Directed by Ruben Fleischer best known for 2009’s Zombieland and 2013’s Gangster Squad, Venom is a surprisingly lackluster standalone superhero movie based on the Marvel Comics Spider-Man villainous character Venom, and, despite the efforts of the terrific Oscar nominee Tom Hardy, it feels very much like an unfinished project that has trouble staying on course. The plot revolves around a journalist named Eddie Brock, played by Hardy, who achieves superpowers after being infected with an alien symbiote brought to Earth by Elon Musk-like billionaire Carlton Drake, played by Emmy winner Riz Ahmed best known for his role in the 2016 HBO miniseries The Night Of. Drake is the overly ambitious CEO of a bioengineering firm called Life Foundation based in San Francisco, and he becomes so desperate in his secret research that he authorizes extremely dangerous human experiments using the alien lifeforms. At the beginning of the film, Brock is engaged to a high-powered lawyer played by Golden Globe winner Michelle Williams, but she loses her job after Brock uses some of her classified documents to help expose Drake. Brock’s suspicions about Drake are confirmed after he gets in contact with a Life Foundation scientist played by Jenny Slate who does not approve of Drake’s experiments. It is at this point that Brock is joined with one of the alien symbiotes that becomes known as Venom and develops unusual capabilities when Venom takes over his body. Drake and his army of security guards try to locate Brock and extract Venom so that it could be used for further trials. The movie then shifts into high gear with a series of CGI action sequences in which Venom talks to and takes control of Brock who is easily able to fend off the heavily-armed forces of Drake. There are elements of humor in the sarcastic interactions between the largely bewildered Brock and the malicious Venom; their relationship is a bizarre Jekyll and Hyde in which their polar opposite personalities struggle against one another. Overall, I found the movie only appealing for the performance of Tom Hardy who is one of my favorite actors, and I was quite frankly surprised at how abrupt the film ended and left the audience scratching their heads. The problem was that it did not know what kind of movie it wanted to be: a more humorous comic book adaptation like Guardians of the Galaxy or a more serious superhero movie like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

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