‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’- Film Review: Barely An Improvement

What’s the Story: Over a year and a half, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is just trying to live his everyday life the best he can, which doesn’t help when he’s the host of the alien symbiote, Venom, that gives him the ability to be a lethal vigilante. To make a comeback in his career as a journalist, he interviews psychotic serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), who becomes the host of another symbiote spawn named Carnage escapes prison after escaping an execution. 

Sometimes it’s fun to see sequels based on comic book movies because who doesn’t want to see our favorite heroes/anti-heroes on another exciting adventure. For me, Venom: Let There Be Carnage was the one superhero movie this year I couldn’t care less about. Why’s that? While the original 2018 movie was a major blockbuster and ended up splitting opinions between critics and audiences (Rotten Tomatoes scores: 30%/ 81%), I seem to be in the minority where I thought it was garbage. It has its fans, but it had trouble finding a perfect tone to make the adaptation work in its favor for a standalone spin-off based on one of the most popular Spider-Man villains. Now that it has come out after date shifts, maybe there was a chance to be one of those rare movies where the follow-up manages to be better.

Venom 2,' 'Diana: The Musical': New movies streaming, in theaters

And if you’re like me and didn’t care for how the first turned out, then Venom: Let There Be Carnage will not go down; becoming the next The Dark Knight or Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a massive game-changing sequel. But you’re unlike me and actually thought the original was fun, then there’s a high chance you’ll feel the same way here.

Like before and more so, we get to see this strange relationship has been resolved between Eddie and Venom; it’s complicated as it progresses. Both of them have different minds, despite sharing the same body. Eddie doesn’t want to harm anyone, while Venom really wants to eat brains off of bad guys and not just live chickens and chocolate. They totally went for the odd couple routine this time around, where it’s almost like an abusive relationship at times. Does it work here than in the first movie? It’s about the same for me where I know what they’re going for, but it’s handled in a way that couldn’t be taken seriously. Above everything else, I love Tom Hardy’s performance as Eddie Brock, just like how he was a strong positive about the original. Even when he’s acting to nobody, you can see how fully committed to this part to where Hardy takes charge if the script lets him be crazy. As of now, he knows the role of Eddie well enough where you can tell he’s still passionate about this character.

From the post-credit scene at the end of the first movie, we all knew Woody Harrelson would be the villain and have a better haircut. He wasn’t terrible, but it’s not a performance that was wild enough, as depicted in the comics. When Cletus became Carnage, he never blew me away when living in his element. There’s something about the character of Carnage in this that didn’t impress me as I wanted him to be. I couldn’t help to think his character is almost like Mickey Knox from Natural Born Killers if he ends up with an alien parasite. Cletus has a goal in mind to find and rescue his girlfriend Frances Barrison/ Shriek (Naomie Harris). It opens with a young Cletus (a younger actor dubbed by Harrelson, for some reason) and his Shriek (Naomie Harris) at Ravencroft, where she was taken away, and it was uncertain if we were meant to care. I never found the romance between the two of them compelling since it wasn’t developed enough to care about their crazy love for each other, honestly. For my money, Shriek didn’t need to be included in the movie. 

What got me a little excited was knowing it would be helmed by Andy Serkis, who has already made his name known as a director with Breathe (2017) and Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018). Seeing how he’s one of the best actors working alive and his work with motion capture performances in the past brought some momentum to this workout. And you can see he wanted to make this sequel as fun as possible, which he accomplishes in making a sequel exploring people’s demons and how to overcome them to make them who they are. With that being said, there wasn’t a lot in here that’s labeled entertaining. Something about this feels small compared to the first, as it could’ve easily fit well with ’90s super movies for the wrong reasons. The story isn’t that engaging or essential to remember with these characters. For all I know, I thought the whole thing would be about Venom and Carnage fighting each other; it takes a while to get there as the build-up trenches through a silly plot. I let go of the fact this wouldn’t have worked better if they went for an R instead of PG-13.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) - IMDb

Even when you expected this to be better in the action and comedy departments, they don’t get the job done. All of the action goes about as basic as one would think, where it wasn’t that energetic simply through how it was edited down and how I didn’t believe there were stakes. But those who’ve waited for their entire childhood to see Venom and Carnage fighting in the live-action form will likely be in heaven during the third act climax. Yet, it’s another fight scene where it’s just a CGI symbiote creature fighting another CGI symbiote creature that’s level of excitement ranges about a six from me. Then with the drops of humor to make it a little lighthearted, there wasn’t a moment that made me laugh. Almost everything falls flat. Why did we need a scene where Venom goes to a rave? They showed that scene in recent commercials, and it was like they didn’t want me to have fun with this. This had a small chuckle out of me, and that’s near the end.

Overall, I wanted to try my hardest to like Venom: Let There Be Carnage the same way parents want to enjoy their children’s significant other. But there’s not much in here to love when it feels rushed and doesn’t exactly know what it wants to accomplish. Seeing how it’s only 97 minutes didn’t make it feel like a chore to sit through. Comparing which of the two is better, maybe this, but that’s honestly not saying a lot. Once it was over, I felt like we would never get a good Venom movie, even if they tried. The only time I smiled in glee was during the mid-credit scene everybody talked about, and it’s easy to say that was when I left the theater pretty happy about what’s to come.

Final Thoughts: Venom: Let There Be Carnage embraces its fun side more, but that still doesn’t make up for barely improving over the first movie. Tom Hardy’s committed performance is great and the relationship between Eddie and Venom still makes for an odd couple, but it’s a messy sequel that’s more of the same I didn’t care for.

Grade: D+

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