Venom: Tom Hardy is so over the top, the film never gets boring

Review: Tom Hardy comes across like Marlon Brando playing Animal from the Muppets

Trailer for Tom Hardy comic book spin-off, Venom.

The best bits of ‘Venom’ are less tedious than the worst bits of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

Film Title: Venom

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott

Genre: Action

Running Time: 112 min

Wed, Oct 3, 2018, 10:00

   

Reviews were embargoed until day of release. The star told reporters his best bits had all been cut out. Venom was shaping up to be a disaster of Green Lantern proportions.

Then again, the gossip may have been part of a cunning plan by Sony – which still holds rights to a few Marvel bits and bobs – to lower critics’ expectations way below the water table. Maybe it’s worked.

Venom does not seem completely terrible. Tom Hardy delivers an unhinged performance that entertains in the same way one might be entertained by a talented trumpeter blowing down the wrong end of his instrument. Michelle Williams does well despite apparently thinking herself in a better film. It’s certainly less boring than some of the busier, more self-important Marvel pictures. These things are supposed to be fun, you know. 

As you might expect, the film is largely taken up with another linear origin story. Mad scientist Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) causes a symbiotic alien life form composed of CGI squiggles to be brought to earth. While Drake is on a break from his campaign of messianic fascism, investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) turns up to ask some awkward questions. Bad idea.

After too much of one thing and more than enough of another, Brock finds himself uncomfortably melded with the intergalactic doodles. He becomes very strong. He becomes very hungry. He starts hearing a dark brown voice in his head.

The film suffers from familiar problems of the genre. Venom (as the Hardy-alien amalgam is soon known) is so limitlessly powerful that, until he meets a creature from his own species, we feel no sense of jeopardy. This thing could survive the heat death of the universe. The film is so smothered in computer-generated imagery that the brain starts to fizz and pop long before we get to the final confusing punch-up. Those sorts of problems.

Tom Hardy is, however, so generously over the top that the picture never becomes boring. Coming across like Marlon Brando playing Animal from the Muppets, he chews the scenery so vigorously early on that the enormous befanged gargoyle he eventually becomes seems, in comparison, like one of George Eliot’s clergymen.

Maybe Venom is a disaster. But its best bits are still less tedious than the worst bits of Avengers: Infinity War. Put that on the poster.

Opens: October 3rd