Venom Review: Tom Hardy Can't Save This One

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Polygon: Venom would be another anonymous notch on the superhero movie belt if not for Hardy, whose dedication to batshit nonsense is a saving grace - and reason enough to make a second movie. The fact that Venom plays everything so safe and by-the-numbers truly hinders it-a frustrating result considering that Hardy is clearly trying to put his all into the character.

In "Venom", which opens Friday, Hardy plays both Eddie Brock, a Bay Area digital journalist, and Venom, Brock's alien symbiote that imbues Eddie with superpowers when not also challenging his self-esteem - as if Eddie's hosting a mighty parasite who's also an insult comic.

You control the way he swings through NY, where he goes and what tasks he chooses to complete. So the symbiote's first host is Eddie.

In an interview with GameSpot, Venom director Ruben Fleischer elaborated on the scene and the casting choice of Woody Harrelson, with whom he has worked in the past. Sure, whatever. The film's dreary, irritating opening act features Hardy wallowing in pity following a breakup with his fiancée Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) and getting mad about his neighbour playing guitar loudly. Venom isn't really what you'd call a "good" movie, but it's an unexpectedly delicious morsel of gay ambiguously-male-coded relationship comedy. In Venom, Brock is forced to realize that doing good is hard, that the reward for personal integrity is exclusively internal. And I was really specific about, you know, there's many iterations of Venom.

This isn't a Joker situation, where we're rolling our eyes at the very idea of it (even if we still can't look away), nor is it a situation where we're enthusiastic about the potential of something different and a bit unconventional, like with Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, or even the upcoming Aquaman. The similar venture - a movie about superhero villains without the superheroes - was widely panned by fans and critics alike.

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"What I've said in the past is that we wanted to push the violence to the hilt". As Tom Hardy gets possessed by a cartoonish extraterrestrial symbiote that melds with his mind and body, Venom is basically The Mask with a slobbery tongue and none of Jim Carrey's slapstick charm. Personally, sign me right the hell up for the teased sequel; the only thing better than Tom Hardy here would be him with an actor equally going for broke right along beside him.

The film's main appeal, however, lies not in the stunts, but in the details of Eddie's metamorphosis as he and Venom gradually settle on the ground rules of life together. So technically there is a Spider-Man reference in Venom?

Sony now has plans to give films to other Spidey characters, with Jackpot, Black Cat, Kraven the Hunter and Silver Sable all candidates to get their own movie.

And Bryan Bishop of the Verge said that Venom is "a train wreck of a movie, mixing and matching wildly dissonant tones, freaky plot contrivances, and a truly unique lead performance". And if you're imagining it would be hard to market this monster as an anti-hero worthy of audience identification, you're underestimating the resourcefulness and optimism of a Hollywood studio eager to make a few hundred million out of yet another Marvel creation - especially one that comic book fans have already embraced. And we get Venom. But folks, I don't think Sony realizes what they've made here, or if they do, it's something they probably hope nobody will notice.

Venom releases on October 5.

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