Venom movie director: Ruben Fleischer
Venom movie cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed
Venom movie rating: 1.5 stars
Not too long after the movie has started, Tom Hardy’s body is occupied by an alien or, as we are calling them these days, a ‘symbiote’.
Symbiotes are always hungry, and have a thing for human heads. But they are not really very discriminatory when it comes to liver, pancreas etc either. Even when they are not physically eating another human, they are doing enough damage to the host body from within. Some of the hosts get killed in the process, some survive.
Among the latter is Hardy, here playing ‘top-notch investigative reporter’ Eddie Brock. The trouble is Hardy synthesised with the symbiote, who is from now on to be called Venom (because aliens have a thing for villain-like Earth names, okay), seems no different from Hardy without symbiote. The good-looking and talented English actor, who should be a walk-in for this role, inhabits it half-heartedly as an unshaven, unwashed reporter who botches the one investigation any newsman with half his credentials would know how to approach.
But that is not the only trouble with this latest superhero to surface in the Marvel universe. Having first been glimpsed in Spider-Man 3 in the form of Topher Grace, here Venom is uglier, bigger, with the teeth and tongue to make all that chewing-off heads possible. And yet his reasons to do what he is doing change so frequently that you could laugh, if only you can forget that so many people have died needlessly in the process.
As Brock holds conversations with this being, having persuasively buried his conscience about all the killings — that same conscience had not too long ago got him to lose his job, girlfriend Annie (Williams) and apartment in quick succession — one really wonders what the filmmakers were thinking.
The thinking part actually is left to Riz Ahmed’s Dr Drake. The symbiote-human synthesis, of which the most successful specimen is Eddie, is his doing. Ahmed (The Night Of) tries very hard to lend gravitas to his role of mad inventor/billionaire corporate, while looking quite handsome in his suits. But his explanation for blowing up the world is hardly original, having turned up with not-so-surprising frequency in most recent Hollywood blockbusters.
As you struggle to like Eddie, to hate/like Venom, to fear Drake, to sympathise with Annie (who may be the smartest-of-them-all), to feel anything for the black-goo-like symbiotes, and to counsel against any sequels (at least standalones), there is only one real hero. He is Annie’s stand-in boyfriend, Dr Dan, who treats all — symbiotes, humans, and all in between — with equal equanimity. Now that is a man we want around at world’s end.