I was not a big fan of 2018’s Venom, a film that I felt was far too bogged down in its self-serious, gritty elements to truly take advantage of its more outlandish moments. Thankfully, the sequel, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, knows that the title character is at his best when you just let him be a total goofball, and so at a scant 90 minutes the movie is really more of a buddy comedy that happens to have some superhero action in it. When so many superhero movies are getting loaded down with mythology and exposition, it’s kind of a relief to see Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and his alien symbiote Venom (voiced by Hardy) banter about what Venom is and isn’t allowed to eat. It’s not much of a film, but it is a pleasant enough distraction that makes you wish Sony would go ahead and just forget the superhero stuff entirely and just have Eddie and Venom in a remake of The Odd Couple.
Eddie and Venom still aren’t really getting along. They’ve established an uneasy rapport where Venom wants to eat people, and Eddie only allows the angry, wise-cracking alien to eat chocolate and chickens. Meanwhile, Eddie is trying to put his life back together even though the woman he loves, Anne (Michelle Williams), is going to marry the milquetoast Dan (Reid Scott). Eddie thinks he can maybe get his journalism career back on track if he interviews notorious serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), but before Cletus’ execution, the murderer bites Eddie and absorbs his symbiote power, thus becoming a more dangerous version dubbed “Carnage.” Carnage and Cletus make an agreement—if Carnage helps Cletus reunite with his childhood love Frances (Naomie Harris), who has the power to deliver supersonic shockwaves with her voice, then Cletus will help Carnage kill Venom.
So many other movies, especially superhero movies, would stop to take time to explain certain things like, “Why is a red symbiote more dangerous?” and “Why does Carnage want to kill Venom?” and Venom: Let There Be Carnage could not care less about answering these questions. The film moves at a breakneck speed with little interest in the “why” of it all and instead resolves to have fun at all costs. That means you get scenes of Harrelson chewing the scenery and Carnage chewing up random people while the other half of the film is a break-up/make-up story between Eddie and Venom. The highlight of the film is when Venom decides to go off on his own and ends up at a rave where he gives an LGTBQ+ metaphor speech about needing to be out and proud for who he is. In a regular movie, this would be part of an arc—that Venom doesn’t want to be hidden away from the world and suppressed in Eddie. In Let There Be Carnage, it’s played for laughs (which it gets) and then Venom goes back to Eddie so they can inevitably fight Carnage.
The superhero stuff is the least interesting part of the movie because it’s just two CGI things bouncing into each other, and for a film that’s has a colorful personality between its characters, the color palette is surprisingly muted. Instead of being the gorgeous crimson red of the comics, Carnage is almost a pale, fleshy color that does nothing to pop against the greyish background. Let There Be Carnage comes so close to realizing its full potential, but it occasionally slips back into the dull grittiness of the first movie, and where it truly lives is in watching Eddie and Venom interact with each other and the world around them to maximum silliness. I’m also surprised the film isn’t rated R considering the outlandish tone (and the success of Deadpool since studios love ripping each other off).
I suppose if you like your comic book movies to play it a little straighter, then Let There Be Carnage will be frustrating. It’s not a raunchy comedy like Deadpool nor is it a darker superhero picture like Batman. It exists awkwardly in between, but at least by leaning more towards comedy, you get an entertaining albeit instantly forgettable picture where a muscular CGI alien fires off quips. When he has to fight the other CGI thing, I instantly lost interest because this is not a movie about character or story but vibes. Perhaps you could counter that we should demand more from our movies, but I’d say we have no shortage of superhero movies with higher aspirations. At least Venom: Let There Be Carnage has the courtesy to be as fun as it is disposable.
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