REVIEW: ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ Leans In For the Fans

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Venom 2 - But Why Tho (1)

Okay. I love Venom. Sure, the comic book character is great but I’m talking about Tom Hardy-Eddie Brock and all the charm that came with Tom acting against himself in Sony’s 2018 feature. It wasn’t a perfect movie by any means and as a comic reader myself I get why some were upset with the take on the character, but for me, it just worked. So, I was excited about Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Venom 2) and entered the film with expectations of more of the same. And to be honest, that’s how everyone should watch the film.

Venom 2 is directed by Andy Serkis, written by Kelly Marcel, and features a story by Hardy and Marcel. It also stars Hardy as Eddie Brock and the symbiote “Lethal Protector,” Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady and the red tentacled (or are they veins?) Carnage, Naomie Harris as the intimidating Shriek, and of course Michelle Williams reprising her role as Anne with Reid Scott as Dan, just Dan. Taking place after the events of the first film, Venom and Eddie are living kind of harmoniously in an apartment filled with M&M wrappers, chickens Sonny and Cher, and a pizza box sign reminding the Symbiote to not eat people.

Mostly returned to normal life, Eddie is still working as a journalist and finds himself at the center of a serial killer case. With bodies hidden and only willing to talk to Eddie, the police use Eddie to help get the evidence they need to bring closure to Cletus’s many victims. But, while Eddie may be doing the writing, Venom’s perfect memory is helping him break the case. As you can expect, things happen and Cletus becomes Carnage, a red Symbiote who is much meaner and more violent (well as much as PG-13 lets him be), than his progenitor.

And while Venom 2 is about two Symbiotes fighting with each other, its real focus is Venom and Eddie’s relationship. We get to see them bicker, really argue, and ultimately come to appreciate and lean on each other. Let’s be honest, Symbrock is what is going to make Venom succeed at the box office—Sony knows this.

Don’t worry though, the Symbrock love isn’t as pandering to the fans as you would expect. Instead, the humor and relationship between the two all lands because of how Marcel and Hardy have crafted the story. It would have been easy to play with the joke that Sony’s Venom franchise is a rom-com by dropping lines here and there. Instead, audiences are given an actual look at a connection between two people being tested, strengthened, and ultimately becoming something they need.

To be honest, jokes and thirst aside, it’s clear that Hardy loves playing Venom, and having served as one of the film’s producers as well, it all makes sense. With that excitement comes a genuinely comedic timing he has with, well, himself. The pacing of the humor is not only well done, adult, and charismatic, but it also keeps from undercutting the action. The humor of the film, both through physical comedy and dialogue works in every implementation and it makes Venom 2 a joy to watch.

Venom 2 - But Why Tho (2)

Additionally, Venom 2 is filled with some great action set pieces and effects work. Whether it’s the Symbiotes attacking each other, random fodder, or just making their way through a rave misappropriating calaveras, everything works well. That said, one thing does throw a large wrench in the action: the PG-13 rating. With so much talk about eating brains, bad guys, and jokes about dismemberment, the way the cameras cut from certain sequences and the lack of blood makes a film that actively pushes adult themes feel watered down. And this doesn’t only affect the action.

As Cletus, Harrelson is his usual chaotic self, bringing to the screen a scary and nasty character who is consistently turned up to 11. But given that he’s a notorious serial killer, there is something heinous lacking from the character. Which honestly transfers to his portrayal of Carnage. As one of the most violent and viscerally disconcerting Symbiotes, when coupled with Cletus’s background, it all feels like a punch that’s pulled. It’s close to connecting, but just doesn’t. The only villain not hurt by the lack of R-rating is Shriek. As the villain with a stunning set of pipes, Harris is intimidating, cold, and a scene-stealer.

That said, Venom and Eddie as individual characters get such an extensive investment that it makes the film worth watching, especially for Symbrock fans. It’s hard to balance a character interaction that happens all in one person. Hardy has to act in response to Venom’s voice, which only he can hear and in most cases, while having an extremely emotive response. This makes Hardy and Eddie the foundation of the film and damn does his performance carry it. And it’s no small feat to also have Venom become a character realized apart from Eddie as well.

Ultimately, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is campy fun that leans into what fans have been saying about the first film that also offers some action that works to a point. While an R-rating would have greatly helped the film—which seems to be a trend for the franchise, there is a lot to love in the strong character performances, chemistry, and humor that makes Venom 2 a damn good night out, if you feel comfortable enough to go to a theater that is.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is playing in theaters October 1, 2021 nationwide.


Venom: Let There Be Carnage
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TL;DR

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is campy fun that leans into what fans have been saying about the first film that also offers some action that works to a point.