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Tom Hardy’s first outing as the anti-hero alien symbiote is fairly solid fare – but its muddled production leaves it without a lasting bite.

Fan favourite Venom – who straddles the line between good and bad intentions – does suffer from being in the Spider-Man universe, basically because Tom Holland’s Spidey isn’t in it.

And if the end credits animated sequence is anything to go by, he may never be, as it hints at the potential Miles Morales-iteration of the Webslinger.

That aside, the movie’s main problem is that the tone is all over the place – shape shifting all the time like Venom himself.

The positives: Hardy is enjoyable as Eddie Brock and his alter-ego Venom; rising star Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) is a fairly decent villain; there’s some nice humorous touches; and as an origin story goes it’s a solid enough popcorn cruncher.

The negatives: the chopping in rating from a hard R-rating (like Deadpool and Logan) in the States to a PG-13 (which makes it a 15 over here) sanitises the main protagonist; which leads to a jumbled and busy storyline that fluctuates between being intense one minute, then subdued the next; and Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain) is scandalously wasted in a thankless role.

Following a scandal – which leads to him and lawyer partner Anne (Williams) separating – hard-hitting reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) attempts to revive his career by investigating the Life Foundation, led by Ahmed’s (Nightcrawler) shady billionaire entrepreneur Carlton Drake, who’s using homeless human subjects to try and attach alien symbiotes too, after bringing them back from outer space. But without success.

That is until Brock gets access to the facility and one of the symbiotes – known as Venom – bonds with him to give him otherworldly powers, which Drake will stop at nothing to get back into his grasp.

This leads to a chaotic and comedic combo between Hardy’s Brock and the multi-fanged beast – who actually eats the heads off bad guys in heightened moments of rage – that probably just about ‘hits’ more than it ‘misses’.

And when Drake gets taffled up with another symbiote – Venom’s arch-nemesis Riot – from a female host, this leads to the inevitable slug-to-the-death finale, which is as uninspiring as it sounds.

Despite pockets of entertainment, on this outing it’s highly unlikely Hardy’s anti-hero will make enough of an impact to make the Marvel Cinematic Universe hanker for his addition to their ranks – which is a shame because the post credit scene does illustrate the potential of the franchise.

Which really does pose the question of whether this middling superhero effort has done enough to ignite a Spidey universe-inspired new era – and after an impressive opening weekend at the box-office it could just about well do…

Rating: 3/5

Gavin Miller

Cast: Tom Hardy, Riz Ahmed, Michelle Williams, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Scott Haze & Woody Harrelson

Running Time: 1 Hr 52 Mins

Director: Ruben Fleischer

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