Movie Review: ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’

Director: Andy Serkis

Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Woody Harrelson, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham

Plot: Eddie Brock and his ride-along alien companion Venom are struggling to live happily together. When serial killer Cletus Kasady ingests part of Venom he becomes deadly red symbiote Carnage and goes on a killing spree. Venom and Brock have to work together to stop him.

Review: This is a very safe movie. Maybe it’s because Sony Spider-Man movies tend to over-reach and stumble hard, or maybe because this is their audition piece for joining the MCU, but this feels like they’re being very, very careful to provide enough fan service without rocking the boat too much. What they have delivered is a movie I am struggling to remember less than a day later. I guess it’s a perfect sequel to Venom then.

After Venom ended with a tease of popular foe Carnage, we knew where this was going to go. Eddie (Hardy) is having a bad time, having lost his public role as an investigative reporter, his ex-fiancee is engaged to someone else, and Venom is constantly yelling in his mind demanding human brains. Through plot reasons he winds up face-to-face with Cletus Kasady (Harrelson), who provokes Brock into lashing out. Kasady takes a bite, becomes Carnage and starts running around the city eating people. Whilst Carnage is reuniting with girlfriend Shriek (Harris), a girl with super-powered shouts, Venom and Brock have gone their seperate ways.

From there it plays out exactly as expected. Our biggest complaint against the first one of these movies was the finale coming down to two identical CGI monsters bumping up against each other, and this one doesn’t do much to change that. The addition of Shriek, who naturally uses Venom and Carnage’s biggest weakness as a weapon, isn’t used to any great effect and mostly serves to provide an inevitable betrayal in the final act. Now that all the origin business is taken care of, this could be a chance to explore the character dynamics. Instead Eddie and Venom go through the same ‘learning to work together’ arc that they did the last time. Without any engagement or investment in this characters, the CGI monster-fest that ends the movie feels boring and generic.

Quite a bit of the run time is taken up with Venom and Eddie having domestic arguments about their chickens. It certainly feels informed if not influenced by Deadpool in terms of comedy. Unfortunately the nasty, goopy alien monster acting like he’s in a domestic partnership with grizzled Tom Hardy is a one-note joke and we can’t understand what Venom is saying half the time anyway. Like with the first film, we’re not in love with the design of Venom. When he’s in full beast mode, he looks the part, but whenever he is morphing into clothes it looks like the art decisions are made in save money and time in effects work.

They haven’t put much thought into the powers these guys have or what limitations they have. In this movie we have Venom using Eddie’s hands to draw like a printer, while Carnage straight up jams some tentacles into a USB port and hacks a computer network. Why they keep adding these abilities is confusing, since they’re usually once-off plot conveniences that raise more questions.

It’s impossible to take this movie seriously, as it’s so earnest to be a fun, goofy superhero movie. It’s such a carefully constructed mass-appeal superhero movie with no identity of itself. It’s all at once being comic accurate, a modern update, a comedy, a darker entry into the genre, a dumb-fun actioneer…it’s everything to an absolute minimum. It doesn’t do anything wrong, but it also feels dry and uninspired.

Rating: FOUR out of TEN