'Venom: Let There Be Carnage' Review
October 4, 2021
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is an insult. It’s an insult to the pieces of paper that were mutilated to make the script. It’s an insult to the film stock. It’s an insult to the millions of dollars that could have served an infinitely better purpose. It’s an insult to activists, as it waves gay pride around with an ultra-corporate attitude. It’s an insult to the talents of Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, and Robert Richardson. But most importantly, it was an insult to my time, as it took much more from me than merely ninety minutes.
The first Venom was bad for its reasons, as it was tonally inconsistent, with Tom Hardy and director Ruben Fleischer having conflicting ideas on what the movie should be. In the end, Fleischer’s darker take overpowered Hardy’s goofiness. Throw in weak characters and plot, and you got yourself one of the worst movies of 2018.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage has addressed one of those problems, as it swings the tonal pendulum entirely in the other direction, resulting in self-parody.
The sequel picks up where the last film left off, with Eddie and the alien symbiote, Venom, learning to live together within the same body. The two of them seem to be ripped from a Capra screwball comedy, as they’re sparring in slapstick fashion.
Marking his return since the post-credit scene in the 2018 original, the deranged serial killer, Cletus Kasady, is about to be put on death row. But before that fateful day arrives, Cletus and Eddie’s paths cross, resulting in the birth of Carnage, the T-1000 to Venom’s T-800. Cletus and Carnage spark their symbiotic relationship, one that seeks the doom of Eddie, and the rescue of Cletus’s longtime flame, Shriek.
Replacing Fleischer, who was busy with Zombieland: Double Tap and currently working on Uncharted, is motion-capture wizard, Andy Serkis. It’s a fitting lateral move, considering he’s worked with visionary directors such as Peter Jackson (as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Matt Reeves (as Caesar in the Planet of the Apes trilogy), two people able to seamlessly blend visual creations within reality.
Serkis hasn’t fancied himself much as a director, with Breathe and Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle being so underseen that they may as well not exist. With Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Serkis has landed on strike three, hopefully landing him in director jail. There’s an erratic and jerky quality to the film, one that tries to reflect the inner torment between Eddie and Venom. Locations become interchangeable, and so does logic as character motivations become lost in the struggle. Many of the actors seem lost as well, with Michelle Williams (way too talented to stoop this low for a paycheck) constantly trying to find a reason to exist beyond just being the contractually obligated “love interest that got away.”
Things quickly become hard to follow, with Venom acting as Eddie’s inner monologue, butting in at every possible moment with one cringe-inducing line after another. Integral information is doused while the three characters speak at the same time, making the effort needed to keep things straight not worth it. Once Venom and Eddie split up their bromance, you’re relieved as it means a few moments of peace and quiet.
There also seems to be an inevitable ugliness to the Venom films, as Matthew Libatique turned in the worst work of his career in 2018, and now the legendary Robert Richardson (a frequent collaborator with Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone, and Martin Scorsese) produces his most drab and cheap-looking work. At some point, you have to wonder how many people are involved in this franchise just for the money.
Definitely not here for the cash is Tom Hardy, who has deepened his involvement by receiving the first writing credit of his career. Hardy has always delivered 110% for each of his roles, even if it wasn’t in the best interest of the film. With this sequel, Hardy, as well as Harrelson, have dialed things up to a Looney Tunes level of zany. There’s at least some unintentional comedy in their line readings, with a highlight being “I’m a real boy and you’re just an amoeba!”
The badness of Venom: Let There Be Carnage made me appreciate other comic-book films even more. Marvel may be getting stale with their formula, but at least it works on a fundamental level. And based on the post-credit scene, we’ll have to see which side of the coin wins out, a battle which I am not looking forward to.