This is a sterling example of why one must see a film for themselves, rather than listen to the opinions of others; if I’d listened to other critics, even some of my friends, and not gone based on their takes on Venom, I’d’ve missed out.

I’m not saying this is one of the best films of 2018, but it’s a step in the right direction.

We all remember Spider-Man 3, Topher Grace (That ‘70s Show)’s okay Eddie Brock but not-so-good Venom character. And some of us have run across the character in videogames, such as Web of Shadows, or Spider-Man on the N64 (dating myself…). Chalk this new Tom Hardy rendition up as the next best—I’ll even go as far as saying “benchmark”, as all Jokers since have been stacked up to Ledger’s—thing in anti-hero origin stories. The character looks great, visually, and I hope to see him return…maybe even on the MCU side of things.

And yes, while it is that—an origin story—this piece doesn’t slog by. At all. After the first 20-30 minutes, which is all character-building, concentrated on Brock and his personal and professional life, the thing moves at an almost breakneck speed. The titular symbiote is quite a character, itself; voiced by Hardy, as well, the one-liners and raucous smart-mouthing that comes out of it is pure joy. The interplay between the symbiote and Brock is one of the highlights of the piece, further solidifying Hardy’s icon status as a modern method marvel. His performance on both fronts is great—immersive in just how immersed he is in the character(s), the effort put in paying off in an equally fun and tragic performance. You end up feeling for both sides of this man, as the creature of Venom reassesses its own goals and priorities, the more time it spends on Earth and with Brock, showing a complex and even, somewhat, sensitive side we haven’t before seen in any iteration.

Hardy’s role, it goes without saying, then, eclipses a lot of the other “major” players…

Riz Ahmed (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Carlton Drake, for one, has a great set-up for an imposing villain. He’s manipulative, intelligent, has delusions of grandeur and a savior complex beyond anything I’ve ever written in my own baddies. However…he can get a bit preachy about it no doubt CinemaSins—when this is made available for him to do an “Everything Wrong With…” video, will have a bonus round dedicated to just how many times global warming/overpopulation/humanity’s arrogance is iterated throughout the run-time (a lot). Then, once Drake is possessed by the Riot symbiote—the Megatron to Venom’s later Optimus, as it were—all that is thrown in the bin. I would much rather they had him become corrupted by some other, “lesser means”—born out of that god complex, say, like more the route Mass Effect 3 took with the Illusive Man: Having his threat status be based on his cunning, man-power, and genius-level intelligence, rather than turning into some rage monster for a rand CGI showdown. I do like the look of the symbiote in its pure form, though—this creeping, writhing, almost cancerous-looking glop that can’t help but make ones gut turn over. It’s great.

I also feel like there was too much of Michelle Williams (The Great Gatsby (2013), and that “lost love” sub-plot. Being shown a little of it in the beginning—for set-up—a little in the middle, to show how it’s affecting Brock and his decisions, and some at the end when she realizes that he’s changed because of everything that happens throughout the piece, would have been enough for me. Instead, it takes up a sizeable third of the screen-time. That, and not nearly enough Jenny Slate (Gifted (2017), The Secret Life of Pets), based on what we saw in the trailers, makes me glad that Hardy was able to carry it all, make me have a fun time in spite of the sleights.

The soundtrack is varied—everything from Eminem and Run the Jewels, to The Black Keys and Gary Clark, Jr.

The CGI can be a bit cheesy, and the dialogue a bit hokey, but it’s a comic book story; pulp paper and cheese is the bread-and-butter of these kinds of stories—that’s what makes it escapism. And, man, Venom is definitely that.

Both end-credits scenes are cool, too.

The first one (which was spoiled online the very next day after initial release) would lead into a sequel nicely, while the second—a “day one patch”, as it were, by Sony after the picture was already in theatres—is a(nother) promo for the winter-slated Into the Spider-Verse animated picture. Unnecessary, to say the least; it’s been advertised across every pre-show, homeless person, and supermarket toy aisle for the past however many months, so this just seemed kind of schlocky and rude—making the audience stay for a second, seemingly-enlightening post-credits, only to be hit with that.

Not a flawless film—for there is no such thing—but, as I said, not a bad piece of escapism. As much complaining as I do about the very slight imperfections and blow-throughs (as well as blatant bloopers that even the laymen in the audience can pick out on first-run), I had fun with Venom.

Final Score: 8.5/10

A whirlwind trip from start to finish, there’s clean exposition (without the need for dumping), and lots of genuine laughs. CinemaWins “Yup”-worthy action scenes and a Venom character actually done well had me on the edge of my seat for a good chunk of the flick.