Film review: Venom is a thoroughly enjoyable superhero origin story
We have met the titular anti-hero of Ruben Fleischer's latest film before, menacing Peter Parker in Spiderman 3.
Thankfully, Fleischer’s feature, in which investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) finds himself merging with the symbiote while investigating shady goings on at Carlton Drake’s (Riz Ahmed) scientific research facility, is a far superior vehicle.
The comic interplay between Eddie and the dark inner voice of Venom, as the former’s initial fear of the destructive extra-terrestrial life form grows into a grudging affection, is the film’s greatest strength - Eddie’s refusal to jump from a building despite the latter’s taunts is a high-point.
However, as Eddie/Venom races to prevent Drake’s malevolent plan from coming to fruition, this lively back-and-forth takes a back seat to the numerous skirmishes between our protagonist and Drake’s heavily armed enforcers.
Efficiently handled and thrilling as these set-pieces are – a brawl through the streets of San Francisco is a darkly comic delight- they occasionally lack the bite of recent comic book films such as Deadpool 2 and while Venom’s fearsome, inky form is stunningly realised many of film’s other special effects – including villainous symbiote Riot- are less polished.
These flaws aside, Fleischer draws fine turns from his cast; Hardy is a dependably charismatic anti-hero and Ahmed’s vampiric Drake makes for a suitably sinister antagonist.
Yet, despite the film’s abundance of qualities, it is difficult to escape the feeling that there is an even better film lurking in this thoroughly enjoyable and assured superhero origin story.