It’s always nice when a studio sees what works with their first film, and vastly improves on those measures in the sequel. 2018’s Venom, while an undisputed box office hit, was not a critical darling, but it was a comic book movie so a sequel was inevitable.
After numerous pandemic-related delays, Venom: Let There Be Carnage has finally arrived. Tom Hardy returns as journalist Eddie Brock, who co-exists with the alien symbiote Venom (also voiced by Hardy). The pair are having some domestic issues, and it doesn’t help when serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) breaks out of prison with a killer symbiote of his own to cause some destruction. Let there be Carnage, indeed.
I’ve talked before about the “bigger and better” approach that most sequels strive for, and I can confidently say that Venom succeeds in both. Not only is the threat of Let There Be Carnage greater and more personal than the first film, but the stakes are higher, the action scenes are more ambitious, and the cast have clearly settled into their roles. It had a lot going for it.
While its enthusiasm and sense of humor far outmatches the first film’s, Let There Be Carnage does little else. It moves at a lightning-fast pace (running just a little over 90 minutes), and while I believe this is preferable to unnecessarily drawing out the story, the brevity does not allow for much character development or emotional beats. Like most superhero films, Let There Be Carnage moves from one action-packed spectacle to another, but it decides to cut out the middleman, with little to no scenes in between, but just enough time for a quip or two.
The most development is given to Eddie and Venom’s relationship, but even by the end of the film you can’t say there’s been very much progress. Theirs is a dynamic which will always have the same endpoint, not only because it works for the story but because it’s a great crowd-pleaser. Director Andy Serkis has dubbed the two’s relationship a “love affair,” and the film goes out of its way to paint it in that light (even featuring a literal ‘coming out’ party for Venom).
Oh yeah, that’s right, Andy Serkis directed this movie. It might be surprising to some that the veteran motion-capture actor is the director of Let There Be Carnage, but I believe he was the perfect choice. After a long and varied career, we can confidently say that the man understands action, drama, and working with big-budget computer-generated scenes (of which there are many in Let There Be Carnage).
Due to the lack of character moments that would have improved this film ever so slightly, nearly every other cast member is an afterthought of the crowded narrative. Cletus Kasady gets some helpful background (not enough to make him a sympathetic villain), but you can’t help but love him because he’s played by Woody Harrelson — the man can do no wrong! Naomie Harris appears as Kasady’s girlfriend Shriek, who — surprise surprise — barely gets any development. Michelle Williams and Reid Scott reprise their roles from 2018’s Venom as well.
There’s barely any storytelling progress from the last film, but Venom: Let There Be Carnage is nevertheless a fun distraction — and hey, it’s a superhero movie, and we’re not getting many new ones these days…unless you count the influx of Marvel TV content on Disney+. It’s loud and boisterous, but the cast (especially Harrelson) chews up the scenery with entertaining results. Not to mention we can always rely on the CGI — the Venom and Carnage fights look absolutely fantastic. Like with most superhero films, there’s a lot to like, but at times it verges on overwhelmingly garish. [Grade: B]
Director: Andy Serkis