Venom: Let There Be Carnage - who knew they were rebooting The Odd Couple?
3 out of 5
Tom Hardy plays the role of Eddie Brock, an investigative journalist. Back in 2018's film he got exposed to an alien symbiote and chaos ensued. It was funny and I liked it. In my review I gave it 3 out of 5 and going against other critics who panned it.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage exists as a simple, 95-minute, kid-friendly, newbie-friendly, everyone-into-the-pool matinee attraction. The plot is “imprisoned serial murderer becomes scary symbiote and Eddie Brock/Venom have to stop him.” The second trailer even revealed that the “origin” of Carnage was nothing more complicated as “bad guy bites Eddie’s hand and tastes Eddie’s tainted blood.” I guess it helps to have seen the first Venom. However, as long as you know what/who Venom is you’ll be fine. Moreover, the film offers plenty of offhand expository information related to the core relationships (Eddie/Venom and Michelle Williams’ Anne) to get folks up to speed. The premise isn't overly complicated and was at the very least hinted at in Venom's post-credits scenes, with the reveal of Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady — aka Carnage. The sequel sees Eddie Brock back on the up-and-up after his exposé in the first film saved his reputation.
However, when he's the only journalist granted access by serial killer Cletus Kasady, his and Venom's lives are turned upside down. Kasady becomes host to another symbiote, and after an escape from prison reunites with his long-lost love Shriek to wreak revenge on those who have wronged them.
Where the first Venom film faltered for many was in its confused tone — a serious antihero film or a comedy caper? Venom: Let There Be Carnage leans heavily into the latter, giving Hardy a chance to go full-on physical comedian with Venom. For me there were many laugh-out-loud moments, easily bettering many so-called comedies I have seen in the last 12 months. Those who were fans of the antics will find Venom: Let There Be Carnage a very funny ride, with plenty of well-delivered one-liners to cause at least a chuckle, if not a guffaw. With Andy Serkis at the helm, the film makes great use of CGI and movie magic, really allowing Venom to fill the screen with a life of his own, even as he's tethered to Brock.
In fact, the film is — as they all promised — really a story about two people bound together who don't always get along. The issue is that they need each other to survive – Venom in a literal way and Brock in an albeit esoteric one, but just as immediate. These are the best bits of the film, which flies by at a breakneck pace. The downside of the slim runtime and quick pacing is that we don't get to explore the other pivotal characters, particularly Shriek. Naomie Harris is given a brief backstory, but her actions in the film (which we won't spoil) hint at a deeply complex and interesting character. She, however, is sidelined to allow Carnage and Venom to have their superhero-movie-requisite epic big battle. Far less messy than the fight between Venom and Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) in the first film, Venom: Let There Be Carnage has more visibly appealing, and entertaining, action scenes.
We can't talk about the action without mentioning Harrelson, who has made a name for himself playing off-kilter characters, and it's hard not to draw parallels between his turn as Kasady and his long-ago role as Mickey Knox in Natural Born Killers. He clearly has form in portraying these characters. For me though, he veered dangerously close to pastiche.
Marvel’s Eternals will likely be as newbie-friendly as 95% of the other MCU films and television shows, while Ghostbusters 3 will presumably play fine to kids who grew up on Stranger Things rather than Ghostbusters II. However, when all of Hollywood is chasing the next Avengers or the next Force Awakens, there’s credit due to a film like Venom 2 existing as a small-scale, stripped-down, character-over-plot singular feature film. Considering the cinematic universe aspirations, the Venom series is ironically one of the most “stand-alone” franchises around.
Felix and Oscar would be proud.