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Hardy is sinisterly good as Venom

Venom is the latest comic book character to grace the big screen, in Columbia Pictures Venom directed by Ruben Fleischer. The film opens up, introducing us to investigative reporter and golden boy Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy). Blessed with an alluring fiancée Anne (Michelle Williams), a hit TV show, and a spacious apartment, Eddie appears to have it all. When Eddie's inquisitive nature causes him to get on the wrong side of Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), Eddie loses everything.

Months later, Eddie gets an offer he cannot refuse from one of Drake's scientists, who has grown weary of Drake's motives. Through a series of circumstances, Eddie becomes the host of an alien symbiote that gives him a violent super alter ego: Venom. He must soon rely on his newfound powers to protect the world from a shadowy organization looking for a symbiote of their evil deeds.

Since making his first appearance in a 1986 issue of the "Web of Spider Man" series, Venom has remained a fan favorite. The character made an ill-received appearance in 2007's Spider-Man 3, so a reboot was in order. The screenwriters make the wise choice to adopt "Lethal Protector" (Venom becomes a vigilante guardian hero for San Francisco) and "Planet of the Symbiotes" (an army of symbiotes invades Earth) for the film's central plot.

In the lead role, Tom Hardy does his usual solid work by fully committing to the character. To portray the character correctly, Hardy made the wise choice to provide the voice and physical stand-in for several Venom scenes. While the CGI may be a distraction for some, I was quite impressed with the CGI. The rest of the cast also does their fair share in their roles; however, Venom truly is the Tom Hardy show.

Director Ruben Fleischer returns to features after spending the last five years directing shows for various comedic television series. Fleisher still has a natural eye for impressive action sequences. One of the sequences involving a chase through the streets of San Francisco is worth the price of admission alone. Despite solid direction, though, Venom does have its share of problems.

One of the main issues with Venom is the film's tone. Rumors initially swirled of star Tom Hardy and director Ruben Fleischer clashing on set, and it is apparent through the film. Watching the movie, I can tell that Ruben Fleischer wanted to have a darker mainstream approach, while Tom Hardy wanted to stay true to the character and his comic book origins while adding his own twist. Another problem I had with Venom concerns the final fight between Venom and the big bad, as it is too brief.

Despite these two issues, I can still recommend Venom solely for the risks it takes. Instead of being a straightforward superhero origin story, at its core, Venom is a good ole fashioned buddy comedy. While this approach will not work for everyone's tastes, I genuinely enjoyed Venom and walked out with a smile on my face.

Superhero origin films usually get better with time, and I have a feeling Venom will be the same. While it is nowhere near as good as the Spider Man films, Venom is a fine start to a franchise.

Final Grade B-

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