In Hollywood, the phrase ‘desperate times calls for desperate measures’ is one eagerly held. When rights to certain cinematic franchises are nearly running out, the studios churn out films in the hope of capturing an audience and retaining said rights. ‘Venom’ is a case in point. A part of their ‘Spider-man’ movie property, the Sony studio is keen for another money-spinning franchise. When desperation can clearly be seen is when things usually fall apart. But ‘Venom’ has a few good points even if it wears its Hollywood cynicism close to its sleeves.

After a scandal damages his reputation, journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) looks to revive his career. Aided by girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams), Eddie investigates the secretive Life Foundation. Its leader, noted inventor Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), is currently experimenting on alien symbiotes. When one accidentally merges with Eddie, his world turns upside down. Graced with huge powers, his renames himself Venom and faces an armada of villains wanting his lethal abilities for their own nefarious needs.

‘Venom’ is a movie of halves. One has a story divorcing itself from the original comic-book source material without a compelling origin story to replace it. The other half gradually drags itself out of its initial rut to offer several fun moments. The original ‘Venom’ origin is far better than the clichéd effort seen with a poor central villain exuding little menace. The finale is a mess with Williams completely wasted as the love interest who wears one of the worst wigs in cinematic history.

Managing to rise above self-inflicted dross is Hardy’s quirky performance and the great action sequences. A car chase through the streets of San Francisco is a definite highlight with the excellent photography wringing much from the city’s vistas. About halfway through ‘Venom’ the script finds its feet and gradually develops the psychological friction between Brock and the alien symbiote. This adds depth amongst the poor writing and goes quite a way ensuring viewers remain invested until the conclusion.

Whether ‘Venom’ succeeds in spinning off into yet another superhero franchise remains to be seen. Its shortcomings highlight the ‘script by committee’ work ethic currently being used in Hollywood. Whilst not as bad as feared, ‘Venom’s sequel needs to duplicate the good points of this first entry if it’s to become a beloved part of fantasy fandom lore.

Rating out of 10: 5

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