‘Venom: There Will be Carnage’ is an Experiment in Indifference
If it were 2004 and the Marvel Cinematic Universe had not yet been established and Christopher Nolan hadn’t changed the game for comic book movies can be with his Dark Knight Trilogy, we’d probably be super impressed with 2018’s ‘Venom’ and its newly-released sequel ‘Venom: Let There be Carnage.’
But alas, it’s 2021 and those things happened, and we now have a pair of symbiote anti-hero movies that aren’t bad, but they aren’t particularly good either.
Venom in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Venom: Let There be Carnage.’ (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures. ©2021 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved.)
‘Let There be Carnage’ picks up in the aftermath of its predecessor, with Venom still inhabiting the body of journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and subsisting on chicken brains and chocolate – so as to avoid getting a whole lot of human decapitations pinned on the unlikely duo.
With his career on a slow and steady decline, Eddie gets the opportunity of a lifetime when convicted serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) summons Eddie to visit him in prison – under the guise of giving him the exclusive to his life story.
Two things Cletus doesn’t count on: 1) his meeting with Eddie contributing in his death sentence and 2) becoming host to a symbiote himself … Carnage.
While Carnage works to wipe out any human in his path and complete Cletus’ primary objective of rescuing his long-time girlfriend, Frances (Naomi Harris), Eddie and Venom fight like an old married couple and eventually split.
Carnage in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Venom: Let There be Carnage.’ (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ©2021 CTMG. All Rights Reserved. MARVEL and all related character names: © & ™ 2021 MARVEL)
It’s not until Anne (Michelle Williams), Eddie’s ex-fiancée, is put in harm’s way that the two patch things up to go head-to-head with the bigger and badder version of themselves.
First, the good things about ‘Let There be Carnage’:
It’s pretty funny. The back and forth between Eddie and Venom is reminiscent of a Jack Lemmon-Walter Matthau buddy flick – if one of the grumpy old men was a gelatinous alien that lived inside the other.
It’s action-packed. The action scenes are big and happen often. And unlike most big screen superhero fights, they can rely 100% on CGI so human limitations are no match.
It’s short. At 97 minutes in comes in a full 15 minutes shorter than ‘Venom.’
Michelle Williams. Honestly, she’s slumming it here. She’s head and shoulders above the rest of the cast and it’s painfully obvious every time she interacts with one of them. (‘Dawson’s Creek’ didn’t prepare me for that.)
THAT MID-CREDITS STINGER!!! No need to watch beyond it (nothing after the credits), but wow.
Anne (Michelle Williams) tells Eddie (Tom Hardy) she is engaged prison in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Venom: Let There be Carnage.’ (Photo by Jay Maidment. ©2021 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved.)
Now, the bad:
There’s really not much plot to speak of. I mean, there is a plot, but it’s pretty superficial and its only real purpose seems to be to bridge the gap to the next fight scene or product placement.
It’s action-packed. As mentioned above, the fights are big, frequent, and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, they’re at the expense of anything resembling a cohesive story.
The acting of everyone not named Michelle Williams. I blame this – again – on the lack of an engaging, cohesive story, as Harrelson, Harris, and Hardy are excellent actors. They’re really not given much to work with, and whereas Williams’ character is ancillary and can come onscreen for a few minutes here and there and steal the show, these are the three main characters and it’s harder to blend into the void.
Handing directorial duties to Andy Serkis from Ruben Fleischer didn’t help. Like, at all. More of the same, which leads me to believe the issues might go up higher than the director’s chair.
Eddie (Tom Hardy, left) interviews Cletus (Woody Harrelson) in prison in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Venom: Let There be Carnage.’ (Photo by Jay Maidment. ©2021 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved.)
Despite setting low expectations (I wasn’t thrilled with ‘Venom’), ‘Let There be Carnage’ failed to meet them.
It offers enough laughs and action to keep you absentmindedly shoveling popcorn into your face for 90ish minutes, but as superhero properties (Marvel, DC, and independents) continue churning out excellent movies and TV, Sony’s Spider-Man adjacent universe seems to be treading water … except for that mid-credits stinger.
★★ of ★★★★★