Tom Hardy returns as the reporter with an extraterrestrial monkey on his back in Andy Serkis’ zany comic book sequel.
When Venom slithered into cinemas in 2018, audiences were somewhat baffled by Ruben Fleischer’s attempt to bring Marvel’s symbiote odd couple to the big screen. While critics savaged the film, the populace at large turned out in droves (perhaps as a result of the critical savaging) and become the sixth most profitable film of the year, with roughly a $700 million return on Sony’s initial investment.
A sequel was all but inevitable, but in a rare case of a studio listening to fans for the better, this time around director Andy Serkis and writer Kelly Marcel lean into the weird, campy, quasi-romcom qualities of the relationship between Venom and his reporter host, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy).
Picking up where Venom left off, Eddie is trying to co-exist with his parasite buddy while secretly pining for his ex-girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams) and keeping a low profile from dogged detective Patrick Mulligan (Stephen Graham) who has noticed Brock’s uncanny ability for being around whenever trouble kicks off.
Meanwhile, local lunatic Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) is in prison awaiting a potential death sentence and invites Eddie to write an exclusive story on him in exchange for publishing a cryptic message in the newspaper. Like Eddie, he’s pining after a lost love, though in his case, it’s the incarcerated sonically-gifted Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris) whom he grew up with at St Estes Home for Unwanted Children. During a violent encounter between Brock and Kasady, Venom accidentally creates a symbiote child who instantly bonds with Cletus: Carnage.
That’s about as much plot as you can expect from Venom: Let There Be Carnage, as the film takes its title as a mission statement and the focus is squarely on packing as much action as possible into its trim 97-minute runtime. At a point where superhero films frequently run closer to three hours in length, there’s something to be said for the breakneck pace of this outing, although if anything, it’s a little too quick; another 15 minutes or so might have helped flesh out the relationship between Cletus and Carnage, or Cletus and Frances, who doesn’t really serve much of a purpose beyond providing a secondary antagonist.
Michelle Williams fans will be disappointed (or perhaps relieved?) to hear her involvement is minimal in this sequel, and it feels like it might be kinder to retire her character in the next Venom film, rather than have Williams suffer the indignity of Sexy Venom again. Unlike her co-stars, Williams just doesn’t seem to be having enjoying herself, as if she knows this is purely about securing a paycheque to fund her next indie passion project.
Hardy, on the other hand, is having the time of his life. The rapport between Eddie and Venom is so effortless it’s easy to forget he’s playing both roles, and it’s gratifying how easily Hardy slips into the persona of a sweaty, weirdo loser considering his smouldering off-camera persona. Transforming the queer undertones of the first movie into overtones this time around, a highlight comes in the form of Venom visiting a rave, covering himself in glowsticks, and declaring to a crowd that he is “out of the Eddie closet”. It’s absolutely absurd – and also a lot of fun. Similarly, Harrelson is having a grand time back in his Natural Born Killers routine; it’s a shame the film doesn’t give Cletus and Eddie more screen time together.
With Sony seemingly having realised the element that’s most interesting about Venom is, in fact, the relationship between Venom and Eddie Brock, the film takes itself less seriously than its predecessor and is better for it, leaving behind all the grand scientific explanations in favour of…well, carnage. It’s be no means a perfect film, and could even benefit from pushing the body horror grossness of Venom further, but it feels markedly more sincere than most superhero outings to date and with a charismatic duo at its core, there’s a lot to enjoy here.
A mid-credit scene hints that Venom might be returning to our screens sooner than anticipated, and with that, there’s perhaps a concern Venom’s uniquely chaotic vibe will be dialled back in an attempt to fit into the more uniform world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but only time will tell.
Source by lwlies.