by Chris Rogers
Here is Sony Pictures’ second attempt to build a Marvel universe to rival Disney’s (stop laughing, they’re deadly serious). Venom – seemingly dumped on our world from a rip in the space-time continuum splicing the year 2005 with the present day – sits comfortably alongside the likes of Elektra, Ghost Rider and Daredevil. Grimdark pretentions? Check. Positioning of protagonist as edgy antihero? Check. Ludicrous rubber costumes? I wish.
Star of the show here is the eponymous blob, a parasitical alien which attaches to a living host and imbues them with superhuman abilities. Venom finds a vehicle in smug, down-on-his-luck journalist, Eddie Brock (a spectacularly miscast Tom Hardy). “You look like shit!” exclaims the owner of Brock’s local corner shop, as he swaggers cooly past with hair perfectly styled, sporting just the right kind of stubble and trendier clothes than anyone else within fifty miles.
He’s on the trail of billionaire Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), a cardboard cutout superviallain obsessed with human-symbiote experimentation. Brock’s investigation (assisted by an unpsettingly underused Jenny Slate) exposes him to one of the parasites. Hence, Venom – a giant, foul-mouthed monster with a penchant for biting people’s heads off – is born.
But before the beast is unleashed, we must suffer an hour of ‘Superhero Origin Stories for Dummies’, replete with a plodding romance subplot (Hardy and a bored, bewigged Michelle Williams conjure no chemistry), unintelligible action sequences and broiling inner turmoil. At least, that’s what one assumes Hardy is going for with his Jim Carrey-esque line in spittle and shrieking.
When the latter half finally sees Venom emerge, things fail to improve. An age rating promising gory ultra-violence is all bark and no bite, with most antagonists dispatched in a blur of swinging tentacles and nondescript crunching sounds. The genuinely enticing body-horror aspects of the comic book source are buried, and the Bronson star’s clear commitment to depraved lunacy proves all for naught.
It’s difficult to see loyal fans of the Venom character – still searching for salvation after Spider-Man 3 – getting back on board (incidentally, the producer who insisted upon Venom’s involvement in said misfire, Avi Arad, returns to supervise this outing). As a disposable piece of popcorn fodder, it’s merely hopeless. As the basis of a major cinematic enterprise, it’s poison.
Venom is out in cinemas now!