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Venom: Let There Be Carnage (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 22


Starring Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham, Peggy Lu, Sian Webber, Michelle Greenidge, Rob Bowen, Laurence Spellman, Little Simz, Jack Bandeira, Olumide Olorunfemi, Scroobius Pip, Amrou Al-Kadhi, Beau Sargent, Brian Copeland, Stewart Alexander, Sean Delaney and Larry Olubamiwo.

Screenplay by Kelly Marcel.

Directed by Andy Serkis.

Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. 97 minutes. Rated R.

The first Venom film was considered a huge disappointment, both in a critical and box office sense, when it was released a few years ago. It seemed unlikely that they would revisit this particular incarnation of the series (the Venom character also appeared in with a different actor in Spider-Man 3).

However, with very few Marvel heroes (or anti-heroes, in this case) whose rights are not completely wrapped up by Disney (Sony really only has rights to Venom and Spider-Man and a few other characters, including Carnage, an off-shoot of Venom who also appears here), here comes another Venom movie. In the next two years, Sony will also be releasing movies based on lesser-known Marvel characters Morbius and Kraven the Hunter.

So, first things first, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a better film than its predecessor. That said, it’s not very good, either.

Directed with flash and bang and humor by Andy Serkis (Gollum from The Lord of the Rings), Venom 2 looks great, but it also highlights the main problem with this series. Venom is just a weird character, and is very hard to take seriously, even with the low bar of comic hero oddities. Even when he is funny – and he often is – he is hard to feel sympathy for because he is such a strange and self-involved monster.

Which is probably why Venom was originally conceived of as a villain in the Spider-Man stories. He is a more natural fit as a bad guy than as the hero at the center of the action. You can’t really see Venom doing things selflessly, for the betterment of mankind. He’s the type of guy who wants to wreak havoc and eat brains.

Like the first film, Venom 2 is pushing the comic aspects of the story. In interviews both director Serkis and star Tom Hardy have compared the relationship between the alien Venom and his human host Eddie (Hardy) to the old Neil Simon play-turned-movie-turned-TV series The Odd Couple. This is due to their constant bickering – often only in the minds of the characters – and, honestly, it is often rather amusing (if really bizarre).

Of course, this comparison only goes so far, because Felix Unger never extended out of Oscar Madison’s body in tendrils and tentacles and a toothy animalistic face. And Felix never tried to eat anyone’s brains.

Eddie is played again by Tom Hardy (Venom is played by CGI), again going far against his normal type by playing as a slightly punch-drunk galoot. It’s an odd fit for the normally intense actor, but he’s obviously having fun with playing a sad sack and he seems to be getting more relaxed in the role. He even contributed to writing the storyline.

Michelle Williams also seems a lot more comfortable with her ex-girlfriend role than she did last film, although honestly, she’s still way too good an actress to play such a nothing part. And her wig still doesn’t quite work, but it looks better than last time out.

That said, the addition of Woody Harrelson as his nemesis is genius. Harrelson could play a brilliant madman like Cletus Kasady in his sleep, but he adds depth, wit, bravado and a deranged glee to the role. (He also has a CGI doppelganger in Carnage.) Almost solely because of Harrelson, Let There Be Carnage has a much more interesting villain than the first Venom movie, although frankly the movie is much more interesting when Woody is Cletus than when he is supposed to be Carnage.

Of course, like any movie that is based in the Marvel universe (even one like this which is MCU-adjacent), the whole thing ends up with a needlessly violent SFX-heavy climax, which makes it just another superhero film. And Venom, no matter what you may think of him, is not just another superhero.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: October 1, 2021.


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