Venom (PG-13)

Action/Adventure 112 min. October 5, 2018
By Bilge Ebiri
There’s nothing wrong with the idea of Venom, a sci-fi split-personality comedy featuring Tom Hardy doing psychic battle with a pissy, parasitic intergalactic symbiote that at least promises a welcome dose of what-the-fuck fun in a largely unnecessary comic-book movie enterprise. If only the makers of Venom believed in their own ideas.

Or in each other. Somebody has clearly tampered with this film; it looks like it’s been edited to within an inch of its life. Scrappy TV reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) gets taken over by a similar alien parasite after infiltrating the super-secret laboratory of shady San Francisco bazillionaire Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Soon, Eddie finds himself having contentious arguments with a booming, threatening voice in his head, fighting for control of his body. "FOOD," the voice roars, and Eddie jumps into a live lobster tank. Enrage the beast within, and Eddie suddenly starts shooting jet-black bolts of powerful space gunk out of his body. This alien being is a fairly terrifying creation: a many-fanged, slobbery, snake-tongued monster that loves to eat people's heads.

Not unlike the central character, the movie is also at war with itself. There’s almost no physical comedy or clever framing. The symbiotes are vaguely gruesome and creepy, but also kind of boring; the action is fast and busy and mechanical; most of the characters dull and scream-y. Hardy also acts concerned and confused, but at least he seems to be having some fun talking to himself. But the filmmakers either discovered Venom's humorous potential -- the inherent ridiculousness of this concept -- belatedly or that they blinked and pulled the brakes on the comedy before things got too out of hand.
Ruben Fleischer Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, Amy Pascal Sony Pictures

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