Venom film review: Tom Hardy takes on Spidey’s symbiote

Is Venom the anti-superhero movie we deserve or a muddled mess?

That unforgettably bad scene in Spider-Man 3 when Toby Maguire’s Spidey turns all sleazy, starts playing jazz piano and dancing like the devil has possessed his soul is staged in such an odd manner, it’s difficult to look away. Sony’s separate and darker take on the Spider-Man universe recalls that baffling air with a film that can’t keep up with its leading man’s interpretation of the character and fails to muster much in terms of fun. In offering an alternative to the current crop of superhero movies, at least it attempts something different, but it’s weakened by the fact that it never fully explores the Jekyll and Hyde potential of its premise.

Tom Hardy is fully invested in his twin role as investigative journalist Eddie Brock and the titular alien. Once the symbiotic organism has attached itself to Brock, Hardy’s performance is furiously sweaty and agitated as he wrestles with an aggressive force that demands fresh human flesh. His food cravings lead him to gobble Tater tots straight out of the freezer and search through bins to munch on rotten chicken.

When Hardy is playing at addicted and out of control there’s the sense there was much more to this role. Brock is fired for questioning the morals of scientific magnate, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) and then left unable to secure any work for six months. It leaves him not only frustrated at the system, but apathetic to humanity. The film strangely misses the opportunity to further investigate this and its decision to then leap into a huge action finale without making sense of how Brock and Venom have bonded is a fatal error.

Michelle Williams takes on the bland and thankless role of Brock’s fiancée with her dialogue sounding like it was concocted by a badly designed chatbot pretending to be a woman. Venom mostly wastes its stellar cast with its jarring tonal clash – the wacky humour is badly timed, and the one-liners are ghastly. Its blend of puerile comedy and psychological horror just never really gels.