Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Comic book movies based on established super-powered heroes (or anti-heroes being the case) lead somewhat of a charmed life – if your movie gets an extreme critical drubbing you’re still guaranteed a sequel if the box office is favourable. How else would you explain the multiple follow ups, soft reboots and TV rebirth we’ve gotten in the wake of such movies such as Fantastic Four, The Punisher, Daredevil and numerous passes at Spider-Man? If anything can be learned from this phenomenon, it’s that the genre is still too big to fail.
It’s with this in mind that we approach the sequel to 2018’s Venom, a scrappy origin story to a Spider-Man villain turned hero that didn’t even include Spider-Man in it and that gave Tom Hardy yet another excuse to be endearingly fucking weird on Hollywood’s dime. Will the fact that it made a ton of money and now has ensnared CGI performance guru Andy Serkis to direct it mean that for Venom, the best is yet to come?

A short while after scumbag reporter Eddie Brock managed to turn his fortunes around thanks to a psychotic, brain-eating, alien symbiote dubbed Venom, we find the bonded, bickering pair focusing more on Eddie’s rising career and less on Venom’s desire to go out into the night and heroically snack upon the brain matter of San Francisco’s copious bad guys which has caused somewhat of a rift between the feuding duo.
Further complicating matters is the increasing clinginess of incarcerated, carrot-topped serial killer Cletus Kassady who wants Eddie to be his mouth piece as he holds out on the location of some lingering victims as he constantly dodges his date with the executioner’s needle. However, Eddie (using Venom’s freaky extra sensory powers) manages to let Kassady’s secrets out of the bag and gets Cletus a one way ticket to death’s-ville.
However, the rift between journalist and parasite grows far to wide for no other reason than someone out there thinking that all superhero sequels need to have their leads lose their powers are some point and so the two characters suffer a break up separate them just in time for Cassady to acquire a piece of Venom and subsequently become Carnage, a huge, red symbiote that allows the maniac to not only continue his rampage but also to track down his super powered ex-girlfriend, a sonic screaming woman known as Shriek.
As Eddie’s own ex-girlfriend strives to reconnect the two losers in order to save the city, Carnage aims to do some reconnecting of his own by giving Shriek a reunion she’ll never forget.

After my nice little soliloquy at the beginning of this review, my dearest wish was that Andy Serkis rode in on a white, CGI horse (one that he himself had probably mocapped) and managed to save the franchise from the murky, drudgery that encumbered the first film – however I regret to be the one to tell you that despite the changes behind the camera, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is yet another superhero flick that seems to go about it’s business blissfully unaware of what decade we’re currently placed in. Much like the first film, this remarkably tired sequel seems to be content to carry itself like the entire genre is lodged in the 90’s and that all it needs to justify it’s existence is the fact that it’s drooly anti-hero already has a built-in audience, so why try too hard?
So let’s first focus on what (if anything) works and fans of Tom Hardy’s ever more deranged two hander of Eddie (who endearingly still looks like a scruffy sack of shit for the entire movie) will enjoy the added layers of weird, odd couple shenanigans the movie throws at us instead of actual plot as Venom’s tendrils extend from Eddie’s back to cheerfully make him breakfast while they debate the merits of their pet chickens, Sonny and Cher. However, when the movie has to put it’s strange, one-man double act on the back burner and get down to some – you know – plot stuff, Venom: Let There Be Carnage seems oddly unprepared to give us exactly that – carnage.
While Woody Harrelson gives us the kind of lunatic performance he can – and probably has, here – give in his sleep, a restrictive certificate means the Carnage we’re served up (basically a red version of Riot from the first movie – which, as a Carnage fan, is utterly unacceptable) is of the rather weak variety to the point that Let There Be Kerfuffle would be a more appropriate title for the weak-ass action in this movie.
As the story side-steps rather alarming plot holes it really should be addressing (so, what, Venom is just killing his new hosts randomly as he spends his newly acquired freedom is shitty clubs?) on it’s way to a final act showdown that’s only marginally less murky than the launchpad fracas that ended the first movie, it keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. Why, exactly is Michelle Williams still a part of this franchise if the film keeps insisting on doing nothing with her? Why hire Naomie Harris to play Shriek when the character is not much more than a pointless extension of Kassady? Why dedicate so many scenes to comedic set ups that go nowhere and aren’t actually that funny?
And that’s the main trouble with Venom: Let There Be Carnage; despite all it’s claims of being a big, loopy, crazy-fest, the filmmakers seems to have forgotten to make it actually fun and instead you just sit there ticking off all the trailer moments until the shockingly short runtime (the best thing about the movie, to be honest) grinds to a close.
And yet, frustratingly, the character seems legitimately too big to fail despite the fact that he’s now had three, underwhelming outings in a row now since 2007’s Spider-Man 3, which is a shame considering the leaps and bounds Brock’s alter ego has made in the pages of his own comic book.

Without heading into spoiler territory, the film finally ends on a sting that finally seems to induct Venom into somewhat of a larger world, but to be honest – and this is me speaking as a lifelong Spider-Man/Venom fan, here – I’m not entirely sure I want this version of a beloved character stinking up the Spider-Verse and beyond unless they put old dribbly licky face in a better series of movies, pronto.
Otherwise, Venom may very well prove to be poison to any other cinematic universe who let him join…

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