It's a little weird to make a Spider-Man movie without Spider-Man, but Tom Hardy and company come pretty close to awesome with Venom. See, the rights to Marvel Comics properties are basically a mess. Some studios own certain characters, others own other characters, and what you get is movies that are forced to navigate some seriously tricky licensing. That said, Venom is certainly a raucous good time, even if it ultimately feels a tad anemic, at least right up until the mid-credits scene (no spoilers, but you're gonna wanna see it).

Hardy is Eddie Brock, a Vice-esque journalist who runs afoul of a bazillionaire and scruples-free scientist type named Carlton Drake (Nightcrawler's Riz Ahmed) the very same week he loses his job and girlfriend (a there but it doesn't much matter Michelle Williams). Seems Drake has been human-testing some crazy alien shit, and when a scientist played by Jenny Slate (Parks and Recreation) develops a conscience, Eddie is thrust into a symbiotic relationship with a parasitic creature named Venom who can make him all strong and acrobatic and stuff.

It's dumb, yeah, but the interplay between Eddie and Venom is both charmingly funny and kind of kickass—be it in moments wherein the pair sprints up buildings or climbs space-bound rockets or bites people's heads off. Hardy is oddly fantastic as a scared man coming to terms with his newfound lot in life, and Ahmed's understated villain does get pretty creepy, we only wish they'd developed him a little more.

Fans of the comics will probably find more things to like than those walking in cold, but as far as comic book action movies go, Venom is certainly one of the more fun entries out there. Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) surely realized he had a wonderful opportunity to embrace more comedic elements here and ran with it, and good for him. Now, assuming you don't have some chip on your shoulder about refusing to like dumb/fun comic book movies, it should be a breeze to sit back and watch the heads pop. Go nuts.

6
+More fun than you'd think; action-packed
Citizen Kane this ain't, but is that a bad thing?

Venom
Directed by Fleischer
With Hardy, Ahmed, Williams and Slate
Violet Crown, Regal, PG-13, 112 min.