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Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed
Director: Ruben Fleischer
RUNTIME: 112 Mins
WITH the explosion in popularity of superhero films in the past decade, it now seems inevitable that every Tom, Dick and Harry who has ever pulled on latex in the pages of a comic will be getting their very own movie.
One Tom, Hardy this time, is the latest to step onto the carousel for the first feature-length Venom movie.
Sadly, despite being one of the best actors in the world, he flounders his way through this dud and proves that even the finest talents can sink under the weight of a terrible movie.
And that’s what this is: a tone-deaf, uneven and maddeningly-dumb clunker that never settles on an identity, all the way to the closing credits.
It is a comedy? Sure, at times. I’ll admit I laughed out loud at two or three punchlines. But I also laughed when I think we weren’t supposed to be laughing.
Is it a superhero movie? Given Venom exists in the Marvel Universe (we saw him/it in the equally awful Spider-Man 3 some 11 years ago), yes. In fact, it’s a classic origins story, complete with a megalomaniacal billionaire, a likable girlfriend character, and of course an everyman who finds himself in the wrong lab at the wrong time, and all of a sudden he’s going mental because some crazy things are happening to him!
Alas, it’s not a good superhero movie. Marvel has raised the bar considerably since, and simply having ‘a character with cool powers who can use them on bad guys’ isn’t enough anymore.
The special effects are underwhelming. The CGI fight scenes are tedious, predictable and murky at times. The villains — human and extra-terrestrial — are forgettable. And neither the ordinary guy nor his alter ego are particularly compelling to watch.
Even the rating is the safe choice. Venom is a voracious creature with about 200 teeth and an extra-long tongue. Why not go the 18 route a la Deadpool or Logan and let the character loose in the way it deserves?
The British Hardy dons a dodgy New York accent as Eddie Brock, a rough-edged, authority-defying, crusading TV journalist living in San Francisco after an unspecified crash-and-burn episode in the Big Apple.
Eddie lives with his fiancé Anne (Michelle Williams), a successful attorney working for a firm that represents the famed, adventure-seeking and controversial billionaire Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed).
All of those connections come into play when Eddie makes a really bad decision, which results in him losing his job and his fiancé.
Cut to six months later. Eddie has given up on himself – but when Dr Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), a scientist who works for Drake, tells Eddie about the evil Drake literally sacrificing homeless people as he conducts mad experiments, Eddie decides to leap back into action and expose Drake’s criminally insane activity.
In the annals of obscenely wealthy corporate honchos who believe they hold the key to the future but make fatal mistakes because they’re blinded by ambition, Drake is one of the all-time dumbest.
This guy funds a mission to deepest space that yields a handful of ‘symbiotes,’ as Drake likes to call them. The symbiotes are slithering, shape-shifting, gooey creatures with superhuman strength, an affinity for eating people, and the ability to turn their limbs into weapons of serious destruction. Drake’s brilliant plan for creating people adaptable to outer space is to lock human volunteers (the aforementioned homeless people) in a chamber with the symbiotes, so the symbiotes can crawl inside the humans and both species can thrive. This usually results in a quick death for the human, but Drake keeps on trying to find compatible hosts.
As luck would have it, our man Eddie Brock turns out to be a solid host for the alien that calls itself Venom — and all of a sudden it feels as if we’re in a slapstick comedy. Invoking the obligatory talking alien mechanical baritone, Venom at first barks out primal commands such as “HUNGRY!” and “FOOD!” but soon he’s commenting on Eddie’s romantic life and opening up about how he was considered a loser on his home planet.
Hardy flings himself into the role, bouncing all over the place like a man possessed (which he is) and doing whatever the screenplay calls for, whether it’s sitting in a lobster tank in a fancy restaurant (don’t ask) or exchanging wacky banter with the alien inside of him or chatting it up with caricatures.
As you’d expect from a Marvel Universe origins story, Venom leaves the door wide open for a sequel. They’d better hope it provides a swift antidote, because this poison was hard to swallow.
Now showing in: City Centre, Juffair Mall, The Avenues, Seef I & II, Saar, Wadi Al Sail, Seef Muharraq
Kristian’s verdict: 2/5