Spoiler-Free Review: Venom: Let There Be Carnage Recaptures Charm Of Original Movie
The new Marvel and Sony movie Venom: Let There Be Carnage is both hotly anticipated and a film that still benefits from low expectations. I expected the 2018 original to be a disaster or, at least, disappointing. Instead, we all got a movie that was surprisingly sweet for a movie about murderous goopy aliens. The sequel does its best to recapture the charm of that first film, while also including two of the most popular Marvel villains ever to come out of Spider-Man. Tom Hardy is at his sweaty and manic best as Eddie Brock, who is trying to deal with his symbiosis. Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson does a passable job as Cletus Kasady, the human half of Carnage.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a two-hour movie, but one that feels shorter in a good way. The movie starts out somewhat slow, bouncing back and forth between Brock and Kasady throughout. They don’t dawdle on either character too long, and each storyline held my interest until the next switch. Of course, eventually the two face off, and director Andy Serkis does a great job of keeping the CGI mish-mash that is Venom and Carnage fighting visually distinct and interesting. Of course, that’s a moving target. As with the original movie, the symbiote fights can be a lot. It’s so fantastic it can be hard to forget your looking at obvious computer-generated visual effects. Still, this film is good enough that nitpicking the VFX is really all one can do to not just gush over it.
This is good news for Sony Pictures’ ever-expanding Spider-Verse. Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures may not have an active deal right now. Yet, with the multiverse now in play, it’s not difficult to make it all connected.
Venom and Eddie Are the Emotional Heart of the Movie
Image via Sony Pictures
Michelle Williams is back as Eddie’s former flame Anne Weying (as well as Reid Scott is back as Dr. Dan). Yet, while they play traditional Regular Humans™ in a superhero movie, they also represent something deeper. Anne and Dan are the parts of Eddie’s life that he hopes to get back to but cannot. (Despite what the late Stan Lee said at the end of the last one.) Venom and Eddie both feel a duty of care for them both, though Dan only reluctantly. Still, their future paths are with each other, and that does not leave room for Venom and Eddie to get the girl.
Where the film improves even on some of the (early) Venom comics is that the symbiote and Eddie have distinct, conflicting personalities. As with most modern Marvel movies, there’s a lot more comedy than you might expect. The first act of the film is basically Eddie and Venom’s comedy duo, as they both try to adjust to their new situation. In a way, the middle section of this film is a bit of a coming out story for Venom. I don’t (just) mean sexuality, of course. Venom is, after all, a pile of black goo. But, part of this movie is about Venom finding his own identity outside of Eddie. Surprisingly, this movie is the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to other human (and alien) beings.
Image via Sony Pictures
Unfortunately, Naomie Harris’ Shriek is given a bit of the short shrift in the film. She’s incredibly powerful, but she doesn’t really have her own agency or character arc. Which is a shame, because as an actor, Harris came to this movie to eat. I hope she is a candidate for a Spider-Verse TV series on Amazon Prime.
Venom 2 Is a Solid Superhero Directorial Debut for Andy Serkis
Image by Jay Maidment via Marvel
Screenwriter Kelly Marcel and Hardy dreamed up the story, with Marcel doing the heavy lifting on the screenplay. However, after directing 2018’s Mowgli, Andy Serkis steps behind the camera here and shows he can keep a street-level superhero story moving. Unlike the original film, the stakes here are not completely Earth-shattering.
Rather than an alien invasion, Venom and Eddie are just fighting for their lives. For a Talking Heads-style Psycho Killer, Kasady doesn’t even really rack up that high of a civilian body count. There aren’t skyscrapers crumbling to dust nor is there a scene where terrified Regular Joes and Janes stare at a live news broadcast wondering if this is the end. Instead, Venom: Let There Be Carnage does what the typical superhero movie does not: rely on smaller scale stakes. Sure, Carnage is a threat to innocents and the hero’s loved ones, but the world is not going to end if they fail. It doesn’t make the story less interesting, but rather helps us better relate to the central conflict.
The film also doesn’t get bogged down in heavy exposition or power-explanation. Carnage’s origin is very similar to his origin in the comics. However the “how” and the “why” are never addressed, and that’s fine. As for why Carnage is so much more deadly than Venom appears to be? That was explained in the trailer for Venom: Let There Be Carnage. He’s a red one. This may feel like an oversight or bad storytelling, but it’s not. Serkis, Marcel, and company don’t get bogged down in lore-babble and just focus on the characters themselves, human or otherwise. Along with Shriek, Carnage as an entity could use a little more definition. However, none of this gets in the way of a heart-warming story and thrilling action romp.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is currently in movie theaters.
What do you think of the film? Share your thoughts, reactions, and reviews in the comments below. Also, that’s the place to discuss the big spoiler at the end. (So be warned.)
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.