dir Ruben Fleischer
scr Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, Kelly Marcel, Will Beall
prd Avi Arad, Amy Pascal, Matthew Tolmach
with Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Reid Scott, Scott Haze, Melora Walters, Ron Cephas Jones, Michelle Lee, Sope Aluko, Mac Brandt, Woody Harrelson
release US/UK 5.Oct.18
18/US Columbia 1h52
I'm in you: Venom and Hardy

williams ahmed slate
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Venom There's enough potential in this Marvel spin-off to see why they've thrown so much money at it. But a lack of imagination leaves the effects looking dull and the thrills feeling derivative. Basically there's still one thing here that's worth watching: Tom Hardy. His charisma and scruffy sense of humour sustain the film right through the rather lacklustre plot.

A popular street reporter in San Francisco, Eddie (Hardy) is planning a future with his lawyer fiancee Anne (Williams) when he crosses an ethical line that offends high-powered space billionaire Carlton (Ahmed), who is having problems of his own after his crashed shuttle brings an unstable lifeform back to Earth. Then one of these symbiotic creatures links with Eddie, calling himself Venom and embarking on a full-on rampage. While Carlton tries to exploit this mayhem for the good of mankind, things turn much darker, leaving the fate of Earth hanging in the balance.

The plot's momentum is so uneven that the biggest events feel almost like throwaway moments, while pointless action set-pieces take up much of the running time. They're animated spectacles, never grounded in the story. So whizzy car chases never quicken the pulse, and it's even worse when two toothily grinning symbiotes start fighting each other, like some sort of a murky-slimy cartoon. But Venom (and the more-evil Riot) are so oddly animated that they never seem to exist at all, especially with their inexplicable magical powers regarding human clothing.

Thankfully, Hardy is on board to hold our attention. He's so good, even in the most awkward scenes, that he can make us root for Eddie to make it through all of this craziness. Eddie's internal banter with Venom never quite makes sense, especially with Venom's cliched growly whisper. But it's often quite funny, and Hardy makes the most of it as well as Eddie's fragile emotional connection with Anne. Williams is great as always in a micro-role, and everyone else creates believable one-note side characters.

It's refreshing that director Fleischer never seems to take the story terribly seriously, keeping the tone jaunty even as things go from grim to grimmer. So even if there's very little doubt about where this is heading, Eddie/Venom are a solid enough hero/antihero to keep us watching. If only the plot was a little more robust, and the action a little more inventive. And if only there was some sort of point to it all.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 4.Oct.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall