Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Tom Hardy, Riz Ahmed, Michelle Williams, Jenny Slate
On paper, Venom is a sexy idea – an alien inside a reporter’s head. Think of the possibilities of that! The gritty, investigative journalist Eddie Brock is played by Tom Hardy. There’s also four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams as his sharp lawyer girlfriend and the elegant Riz Ahmed playing a villain with a god complex. He runs some massive bio-engineering company that is trying to find a way for humans to live in outer space. He decides that the best way to do this is to have us merge with aliens. It doesn’t make any sense and we all know what happens when people try to mess with nature. But still, just the presence of these actors got me excited. I thought Venom would be a lot of fun.
I was wrong. Venom is a soulless movie in which slimy creatures are trying to find host bodies. These are Symbiotes. Without host bodies, they are large blots of gooey substance. But when inside a host, they grow sharp piranha-like teeth and can pretty much overpower everything except high-decibel sounds.
Tom Hardy is such a gifted actor but here he’s pouring his intensity and intelligence into a role that stays one-note even when he is playing two characters. Venom is also voiced by Hardy. Eddie comes off as dumb rather than a recklessly courageous conscience-keeper. Michelle Williams’ immense talent is wasted on a forgettable character. But Riz Ahmed gets to have some fun as Dr. Carlton Drake, the sinister mogul. He finds a way to put some punch into generic lines like – let’s begin human trials. It’s interesting that incredibly talented Asian actors are being picked to play greedy, powerful businessmen – remember Irrfan in Jurassic World?
Director Ruben Fleischer tries to make this material thrilling and funny in that self-aware Deadpool sort of way. But the screenplay by Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg and Kelly Marcel has little that is inventive or original. The dialogue is painfully pedestrian – at one point, the local grocery store owner tells Eddie – Life hurts Eddie, it just does. Wow, that’s a revelation. The action includes a generic car chase and a climactic fight between two Symbiotes – it’s Venom, who has some principles versus Riot, a truly evil creature who wants to destroy the world. So even Symbiotes have degrees of good and evil. Who knew?
On film, Venom was first seen in Spider-Man 3. This film is the first Sony production of a Marvel character. Needless to say Venom will return. I just hope round 2 has more bite.