Venom: Let There Be Carnage feels like a refined version of 2018’s Venom. It realizes that the heart and soul of such an anti-hero story is the chemistry of Eddie Brock and Venom. It is also smart enough to not waste time with almost an hour of meandering exposition. In many ways, it’s the Venom film we deserve. Venom 2 a brisk and charming buddy picture that is strong enough to be aware of this aspect. And it is such a refreshing comic book movie.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage Review: CONTAINS SPOILERS
Venom and Eddie as Roommates
In Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is still working as a journalist. He’s also still living the alien parasite Venom in his body. They’re still struggling to get along but making baby steps in their relationship.
Sure, Venom still wants to bite the head off of the nosey Detective Mulligan (Stephen Graham). But when Eddie finds out his ex Anne (Michelle Williams) has married someone, Venom tries to cheer up Eddie. He may be a human-chomping monster but he’s still Eddie’s friend.
Their friendship, however, is straining. Venom desperately wants to munch flesh to survive but Eddie discourages that lifestyle. A feud is had that and a break-up occurs.
The Carnage Coming
Eddie’s latest assignment in Venom: Let There Be Carnage concerns the prisoner Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). Having grown up a deranged misfit, Cletus is on death row for his many murders. In classic psychopath fashion, he speaks in dark passages and grins with sinister intent.
Cletus happens to come in contact with Venom’s black goo. His contact transforms him into the darkly crimson Carnage. With similar Venom powers, the killer naturally goes on a killing spree.
Cletus also has a romance with the imprisoned mutant Shriek (Naomie Harris). Their romance sustains Cletus but also conflicts with his relationship with Carnage. After all, her powers of ear-splitting voice hinder Carnage’s abilities.
Loving The Monster
At its core, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is less about the battle of aliens. It’s more of a conflict of relationships. Cletus is in a dangerous relationship with Carnage and Eddie needs to show some compassion for Venom.
That may sound weird but the film does its best to make this Eddie/Venom love real. They have typical quarrels of roommates and lovers. Except instead of arguing about who washes the dishes, Venom argues that he should be allowed to eat criminals.
The moments where they do get along are a real treat. Eddie struggles to solve Cletus’s murders while Venom angrily shouts quickly about tracking clues. They make such a great team that it’s truly heartbreaking to watch them split.
A New Look for the Venom Sequel
Director Andy Serkis steps up to the plate for Venom 2 and he certainly knows what he’s doing. Having stewed in the visual effects scene as a mo-cap actor, Serkis knows what works. That’s an especially strong perspective to have for a film such as this.
Unlike the last film, Venom: Let There Be Carnage does not appear obscured in shadows and smoke. He is actually more visible than ever. As a result, Venom can do more than ever.
For instance, Venom’s break-up leads to him taking on new human hosts. Before he does so, however, he trashes Eddie’s apartment and his motorcycle. It’s convincing enough that one can really appreciate the magnitude and absurdity of such a split.
A Better Battle of Symbiotes
While Venom 2 is clearly more about relational conflicts, the visual effects battles are not too shabby. As previously noted, Venom is more visible in his scenes. Ditto for Carnage.
It would seem like Carnage would be even more of a blur with his multiple limbs and bounding speed. Yet everything from his prison rampage to his night on the town is visually comprehensible. Even Carnage literally creating a tornado is still not a blur of where he is or what he’s doing.
The climax is also alluring for taking place in a church. The architecture makes for great destruction and Carnage looks good in front of stained glass. There are even a few scenes where it’s just Hardy and Harrelson beating down each other amid scaffolding.
Caring About Venom
Paced at 97 minutes, it’s stunning just how much such a short film can make the audience care for Venom. He seems like a simple brute when looking at the first film. There’s more to him in Venom 2 though.
In an Instagram Q&A with IGN, Serkis said that, “It was actually always going to be [leaner]. We always wanted this film to be a real thrill ride. And a fast, muscular [movie] … not hanging around too much with exposition.”
There’s a great scene where Venom starts jumping into new hosts. In one body, he attends a rave in his full symbiote form. He steals the microphone and announces to a crowd that he’s proud to be himself.
The rave crowd reads this as Venom coming out of the closet. He even states that he’s “out of the Eddie closet.” He’s tired of living a lie and the queer readings of this aspect are delightfully off the charts.
The Funny Side of Villains
Eddie and Venom are the real stars of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, despite the title. Carnage just feels like a standard villain with psychopathic urges. Even his ultimate desire for showing interest in Eddie feels tacked onto the story last-minute.
But there’s plenty of charm to make up for this simplicity. The cackling remarks of Cletus are enduring if not all that hilarious. He thankfully doesn’t steal the spotlight from the better bits of Eddie and Venom.
The duo makes such a cute couple that every scene between them is a riot. Whether they’re arguing about how to handle a break-up or what to have for dinner. The whole film could just involve their personal antics and still be a great film.
Venom 2 is far superior when compared to its predecessor.
Venom 2 trims up the lesser elements and finds that juicy chemistry worth exploring. The result may be one of Marvel’s most charming of anti-hero pictures. That’s worth far more than a Venom film with core or ties to the MCU.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is now playing in theaters.