Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the sequel to 2018’s Venom and is set in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe. Once again, we follow investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) as he struggles to live a normal life with the alien symbiote, Venom (also Tom Hardy). When serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) escapes from prison after becoming host of the symbiote Carnage (also Woody Harrelson), it’s up to Brock and Venom to try to stop the carnage (pun intended).
I admit I wasn’t particularly impressed with the first film so I went into the theater with low expectations. I should have lowered them.
After being introduced to a young Cletus Cassady (Jack Bandeira) and the love of his life, Frances Barrison (Olumide Olorunfemi) – AKA Shriek – in 1996 where we get a little backstory of these two villains, we jump back to present day to find Cassady in prison. Detective Patrick Mulligan (Stephen Graham) arranges an interview between Brock and Cassady at the request of the serial killer. Later, when Cassady is sentenced to death by lethal injection, he requests to meet Brock one more time where he unexpectedly becomes the host for Venom’s son, Carnage.
With Carnage as his new ally, Cassady easily breaks out of prison and finds Barrison (Naomie Harris) who has been locked up her entire life. The three of them go on a rampage and the only ones who can save the city are Brock and Venom. But there’s just one problem – they’ve had a nasty break-up. That’s right. After what can best be described as a serious case of “lovers’ quarrel”, the two have gone their separate ways.
With all three villains wreaking havoc and killing anyone unlucky enough to get in their way, we can only hope Brock and Venom find a way to make up and deal with their differences if they are going to save the day.
What really makes this film a disappointment is the inconsistent and mismatched tone director Andy Serkis (Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, The Ruins of Empires) has gone for – especially given the monstrous (both human and inhuman) characters at his disposal. One moment we have slapstick, juvenile comedy such as the scenes where Brock and Venom get into arguments and fights in the apartment or when Venom goes out night-clubbing to suddenly being in a horror movie when Carnage slaughters a bunch of people when he busts out of prison or the end fight scene where Carnage is viciously stabbing the heck out of Venom. Is this a movie for kids or are we watching a movie for adults?
For the most part Venom: Let There Be Carnage is trying to be a comedy as it’s got the PG-13 rating though, to be frank, it just doesn’t work. It’s not a funny script. These characters yearn and deserve a more adult-oriented cinematic experience. And when we are given the snippets of the brutality that comes with characters such as Venom and Carnage, it feels like they’re holding back on what potential this film could have had if it was taken more seriously.
To make it worse, the mismatched tone and forced comedy impacts the acting to such a point I felt sorry for the actors in the film. I’m a big fan of Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson, but seeing them act like buffoons for cheap laughs in a movie that desperately needed a more serious tone made me want to walk out. There were numerous times my wife and I looked at each other in the theatre and mouthed the words “what the F%^^& is this?” It’s so juvenile that it’s hard to take any of it seriously. How do you screw up Venom vs Carnage? Well, watch this and find out.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is doing well at the box office but that’s more an indication the marketing did a great job getting bums in seats rather than it being a good film. Because it’s not. With embarrassing performances, a predictable story, and poor direction this is easily one of the worst big-budget films I’ve seen this year. Hopefully, when Venom crosses over to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, another director and writer will find a way to make this iconic character work on screen.