There’s a line in Venom about a “turd in the wind” that seems tailor-made for angry critics. But to use it in a review would give the screenwriters too much credit.
It would be easy to blame all the film’s problems on its troubled production. Originally envisioned as an R-rated answer to the likes of Logan and Deadpool, it’s clearly been hacked to pieces for the sake of reaching a wider audience. Plot holes have been widened until a bus could pass through them; characters make huge decisions seemingly at random; and the few meagre (and oddly bloodless) action beats would give even Michael Bay a headache.
Tom Hardy has complained that his favourite 40 minutes ended up on the cutting-room floor, but this one won’t be saved by a director’s cut: the badness goes right down to the bone. Venom comes from the early-2000s school of superhero movies, where everyone wore black and the only acceptable facial expressions were scowls. Everything, from the cringe-inducing dialogue to the awful Eminem single that plays over the credits, feels specifically designed to please a particularly unpleasant specimen of teenage boy.
There are brief, manic flashes of what might have been. Hardy gives an unhinged performance even by his own unique standard, and what little amusement there is to be had comes from watching him frown in puzzlement as he performs inhuman stunts. He’s the only person having any fun. Riz Ahmed wears the defeated look of a promising actor watching his career stall before his eyes, while Michelle Williams and Jenny Slate can barely disguise their boredom.
Venom is an appalling trainwreck of a film; a bad idea, executed poorly in an attempt to make a quick buck. Come back, Justice League – all is forgiven.
CAST: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate
DIRECTOR: Ruben Fleischer
WRITERS: Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, Kelly Marcel, Will Beall (screenplay), Todd McFarlane, David Michelinie (based on the Marvel comics by)
SYNOPSIS: When Eddie Brock acquires the powers of a symbiote, he will have to release his alter-ego “Venom” to save his life.