Venom: Let there be Carnage is an adequate superhero film that’s improved upon the strength of its predecessor, but hasn’t yet resolved its weaknesses. It’s a worthwhile watch if you’re a particular fan of Tom Hardy’s, or you’d like to see the ups and downs of a surreal, quasi-romantic relationship between a man and the alien sharing his body. Make sure to stay for the post-credits scene.
The film’s core is the wonderful performance of Tom Hardy as both Eddie Brock, an investigative reporter, and the titular Venom, a brain/chocolate eating alien symbiotic life form that shares his body. While the first film set this particular scenario up, it’s Venom: Let there be Carnage that totally gives itself over to this idea, so if you didn’t like the darkly humorous take on this fairly unique concept in the first film, you should avoid this. If, however, you did like it, the you’ll love how this sequel takes their relationship to new highs and lows, with the absolute highlight being a rather messy “breakup” scene, and the following scene where Venom finds his identity in a soul-searching scene layered with double-entendres. Nothing about this movie is subtle, and the presence of Venom and Eddie Brock is suffocating to the rest of the film – there’s not much more to add, and it’s not going to be very relevant to your enjoyment, because if you’re watching Venom: Let there be Carnage, you’re watching it for this.
Of course, Venom isn’t the only character mentioned in the title of this film, but there’s not a lot to really say about Carnage. Fans of the comics will be disappointed at the stark differences from the original, but he makes for a serviceable enough antagonist. Woody Harrelson’s performance is on the better side of alright, but he wasn’t given much content to work with, and so Cletus Kasady/Carnage are consigned to the lower tier of superhero film villains. Some praise has to go to the scene where Carnage first emerges, which genuinely had me gripping the edge of my seat, with the notable decision to portray it almost as if it were a horror film. Kasady and Carnage could’ve been much better had the same tone been kept movie-wide, but it’s unfortunately absent afterwards.
The same overall thoughts go for Naomie Harris’ character, Shriek. Her sound-based powers are a fairly obvious setup for the final act, and her performance isn’t particularly noteworthy, and the tension she brings to the film is based on the level of investment you have in the rest of the supporting cast. Anne and Doctor Dan return from the first film, but exist less as characters and more as plot devices. Stephen Graham turns in an unexpectedly good performance as Patrick Mulligan, a police officer with ties to Shriek, Carnage, and Eddie Brock. It’s almost as if he didn’t realise the almost goofy tone of the film and decided to play it completely straight, giving an understated performance that wouldn’t be out of place in a gritty police drama. Of particular note is a scene where he learns that someone he thought he’d accidentally killed is actually alive. It appears his character is being set up to play a greater role in a future sequel to this film – and since Sony seem resolved to milk the Marvel character rights they do have for all they’re worth, we’ll see if he can bring the same energy in the future, and hopefully it fits as oddly well as it does here.
Venom: Let there be Carnage doesn’t fix the mistakes the first film made, despite improving what little good material there was. The other characters are still somewhat underwritten, with weak dialogue and motivations, especially in our duo/trio of antagonists. There’s at least two outright cringe worthy lines, both of which happen in the final act’s big action set piece, which leaves a poor aftertaste for the film. Better writing will solve most of the issues for the next film, and I’m glad to see it appears Tom Hardy has a genuine interest in the future of this character, and this budding, weird Marvel grey-area franchise. I’m mildly excited to see what’ll happen next.
Overall, Venom: Let there be Carnage should be somewhat low in the list of things you should watch in the immediate future. It’s not going to change your life, but I at least was shocked by the increase in quality from its nearly unwatchable predecessor. It’s good enough, fun enough, and short enough to be a worthwhile watch, if you manage your expectations. Again, remember to watch the post-credits scene, because it’s of particular importance to Marvel fans.