HAVE we all been sucked into a time vortex and ended up back in the early 2000s? From its dopey tonal confusion right down to the Eminem theme song that thuds over the endless end credits, this CGI-infested blockbuster feels stuck in the past even as it tries to stand its ground among the crowded superhero ilk of today.

Tom Hardy plays Eddie Brock, a rebellious reporter sent to interview ambitious, shady scientist/businessman Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) after his company’s space exploration mission goes awry. But Brock has his own agenda, to expose the truth of the company’s unethical human experimentation. After surreptitiously gaining entry to the lab after hours to investigate with the help of Drake’s ethically concerned top scientist Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), Brock becomes infected by a shapeshifting alien symbiote which gives him other-worldly abilities, a domineering inner voice and an insatiable appetite.

We have to trudge through a laboured and charmless first act which goes through the standard superhero origin story motions. Things ramp up once the alien symbiote attaches itself to proceedings, but it’s here where the real inexplicable chaos arises. Unfortunately, director Ruben Fleischer once again fails to live up to his early Zombieland promise with a tonally bizarre mélange that never really strikes an effective balance.

The action is laden with at-best ropey CGI which swings between threatening (yet weirdly toothless) and just plain daft.

Instances of Venom – looking like a Hulk-lizard hybrid that lost a fight with a fountain pen and sounding like a cross between Hardy’s Bane and the Cookie Monster – biting the heads off folk stand at odds with the awkward super-powered slapstick. The shapeless, headache-inducing inevitable final showdown ironically feels like the appropriate culmination of an action approach that lacks all impact. The comedy, mined largely out of Brock and his inner Venom voice squabbling, mostly falls flat and the film also criminally wastes a stellar cast, from a bland role for Michelle Williams as Brock’s lawyer girlfriend Anne to Ahmed as an Elon Musk-esque, self-righteous antagonist spouting eye-rolling dialogue.

But it’s Hardy who’s the focus and it feels like he’s in a different movie of his own as he fidgets his way to an oddly unengaging hero. It’s not the bottom of the barrel trash many feared, but its catch-all, try-hard attitude is its downfall.

It just never manages to gel into the fun big-screen comic book outing it had the potential to be.