Rated 2.0

This is a sometimes entertaining mess, but it’s still a mess. Let’s get the obvious out of the way: you shouldn’t have a Venom movie without Spider-Man playing into the comic villain’s backstory, somehow. Venom looks like Spider-Man in the comic because the symbiote fused with Peter Parker first, resulting in the “Spider-Man on steroids” look. This film has no Spidey. Sony has loaned out Spider-Man to Disney, and no Spidey means the monster needs a different origin. Now it’s a space alien that passes through an evil scientist’s lab, a space alien that still manages to look a little like Spider-Man, having never met the guy. Tom Hardy labors hard at playing Eddie Brock, an investigative reporter who’s infected by the symbiote and starts biting off people’s heads in PG-13 fashion. Brock winds up with Venom’s voice in his head and an ability to make Venom sort of a good/bad guy. It’s all kind of stupid, playing things mostly for laughs and squandering a chance for a real horror show. Some of the action and effects are pretty good, and Hardy gives it his all, but the film feels like a botch job pretty much from the start. Michelle Williams gets what might be the worst role of her career as Brock’s girlfriend, and Riz Ahmed plays the stereotypical villain. There are hints of something cool, but they are buried under a pile of muck.