Humankind is depleting all of its natural resources. So much so that it's gonna need a better planet. Creator and inventor of the Life Foundation Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) uses his spaceships to bring back aliens known as symbiotes with the hopes of finding human hosts, but they’re deadlier and dangerous than even his multi-million dollar corporation ever planned for. Enter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), an investigative journalist who uncovers shady dealings with Drake’s corporation and inadvertently becomes the host of a violent symbiote called Venom. Forced to act as a hybrid, Eddie and Venom work together to take down the Life Foundation.
Venom is an absurd comic book movie that embraces how absurd it is, and honestly, the pure joy of the film comes out of its leading performance by Hardy. Already having a reputation for going all in for his characters, he makes no shift in changing his methods now, and here it really works – he’s not only playing Eddie but gives Venom his voice and comically, awkwardly, and believably acts like there’s an alien taking over his body - it's some of the best, and most importantly playful (and not method-esque performances) he’s ever given. As much as the film includes the typical CGI combat scenes between the two of them against Drake's cronies, there are a few set pieces of Eddie fighting his body's reaction to Venom's invasion and embracing Venom until they end up creating a weird bond of compromise and trust. Their arc from enemies to frenemies and friends is one of the best on-screen relationships to come along in a long time, especially in the "superhero" genre. It’s almost impossible to think that another actor could’ve carried the film as entertaining as he does.
Following behind Hardy is the supporting cast who aren’t “bad” in any sense of the word, but in comparison to Hardy don’t have as much to carry in terms of showy performances or transformations. Riz Ahmed as Drake is sort of your typical Marvel villain as a rich inventor who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, but Ahmed is charismatic and tries to rise above some of the cliche tropes his character has. More minor characters are filled in nicely: Jenny Slate as one of the few doctors who questions the lengths Drake is willing to go to; Celphas Jones as Eddie’s steely boss are fine the roles that they have; Reid Scott as a doctor who tries to help Eddie. The only casting that felt out-of-place was Michelle Williams as Eddie's girlfriend Anne; she's well-balanced as stuck between loving or leaving Eddie, but the chemistry between herself and Hardy didn’t quite gel - I had a hard time trying not to imagine someone else in the role.
Therein lies a small crux to Venom: it entirely rests on Hardy’s beefy shoulders. If his performance works for you, it’s guaranteed to be a good time; if it doesn’t, well, the whole film falls apart.