While it centres on a Marvel (anti-)hero, and it’s both peppered with witty dialogue and shot through with eye-popping action, it’s a good deal darker than a lot of other superhero films. Unlike Iron Man, Cap and Spidey, Venom isn’t interested in capturing villains – he’d rather just bite their heads off… literally. In spirit, humour and flying body parts, Venom is closer to Deadpool than The Avengers.
Venom tells the story of investigative journalist Eddie Brock, a neurotic, twitchy loser who’s looking into the activities of the shady Life Foundation that is allegedly conducting human experiments. After his attempts to break into its HQ goes horribly wrong, Brock finds himself feeling hungry all the time and hearing a voice in his head.
This voice belongs to Venom, an alien ‘symbiote’, who is the reason Brock is ravenous – Venom needs Eddie to eat constantly to provide ‘fuel for the tank’. Things take a turn for the violent when people at the Life Foundation, who were experimenting on Venom before he bonded with Brock, send a bunch of blood-thirsty gunmen to recapture the symbiote. It’s here that Brock finds out that his new buddy has some rather horrifying powers.
As Brock (and the voice of Venom), Tom Hardy pretty much steals the show in this movie. The support players turn in good performances (Riz Ahmed is wonderfully smug as the evil Life Foundation CEO, and Michelle Williams as Brock’s love interest Anne finds a great balance between concern and exasperation), but this is really Hardy’s show. He starts with Brock as an anxious mess to begin with, but once Venom is in the picture, everything ratchets up to 11; Hardy dives into the role (and at one point into a lobster tank) making Brock believable as an unstable oddball, lending credibility to the idea that someone in his position wouldn’t be too much of a hurry to let go of Venom’s awesome and frightening powers – even if it comes as a cost.
As was mentioned, Venom isn’t exactly a family-friendly fare like the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The titular symbiote is a hulking, brutal mass of muscle who actually enjoys flinging adversaries and cars around like they’re toys. But the movie is also shot through with some deliciously dark humour. In a way Venom is the most violent and entertaining comic-book villain comedy double act you’ll watch all year.