‘Venom: Let There be Carnage’ Review — A Silly Symbiotic Sequel

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Venom: Let There be Carnage Review

The first Venom film wasn’t good. It was a bit of a mess, a film that noticeably went through a round of rewrites and reshoots. Despite its obvious issues, Venom was mostly watchable because of the untethered performance by Tom Hardy, seemingly the only actor in the film who understood the silliness and tone of the material. Bad reviews couldn’t sink Venom and now Hardy’s Eddie Brock returns in the sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage. What a difference a bit of tonal consistency can make as motion capture master Andy Serkis directs this comic book sequel that leans into the absurdity of its premise. In the end, though, Let There Be Carnage is merely a modest improvement upon its predecessor as the film is still hampered with unengaging plotting and muddled characterizations.

Much of the beginning of Venom: Let There Be Carnage focuses on the Odd Couple relationship between Eddie Brock (Hardy) and his symbiotic alter ego Venom. The two are constantly bickering, and this played for heightened comedic effect. Venom wants not merely to be an anti-hero lurking in the shadows, but he also wants to consume the brains of the baddies he defeats as he only gains sustenance through eating brains or chocolate. Eddie is struggling to reestablish himself professionally after the career setbacks of the first film, and that’s not easy when you share a body with a tar-like alien. Eddie’s personal life is also in shambles. Eddie’s long lost love Anne (Michelle Williams) has moved on and has informed Eddie of her impending marriage to Dr. Dan Lewis (Reid Scott).

Brock’s is fledgling career is given a lifeline by Detective Mulligan (Stephen Graham), who arranged for the disgraced journalist to speak with the infamous serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). The mass murderer will only speak to Eddie Brock in the hopes of revealing his twisted life story. After all, American audiences love serial killers. But Eddie doesn’t do as the incarcerated killer demands, teaming with Venom to piece together clues to solve some of the unsolved murders that Cletus has been suspected of carrying out. These revelations get Cletus Kasady moved to death row. In their final face-to-face meeting before his scheduled execution, a violent confrontation leaves Cletus with his own symbiote which he employs to escape San Quentin. The killer and his new symbiote take on the mantle of Carnage. He lives up to that moniker as he goes on a rampage throughout the streets San Francisco, settling scores with his perceived enemies while freeing the imprisoned love of his life Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris). Eddie and Venom must set aside their difference to take on a threat greater than they could possibly imagine.

The biggest improvement from Venom to Let There Be Carnage is the way in which the film is much more comfortable embracing its lunacy than its predecessor. Andy Serkis directs the film with the obvious aim to channel the madcap horror comedy of Sam Raimi. While Let There Be Carnage never reaches anything close to the heights of Raimi’s insanity, the embrace of the crazed elements of the scenario makes this sequel an easier pill to swallow than the uneven first film. Amazingly, Serkis was able to secure the services of the great cinematographer Robert Richardson to shoot his comic book sequel, and the result is a more visually appealing comic book film but that only applies to scenes that aren’t slathered in green screen and CGI.

Once again, Tom Hardy takes a rather middling script – this time penned by Kelly Marcel based on a story by Marcel and Hardy – and elevates it with a one-of-a-kind performance. Hardy’s Brock is ball of manic energy as he tries to navigate simple social situations while bickering with the snarky, bloodthirsty alien living within him. It’s impossible to think of another actor who could make this material work as well as Hardy does. As Venom’s antagonist, Woody Harrelson is just having fun once again playing a ruthless serial killer. There are shades of Natural Born Killers’ Mickey at play in Harrelson’s Cletus. And while the script leaves the character woefully underwritten, Harrelson’s infectious screen presence ensures that the film never lulls into boredom.

In the end, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a modestly improved sequel and that’s almost entirely due to the increased confidence in the cast and crew of the crazier elements that made Venom entertaining despite being a bad movie. It runs a merciful 90-odd minutes so it never outstays its welcome. A rarity in superhero movies these days, Let There Be Carnage focuses solely on the story at hand. It’s not concerned with setting up sequels outside of its post-credits scene. The great Naomie Harris and Michelle Williams are sold a bit short in underdeveloped roles, but its not egregious enough to undermine the sequel as a whole. And while I can’t say I am overly enthusiastic about this sequel, I would still watch another Venom movie if only to see what Tom Hardy can pull off with the role next.

Venom: Let There be Carnage
  • Overall Score
3

Summary

Director Andy Serkis embraces the absurdity in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, but once again its the absolutely dedicated performance of Tom Hardy that makes this comic book sequel overcome a middling script and deliver 90-plus minutes of silly entertainment.

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