Review: Tom Hardy's 'Venom' a Marvel misfire

October 4, 2018

Courtesy of Sony

“Venom” is trash.

 

But the kind’ve trash that’s passively watchable. Like watching a train derailing: you want to look away, yet you can’t.

 

That’s “Venom.”

 

Tom Hardy is front and center portraying Marvel fanboy favorite Eddie Brock (last seen being ushered in by Topher Grace in the notoriously bad “Spider-Man 3”) a no holds bar investigative journalist who tackles issues head on without a filter. His daily segment “The Eddie Brock Report” is supposedly one of the most watched news programs in the San Francisco area (Brock used to report in New York City but an event - which goes undescribed - has since relocated the sleuth). Honestly, the guy is a wiseass; a jerk that could make TMZ blush.  

 

When not on the prowl for the next big scoop, Brock’s got a normal life, with a beautiful bride-to-be (Michelle Williams - always the token attractive wife in these things). That is, until, a shady Elon Musk type baddie (Riz Ahmed of “The Night Of”) begins toying with a rare alien genetic species known as Symbiote; thrusting Brock into an entirely different Cronenberg style world. You won’t need to read the comics to find out that he’s up to no good.

 

Like an STD you can’t shake, this organism (and its powers) are passed on via touch (or a steamy makeout session. Your pick!) And this stylish, but ultimately jumbled mess of an origin tale takes flight. The black goo looking entity known as Venom eventually becomes synchronized with Eddie (he’s a rare genetic match) in which the two become a tag-team similar to “Jekyll and Hyde.” Venom has a voice and ego all his own (he likes to chew on heads from time to time - and munch on raw meats). Forcing Eddie to keep the peace and forging an unlikely alliance. Letting that alter ego develop is one of the few bright spots of Ruben Fleischer’s (“Zombieland”) direction, however the bulk of that relationship doesn’t really spark any interest until the film is almost over.

 

Hardy - being dedicated to the material with a Danny Kaye like presence - squanders around looking for an arch. One hyper-caffeinated sequence after the other doesn’t amount to much, and instead of going for the R rated slayings, the studio opted for a more teenage friendly PG13, and “Venom” can never overcome its restrictions.

 

Like “Upgrade” this past year or “Life” - the concept of egos and thrills inside your mind isn’t a new take, you just need depth and clarity.

 

Fanboys were already quick to be sold on the premise. More so after Hardy signed on, a huge blessing considering many were skeptical about a “Venom” feature. Except, with Ahmed, Hardy and Williams at his disposal, you’d think Fleischer would find them something to do. Only briefly does he claw down solid visuals long enough to resonate (even then, the CGI looks clunky and unfinished). And Ahmed is left to spout hilarious jargon that whiffs from the opening frame; giving a convincing speech about the story of Izhak in the bible can’t save him. Hell, with a name like Carlton Drake, how can he not be the slimiest weasel on the planet?

 

Known for his muzzled and intoxicating performances in “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” Hardy is one of the most fascinating actors on the planet. So it’s a shame that “Venom” is too mediocre and forgettable for its own good. The movie isn’t awful. It’s just out there in the wind. Kind’ve like the parasites in the movie syncing with their host. After while, the parasite eventually leaves the body and slithers away without looking back. The only difference is we’re stuck with the movie, and the organism gets to find another strong body to latch onto.

 

Grade: C

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