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach and Amy Pascal, Screenplay Jeff Pinkner,

Scott Rosenberg and Kelly Marcel, Ph Matthew Libatique, Pro Des Oliver Scholl, Ed Maryann Brandon and Alan Baumgarten, Music Ludwig Göransson, Costumes Kelli Jones.

 

Columbia Pictures/Marvel Entertainment/Tencent Pictures/Arad Productions/Matt Tolmach Productions-Sony Pictures.

112 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 3 October 2018. Cert. 15.