The first Venom isn’t exactly a beloved superhero film, but it does have its fans. Many enjoyed the odd dynamic between Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and Venom (voiced by Tom Hardy). However, the standard plot, poor dialogue, and underwhelming villain left a lot to be desired. It achieved somewhat of a cult status from being a so-bad-it’s-good type movie. The sequel, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is much of the same, upgrading in some areas while downgrading in others.
In the sequel, Eddie has regained his status as a respected journalist and is now interviewing Cletus Kassidy (Woody Harrelson), a convicted serial killer on death row. However, Cletus gets a taste of Venom, leading to his blood becoming infected with the symbiote, unleashing Carnage on the world.
Hardy and Venom’s Odd Relationship
Once again, Hardy is great in this role. He does a great job in the dual role of Venom and Eddie and manages to give both of them good chemistry with one another. Unfortunately, the dialogue he’s working with isn’t great. This movie leans into its goofy nature but doesn’t have the comedic writing to go along with it. Their dynamic can often come across as annoying as Venom and Eddie just shout over each other.
Plus, their dynamic is one we already watched in the first movie. Here, Venom once again wants to eat people’s heads but Eddie won’t let him since he is a relatively good person. This is basically what they were arguing about in the first movie and it would’ve been better to see their relationship go in a different direction. The character of Eddie and Venom is still enjoyable but we don’t get a new arc to watch them both evolve as characters. There is a large chunk of the movie where the two are separated and it feels unnecessary.
It’s also a shame to see Michelle Williams mostly wasted here. She isn’t given much to do except for being the person who broke Eddie’s heart. In the climax, she ends up being a damsel in distress, an odd trope to see in a superhero movie in 2021. Although, maybe it’s expected since this is in the Spiderman universe.
Fun, But Underused Villain
The one area where this film is improved is in its villain. Cletus isn’t a perfect villain, but he’s much more intimidating than Riz Ahmed’s character from the first. Woody Harrelson is having a blast here and turns it up to 11. He’s over-the-top but it fits nicely with this movie. However, Cletus did need a bit more development as a character. The film tries to make him a sympathetic character towards the end but it’s way too late.
The relationship between him and Shriek (Naomie Harris) is also a fun aspect of the film. The two are the supervillain equivalent of Bonnie and Clyde. Shriek isn’t given as much to do, however. She has her plotline with a cop (Stephen Graham) who shot her in the eye but this plotline doesn’t amount to much and isn’t as emotionally investing. Harris is a great actress but doesn’t get enough moments to shine here.
Since the movie is so quick, we also aren’t given enough time to watch their relationship develop. It’s introduced in the beginning and we’re just supposed to accept that it exists. Harrelson and Harris have great chemistry but there should’ve been more time dedicated to discovering why they feel such an attachment to one another.
Carnage himself has an awesome design and feels massive. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t take full advantage of this. It needed an R-rating so we could get the full force of Carnage. The bloodless violence just doesn’t feel as intense. Carnage only gets two big action sequences here and it never fully delivered on the promise of seeing Carnage on the big screen. Unfortunately, Carnage doesn’t get true justice here as he is one of Spiderman’s most threatening foes.
The stakes also don’t feel huge in the climax of the film. Carnage, Cletus, and Shriek’s main motivation is revenge and it doesn’t feel big enough. There are consequences of allowing Carnage to roam free, but the main fight is more of a personal fight between Cletus and Eddie instead of one with larger implications. This can work in some aspects, however, the character of Carnage requires a feeling of desperation. There need to be massive consequences on the horizon if this character isn’t defeated.
Serkis’ Direction Doesn’t Add Much
Andy Serkis takes over the director’s chair here and does a competent job. There isn’t anything unique about his directing style, however, the action is shot better. It’s more colorful and captures everything better. The final fight between Venom and Carnage is quite entertaining and is shot in a way where everything is visible. Also, the CGI is done well. It’s fake but it’s not noticeable. It blends in with everything well. There are plenty of cool visuals as well. The cinematographer, Robert Richardson, does a good job at constructing impressive shots, especially within the action sequences.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage as a sequel is fast-paced as you are never bored, but it would’ve benefitted from being longer. Everything is thrown at you really quickly and doesn’t give you enough time to process. It gets better in the second half and ends on a solid note, especially with an epic post-credits scene that will have Marvel fans cheering. Unfortunately, the route to get to the end is a messy one but it’s entertaining enough where you won’t fully regret your decision to watch it.
Sony still needs to figure out how to make great superhero movies outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’ve had success on the animated front with Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, but their live-action films could use some work. Venom is a good character and Hardy makes this version of him worth investing in. However, the movies themselves are just ok. If there is a Venom 3, which there most likely will be, hopefully, that gets the franchise going in the right direction.
- Good action scenes
- Solid performances
- Improved villain
- Great visuals
- Lousy script
- Underdeveloped characters
- Rushed pace
- Too many subplots
- Carnage is underused
- Awkward comedic moments