Let’s get this straight right off the bat: Venom is a terrible movie. The film is awful, punctuated by some surprisingly solid and potentially unintentional comedy. So, knowing what oddly worked for folks, there’s been a recalibration here. Venom: Let There Be Carnage has doubled down on the comedy and silliness of the first one, while almost putting the actual comic stuff on the sideline. The end result is still a bad flick, but a pretty fun one. In a very real way, this franchise is moving towards midnight movie territory. Venom succeeded with audiences in spite of itself. Could the same be in store for this one? Potentially.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage has much more success making you laugh than it does thrilling you. There’s actually less Symbiote action than last time, which is notably considering this film is 90 minutes long. It certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome, though it doesn’t really give you much of anything. At best, it’s a comic book lark.
Continuing the story of Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and his Symbiote Venom, here we begin by being introduced more to serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). A prologue sets up his romance with Frances Barrison/Shriek (Naomie Harris), then we’re back spending more time with Eddie and Venom. Interviewing Kasady to try and bolster his fledgling career, Eddie/Venom stumbles upon clues to where Kasady’s victims are buried, condemning him to death row. Unfortunately, his next encounter with the psychopath results in him getting a bit of the Symbiote in him. Thus, Carnage is born.
As Carnage begins to carve a violent path throughout the Bay Area, hoping to be reunited with Shriek, Eddie has problems of his own. He and Venom are at a crossroads, with a breakup possible. Of course, the threat posing the city will inspire them to action the lethal protector, though another helping hand from Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) may be in order. As you might have gathered, plot here is somewhat secondary to Symbiote shenanigans.
Tom Hardy is again having fun here, though arguably not going quite as off the deep end. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a gonzo and wild performance. That being said, it’s not what you would call a good one. The same goes for Woody Harrelson, who is also having a blast, but is saddled with a pretty mediocre motivation for his character. Anyone hoping to get the definitive Carnage performance here will be sorely disappointed. Once again, Michelle Williams is mostly wasted, though she at tries to have some fun too, succeeding on occasion. Totally wasted is Naomie Harris, while the supporting players include a returning Reid Scott, alongside Stephen Graham and others.
Andy Serkis directs here and does lean in to the comedy a lot. Kelly Marcel‘s script, paired with a story credit to Hardy, knows that that’s where the fun is. Unfortunately, that results in the action feeling even more perfunctory and disappointing. None of the Carnage set-pieces are interesting in the least, while Serkis makes it hard to tell what’s going on whenever the two Symbiotes face off. Marcel and Serkis definitely are trying to cause giggles, and they’re reasonably successful there. They’re just almost completely incapable of making this a compelling blockbuster. Action-wise, it’s wholly uninspiring.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage will probably please fans of the first one. As for anyone else? Well, that’s unlikely. If you dug Venom, then this sequel is likely for you. Otherwise, you need not apply. Make of that what you will. Plus, for those wondering, there is another important post credits sequence to look out for. It doesn’t redeem the film, but it does tease an interesting potential next step for the Venom franchise…