Venom: Let There Be Carnage film review (2021)

The film shines when it focuses on the relationship dynamic between Eddie and Venom. Sadly, it mostly falls short with everything else. It’s extremely rushed and no other character gives you a reason to root for them or even slightly enjoy them.

Believe it or not, I’m actually one of those who enjoyed Venom. Of course, it isn’t anything groundbreaking in the genre, nor does it bring anything new or interesting to it. But, for what it is, I liked it, especially the interactions between Eddie and Venom, which is where it mostly shines. I was expecting more or less the same for Let There Be Carnage and sure enough, I got plenty of it. In fact, I think there’s more to enjoy in this movie in terms of the relationship between the two in the sequel. Unfortunately, I found myself not really enjoying anything else about it. I mean, it isn’t terrible, but I don’t think it improves on much from the original, which is ultimately disappointing.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage once again follows Eddie Brock and the shapeshifting, loud-mouthed, brain eating alien, Venom. The two are still trying to find ways to coexist without arguing and bickering. Their differences will have to be put to the side once serial killer Cletus Kasady also becomes a host to a symbiote, who they must stop before he wrecks havoc on the city of San Francisco.

As mentioned, you come to watch this movie because of Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Eddie Brock/Venom. Regardless of the movie he’s in, he’s almost never the issue as to why it may be a bad movie simply because he’s an incredibly gifted performer. He’s charismatic and mostly convincing even in the most ridiculous roles. Let There Be Carnage proves that. His interactions with Venom and the constant back-and-forth provides most of the entertainment this film has to offer and ultimately, that’s why fans are coming to see this in the first place. But, similar to the first film, I feel these two characters are, once again, stuck in the wrong film. With better writing and direction, I think they would thrive even more and actually be even more compelling.

I can’t say the same for everyone else, however. Woody Harrelson (Cletus Kasady) is yet another actor who’s phenomenal I’ve enjoyed most of the work he’s done. He’s not given much to work with here, though. The movie is overwhelmingly rushed from the very beginning, so there isn’t a lot of time to establish or develop his character. I mean, there’s a post-credits scene in Venom which reveals him, but that’s about it. Thankfully, I know who Cletus Kasady is because of the comics and how popular Carnage is in his many iterations (comics, cartoons, video games). But, for the casual viewer who has no prior knowledge, they get thrown right into it and you’re basically grasping at straws with what the movie gives you. All you know is he’s a serial killer who’s on trial and may get the death sentence. You get subtle and scarce details about how he ended up in his situation, but that’s it really. The movie is off and running about 20 minutes in and you simply have to hang on for the thrill ride. I’m all for excitement and a fast pace, but only if it’s built up and established properly. It definitely isn’t here. It’s one giant mess from the very start, especially when introducing the characters.

Speaking more on Kasady, he had his moments, especially once Carnage comes into play. Sadly, their relationship dynamic never comes close to being as interesting as Eddie/Venom’s. At least, for the most part, Carnage looks great aesthetically and how he uses his abilities in the film are cool, so that’s a plus. The same can be said about Naomie Harris’ Frances Barrison/Shriek. You learn she’s Kasady’s love interest and she has a unique supernatural ability of screaming very loudly. On the bright side, I could say her introduction was brought about a bit more smoothly, but she wasn’t a very interesting character either. In fact, some of her dialogue was, at times, cringe-worthy.

I have similar sentiments for most of the other characters, including the returning ones. Stephen Graham’s Patrick Mulligan is a boring, dull, and stereotypical detective who brings virtually nothing to the movie in this role. It’s obvious he’s being set up for a bigger role in the more expanded universe, but let’s see how that turns out. Michelle Williams also returns as Eddie’s former fiance, Anne Weying. She’s barely in the movie, but she’s pretty entertaining whenever she does appear. Peggy Lu’s character, the convenience store worker, also has some comedic moments with Eddie and Venom, but that’s about it, really. The weight of the movie solely falls on Eddie and Venom. Thankfully, it’s enough to at least make it a bit enjoyable. At the same time though, I wish I could’ve liked the characters a bit more.

The fighting sequences aren’t even anything special. Some are cool looking, especially the prison scene when Carnage first emerges. The final fight also has its moments, but it’s anti-climactic and leaves you wanting a bit more. It’s a shame Sony is adamant about creating its own Spider-Man universe and continues to dish out mediocre films. Of course, there are some fantastic ones, including Raimi’s trilogy and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but that’s really it. When you see what Marvel Studios has been able to do with the character and the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe, why wouldn’t you want the company to handle these characters? It’s a bizarre situation, in my opinion. Thankfully, the live-action Spider-Man multiverse, or Spider-Verse, is seemingly becoming more and more of a reality the closer we get to Spider-Man: No Way Home, and (spoilers) if the Let There Be Carnage post-credits scene means anything, it’s indicating Tom Hardy’s Venom will play some sort of role in it. I’m trying to keep my expectations in check, but it’s hard not getting excited about all the potential storylines coming.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is mostly entertaining mostly because of Hardy’s Eddie and Venom. Their interactions are sometimes hilarious and make the film worth watching. Sadly, a lot of it is bogged down by an incredibly rushed story and weird pacing, along with an underwhelming villain and dispensable characters you never get the time to care about. I understand director Andy Serkis wanted to keep it tight and to the point, but this sequel definitely would’ve benefitted a bit from a longer run time. The characters, at least, deserve that much. I can’t say I’m not excited to see more of Venom and his potential introduction to the MCU, though. If anything, you should see it for that just to get a better understanding of the direction Sony has decided to go with the character.

Score: C

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