Venom (15)

The long-awaited Venom spin-off finally hits the cinema’s courtesy of Reuben ‘Zombieland’ Fleischer, but has the director’s previous effort of combining horror and comedy worked effectively enough for this necessarily gruesome comic-book villain’s debut in the spotlight?

Err, sort of.

Tom Hardy is very well-cast as the dogged and slightly scruffy roving reporter Eddie Brock (far more convincing casting than Topher Grace was in *whisper it* Spiderman 3 anyway) and is as committed as ever to conveying the cold-sweat and swivel-eyed mania that normally comes with being infected by a gelatinous, carnivorous alien parasite who only he can see and hear. Hardy displays a great knack for physical comedy too, whether it be flailing his arms, slamming against walls or climbing into restaurant fish tanks.

The interplay between Hardy and the demonic voice in his head is genuinely amusing (“Pussy” Venom chides his host at one point) although sometimes it is a difficult to ascertain just what Venom is saying to him, bringing back uncomfortable memories of Hardy’s Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.

The supporting cast – Riz Ahmed, Michelle Williams and Jenny Slate all do perfectly serviceable work with their cardboard cut-out characters (scientific megalomaniac, spurned Ex and concerned Scientist respectively), but Williams in particular is left with precious little to do in a role criminally wasted on one of the finest actresses of her generation.

The violence is delicately handled but the film will still prove far too much for younger viewers, with a few scenes of heads and faces being cleanly bitten off, plus Venom is quite, simply, a shit-scary comic book villain for younger audiences (hence the 15 rating), so younger audiences are best kept well away from this one.

The action is very capably staged but never quite enters the realms of being truly thrilling and despite its efforts, the fact that – due to the obligatory rights issues – this is not a purely Marvel film, but a Sony Entertainment Presents Marvel film  – is painfully clear, lacking the wit and warmth of the usual Marvel crew’s effort (with the requisite exceptionally staged action set-pieces being missing too) that would have made this a truly great franchise-starter.

The action build to a dizzying and frantic finale, with editing so hectic it would give Michael Bay vertigo and unlike the end-credit sequence, the requisite mid-credits sequence is well worth staying for, featuring a startlingly curly-wigged A-Lister cameo which teases at much better things come the inevitable sequels.

All-in-all, a solid and committed effort from all concerned, however, one which is not up to pure Marvel standards by a long shot.

Who knows what wonders an Extended Version DVD edit could unleash?

Project Square Eyes – Tuesday 16th October 2018

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