Venom doesn't impress me quite as much as some Marvel movies--it's no Avengers or Thor Ragnarok, but it's still pretty good. The story is rather generic: astronauts return with an alien aboard, which proceeds to take over the bodies of various human beings to plan an all-out invasion of Earth. There must be hundreds of movies and books with the same premise. Meantime, there are horrific deaths, fights, and a car-chase, but though Venom himself looks and sounds horrific, we do not actually see people's heads being eaten as threatened--much to the disappointment of some reviewers--the fights are fast and furious and the big car-chase is pretty unusual, with Venom reaching out with black pseudopods to toss vehicles around. It's not as mind-boggling as the chase in Ant-Man and the Wasp, but it's pretty impressive.

Tom Hardy plays failed reporter Eddie Brock as an anti-hero. He's got guts and a positively self-destructive determination to get the story, but he's kind of a schlemiel to start with and you wonder why his girlfriend Anne Wering, played by Michele Williams, likes him so much. The story doesn't pick up until the Venom symbiote chooses to bond with him, and then we are into what Marvel does best--smart and funny dialogue about totally insane situations. The difference here is that both of the bickering characters are in the same body.

Because of this, Venom, despite his disgusting goo and shark-like visage, comes across more like a misunderstood hero than an alien villain--but we're used to rooting for the monster, aren't we? On the other hand, the polished and totally sociopathic human bad-guy Carleton Drake, played with despicable cold charm by Riz Ahmed, is someone we hate on sight.

A couple of asides: The Astronaut J. Jonah Jameson III is the son of Peter Parker's boss and I'm pretty sure this is the only outright reference to Spider-Man, whom we have seen encounter Venom before. You cannot see this as a sequel to Spider-Man III, since Eddie Brock was quite a different character in the earlier movie, the arrival of the symbiote on Earth was quite different, and their mutual end was pretty much definitive. The second aside is that there is a very brief scene with Woody Harrelson, who makes your blood run cold, as a lot of very funny actors are capable of doing.