After Tom Hardy has absorbed an outer-space monster and found himself at the mercy of strange extraterrestrial appetites, he stomps into a posh San Francisco restaurant, elegantly lowers himself into the live-lobster tank, and happily begins chowing down on one of the poor crustaceans imprisoned within.
For just a moment, you get a glimpse of what “Venom” might have been: a Marvel movie pitched between comedy and action, with a main character whose behavior is so weird the film could be a Monty Python sketch featuring Deadpool.
Unfortunately, after the lobster scene, “Venom” goes back to normal. And normal in this case — even though the movie would like to blend humor and mayhem — is stupefyingly boring.
Hardy plays Eddie Brock, a web reporter who loses his girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams) and his job when he investigates pharmaceutical genius Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Like all 21st century billionaires, Drake has his own rocket ships, and his latest mission brought back some containers of intergalactic goo.
Sooner than you can say, “Start testing with human subjects,” Drake is combining goo with people, and Eddie ingests some. Now he is Venom, because apparently in outer space (or at least in the Marvel Universe) these globs of goo have names, too. “On my planet,” Venom telepathically tells Eddie, “I am kind of a loser, like you.”
Venom appeared in 1980s comic books as a nemesis for Spider-Man, although Spidey is nowhere to be seen in this film. “Venom” is being pitched as a standalone project, never to mix with the Avengers storyline because of serious contractual issues.
Anyway, whether there will ever be a “Venom” sequel relies on the international audience overlooking the fact that this movie is an absolute stiff, a monotonous slog through generic material.
Director Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) wastes a good cast, as Hardy oversells the humor and the gifted Williams walks through her part. Ahmed (from “Rogue One” and “Nightcrawler”) fires off a few effective sociopathic outbursts, but can’t get traction. As a scientist, Jenny Slate hides behind her horn-rimmed glasses, which seems like a good strategy in these circumstances.
The idea that an interesting actor like Hardy would get stuck in a Marvel loop, like Robert Downey Jr., is dispiriting. Maybe everybody’s lucky “Venom” smells like a rare bust for the comics empire.
“Venom” (1 star)
Tom Hardy plays a reporter who gets overtaken by some outer-space goo, which turns him into Venom, a very capable hybrid. This stupefyingly boring Marvel film — projected as a standalone character, not part of the bigger Marvel universe — wastes a good cast (Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed included) as it tries to balance comedy and action.
Rating: PG-13, for violence
Showing: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox, Cascade Mall