Tom Hardy and director Andy Serkis attempt to bring some new life to Venom in the bloated yet extremely low impact action romp, Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
Ever since Venom (2018) went on to gross nearly $900 million at the box office, sequels, spinoffs, and crossovers were absolutely on the cards. While the first movie made a huge profit, critics didn’t seem to latch onto it, panning it as one of the worst reviewed films of the year. However, the fan reaction was so positive it actually generated a lot of hype for this follow-up. With the addition of first-time blockbuster director Andy Serkis, known for his incredible motion capture works in bringing animals and creatures to life, this project had something going for it.
So was the fan anticipation worth the nearly three-year wait for this sequel? Not exactly.
Venom: Let there Be Carnage is admittedly fun in parts. The banter and almost ‘odd couple’ type relationship that the titular symbiote and Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock have is enjoyable. When they bicker and moan, it’s good stuff, at least while it lasts.
So much of this story is centred around setting up more Venom storylines and potentially a connection to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, of which this film was speculated to be a part of. The choice to ignore the main character in favour of another venom-like villain known as Carnage (played by Woody Harrelson) was bafflingly bad.
Sure, it is acceptable to set up the antagonist in an organic way that doesn’t feel like the film is grinding to a halt whenever they’re on screen, but as can be guessed, this movie doesn’t have the time to introduce those story elements in a natural way.
The action is fine, although the lack of any real bite or weight to those scenes makes the entire thing feel pointless and very soft. These characters are known among comic fans as some of the most violent and putrid ones put to paper, so the lack of any actual violence is felt. You can feel the apprehension from Serkis to not show too much gore or blood, lest the film risk getting an R rating and potentially losing out on some cash.
The acting is not the draw for these kinds of films, nor is the character work most of the time, so merely saying it’s all serviceable to fine is about all one could say. Hardy is a fun presence in these films; he always gives the material his all no matter what. Woody Harrelson is insane here. He chews a lot of the scenery and acts very big and aloof when he becomes Carnage, leading to some very unintentionally funny moments.
Most of the cast does a well enough job with the fluff material they are given. It is the kind of material and screenplay that serves no other purpose than to get the plot going from point to point in the most accessible and convenient way. The less than two-hour running time makes the film feel rushed yet also slightly underbaked. Nothing of any real consequence happens until the CGI-filled finale that seemingly never ends. There are a few fun, cheesy moments, but overall it feels very standard and uninteresting at best.
The film’s hapless and underdeveloped romantic subplot serves a bland purpose to remind the audience that Carnage has some kind of motive for doing the inexplicable things he does without any rhyme or reason. Carnage and Venom as characters should not require motives; in fact, they should be aimless villains, almost like unstoppable animals that need to be controlled by some likeable human characters in a thrilling plot. In this case, the story is anything but thrilling, the humans aren’t likeable, and the monsters are too motivated.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a fierce reminder that a successful first film does not mean its predecessor will be better. It fails to live up to much of the hype surrounding it and lacks the teeth to really go for it with its monstrous characters. It is telling of the quality of a film when the most interesting part is the end credit scene.
The film wasn’t a complete disaster; it just lacked anything engaging or interesting to justify its existence. An R-rated Venom film would be the most attractive way forward from here, but until then, expect to see the same thing over and over again until diminishing returns force the powers that be to take more of a risk.
When Brock enters Mrs Chen’s shop, Venom arranges a stack of magazines for her. On the cover of those magazines is Marvel writer Stan Lee.