Venom Review

TV investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is working on an exposé of scientist Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), who is using San Francisco’s homeless as guinea pigs to bond humans with aliens. Sneaking into Drake’s lab, Eddie’s body merges with symbiote Venom who gives him super-strength, a deep inner voice and a huge appetite.

by Ian Freer |
Published on
Release Date:

05 Oct 2018

Original Title:


Movies haven’t been kind to Venom. Third-wheeling behind Sandman and the New Goblin in Spider-Man 3, and with a background nod in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane’s unfriendly neighbourhood symbiote now stars in his own film that mostly botches its attempts to bring the anti-hero to life. Lacking the we-know-how-to-do this confidence of Disney’s MCU, Ruben Fleischer’s film never finds a strong footing, mixing drab stretches of plot, efficient but flat action, mishandled comedy, a few fun elements and squandering one of the most exciting casts of the year.


The first act is ham-fisted, charmless and dull. There is a protracted set-up where Eddie (Hardy) loses his TV reporting gig, his lawyer girlfriend Annie (Michelle Williams) and his life by going off-message when interviewing scientist Carlton Drake (Ahmed). The latter is pushing forward with dangerous experiments combining humans with symbiotes, icky shape-shifting blobs that enter the body by osmosis. At the same time, there is another symbiote on its way, body-hopping from a paramedic to an elderly Malaysian woman to a little girl on its journey to the States.

Tom Hardy’s performance in particular is fidgety, muted and curiously unengaging.

The storytelling here is blunt, but what’s even more surprising is the lack of chemistry between Hardy and Williams, two of the most charismatic actors on the planet. Hardy’s performance in particular is fidgety, muted and curiously unengaging; Williams also toils away in a nothing-y fiancée-moving-on role. Completing the troika, Venom also has another collector’s item — a bland Riz Ahmed turn as an Elon Musk-y visionary saddled with dreadful dialogue (“Find my Symbiote NOW”).

On paper, Fleischer is a good fit for the material. His best work, Zombieland, found a sweet spot of laughs, gore and energy, a good checklist for any Venom movie. Yet he cannot find the correct timbre here. The action, from Brock/Venom brutally seeing off Drake’s goons in Eddie’s apartment or a bike-car-drone chase, to Venom taking down a SWAT-like team in a smoke-filled foyer, has little verve or spirit and just ends up being deadening. The comedy doesn’t land either. Eddie embarrassing himself in front of Annie in a posh restaurant by scoffing lobster and jumping into fish tanks feels too timid to be funny. There is a sense, both through elements of Hardy’s physical performance and some of Venom’s facial expressions, that Venom echoes The Mask. It wants to be all portentous and Marvel-y (Ludwig Göransson’s bombastic score, the end credits malarkey), but channelling Stanley Ipkiss might have been a helluva lot more entertaining.

For, when Eddie finally comes to terms with living with the parasite, there is a hint of a lively back and forth between the two — especially when Eddie refuses to jump from a building — that might have rivalled Deadpool. Perhaps the movie Venom really should have been is its sequel. ‘Venom 2: Brock To The Future’, anyone?

Venom is neither triumph nor train-wreck. It’s a mediocre origin story, a superhero host that sadly fails to bond with its comedy parasite. Which is a shame, as there is enough here to to suggest it could have been a blast.
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