Let There Be Love
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a significant improvement over its first film, albeit still falls short of its potential. It doubles down on the only element that worked, the relationship between Eddie Brock and Venom, that allows for some humorous moments. Unfortunately, that risk hurts the momentum of the movie which clocks in at a brisk 90 minutes filled with bickering and relationship-drama instead of delivering on the promise of its titular characters. The film is tighter more focused narrative, but its competing priorities with the film it wants to be keeps it from being the all out brawl fans have wanted to see on the big screen for decades.
The new film takes place about 3 years after the first with Eddie Brock and Venom becoming more accustomed to life with one another. They tolerate one another and are often at odds with what the other wants with Eddie wanting to leave a normal peaceful life and Venom wanting to eat people and embrace his true alien nature. They come into conflict with Cletus Kassidy, a serial killer on death row that has an extreme fascination with Eddie. When Kassidy comes into contact with the symbiote, he begins to go on a rampage leaving only Eddie and Venom to stop him.
Tom Hardy is excellent in this film as he was in the first, and the creative team definitely saw what worked in the first film and made that the meat of this film. Eddie’s relationship with Venom is more of a quarreling married couple rather than the Jekkyl and Hyde most fans are used to. It annoyed me in the first film, but this dynamic grew on me a little more here in this film and I can appreciate the unique approach they took this character. Hardy is equal parts hilarious and grumpy, which makes for some fun moments in the film.
Unfortunately, the competitive relationship between Eddie and Venom is given way too much time leaving the titular villain in the shadows. Woody Harrelson does a decent job as the famous crazed serial killer, but the script doesn’t give him too much to do. Cletus Kassidy is mainly fueled by his desire to reunite with his long lost love, Shiek, and a hatred over Eddie Brock for his circumstances. This keeps the motivations simple and easy to understand which is refreshing given the over the top and complicated nature of the last film. The simplicity however leaves more to be desired from Kassidy as a character, which is sometimes warranted for a big name villain such as Carnage.
Carnage himself is amazing to watch on screen, with a mortifyingly chilling design that strikes the appropriate amount of fear and rage that he resembles from the comics. The action this time around is more confidently helmed so when Venom and Carnage do finally clash together, it is exciting, tense, and fun to watch which left me feeling more satisfied with the film’s third act than its previous two. The film is PG-13, and definitively could have benefited from an R rating where we could see more of the bloody and brutal destruction that a villain like Carnage could bring. The scene where Carnage breaks out from jail is a stand out scene, but you feel that the film could have been more if they committed to be a little more darker and grittier.
While the relationship between Eddie and Venom worked in the first film, the decision to spend over 2/3 of the film focused on it seems like a questionable decision. Its a fun dynamic but it grew tiresome when all the film relies upon is Venom’s 6th grade humor making dick jokes. The film has everything it needs to work, a great director in Andy Serkis, great actors in Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson, an excellent concept with Venom vs Carnage, however this creative team doesn’t know how to execute that premise properly and bring a solid blend of humor and tension that other superhero films have mastered in the past decade. While they did learn a bit from the mistakes of the first film, they still have a long way to go before there ready to compete at a higher level.
The mid-credits scene offers a nice direction where the series can go next, and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle this conflict moving forward. Overall, the film is a better paced and more enjoyable experience that delivers what fans came to see in its third act. By that time though the film wasted a lot of its potential with Carnage and focused more on the “love” story between Eddie Brock and Venom. With two films building up Venom as a hero, it’ll be interesting to see if he will ever embrace the villainous roots of his comic counterpart. For now, let’s hope that they pull off whatever comes next with more tact and purpose than this time around.