Hitting UK cinemas this weekend is the comic book, action horror movie, Venom: Let There Be Carnage. The film – directed by Andy Serkis – is a sequel to 2018’s Venom and sees the return of the Marvel Comics anti-hero of the same name.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage stars Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, and Naomie Harris. The film is a direct sequel to its predecessor, so if this sequel is currently on your radar, you may need to brush up on the first film before attempting this new one.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage picks up a year after the events of Venom, and since we last saw on/off reporter Eddie Brock, his life with the Venom symbiote has become somewhat fractious. Both host and symbiote are constantly bickering, and the pair are having difficulty finding common ground in their domestic arrangement.
But while Eddie and Venom go through the motions of everyday life, Eddie gets a call from the local police department. Convicted serial killer, Cletus Kasady has requested a meeting with Eddie, and the police believe this meeting could lead to some important information about Cletus’s past crimes.
Eddie reluctantly agrees, and through a brief conversation with Cletus he is able to obtain a clue to the burial site of his victims. Venom then uses this information to uncover mass graves, which in turn proves to be a hot story for Eddie and a much-needed career boost in his job as a reporter.
But the discovery of the graves has a negative impact on Cletus, who finds himself being sentenced to death by lethal injection now that the sheer scope of his crimes has been revealed. Angry and frustrated, he requests one more meeting with Eddie before he dies, which the reporter agrees to.
During the meeting, Eddie and Cletus get into an altercation. Cletus then bites Eddie’s hand, and in doing so he draws blood – blood which contains traces of the Venom symbiote.
Cletus ingests the blood, and a short while later a new symbiote emerges from his body. This symbiote calls itself Carnage, and after bonding with its new host, it breaks Cletus out of prison to terrorise the streets of San Francisco.
With a new villain in town, Eddie and Venom will have to put their differences aside if they want to stop Cletus and Carnage from going on a killing spree. But can these former partners really iron out their differences in order to save the day, or is their union doomed?
Now, long-time readers of this blog may recall that when Venom was released back in late 2018, I was not a fan of the movie. I thought the script was poor, the CGI was terrible, and I suggested those who hadn’t seen the film should “skip it”.
Do I still stand by that review? Yes, in most part I do, because Venom was a bit of a mess.
However, in the three years between the release of that first movie and the release of this new instalment, I have mellowed a little on Venom. While I still believe that first movie to be dumb, I no longer think it is awful.
My opinion is very much that Venom is an easy watch. So long as I don’t think too much about the film’s many shortcomings, it’s fine.
And my opinion of Venom: Let There Be Carnage is pretty much the same. This latest entry in the Venom franchise isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination, but it is very much on par with the original.
So, if you liked Venom, then I can’t see why you wouldn’t like Venom: Let There Be Carnage. This isn’t an endorsement, but it is an acknowledgement that they are cut from a similar cloth and can be approached accordingly.
Despite having different directors (Ruben Fleischer on the original, Andy Serkis on this new movie), the two films feel incredibly similar. Serkis has managed to replicate the style, the sense of humour, and the visual aesthetic of the original, while also coaxing similar performances from his actors.
Where the two films differ is through the special effects. The visual effects in the original movie came across as unfinished, whereas in Let There Be Carnage everything is complete and this is a big tick in this movie’s favour
It seems odd that I am praising a movie for having completed visual effects, but hey, that’s the world we are living in. I bad-mouthed the effects in Venom as they looked fairly crap; but here they look decent, with the depiction of Carnage in particular coming across rather well.
And it’s not just the visual aesthetic of Carnage that works, Woody Harrelson is good in the role of Cletus Kasady/Carnage too. Harrelson does his best to bring the comic book serial killer to life, and for the most part it works.
Sure, this isn’t the complete nutjob version of Kasady that comic book fans will be used to, but given the movie’s rating (a ‘15’ certificate in the UK, an ‘PG-13’ in the US), Harrelson does his best with the material he is given. It’s just a shame then, that he doesn’t get a great deal to do.
Harrelson gets a fair chunk of screen time, but it never quite feels enough. As a result, Cletus Kasady isn’t fully fleshed out, and as for Carnage, he is very underdeveloped.
The Carnage symbiote isn’t introduced until after the mid-point of the movie and by the time this storyline kicks in, it all feels very rushed. In fact, if there is one very significant problem with Venom: Let There Be Carnage it is the running time, which feels too short for its own good.
There is a lot of set-up early doors, including a fair bit of character development between Eddie and Venom, but when it comes to the plot involving Carnage, it moves at break-neck speed and is all wrapped up before it even gets going. If you are a comic book fan who has waited decades to finally see Carnage on the big screen, I can’t help but think you will feel a little short-changed.
And you should feel short-changed – The Carnage storyline was teased in the previous movie, and the character’s name appears in the title of this new film, and yet, Carnage does not get enough time in the spotlight.
I hate to say it, but this feels like Sony Pictures making the same old mistakes they have made before when it comes to utilising Marvel characters. The studio has a habit of taking fan-favourite villains, hyping them up, then struggling to know what to do with them. It happened in Spider-Man 3 (2007) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), and it happens again here.
I would be very surprised if any Carnage fan comes out of this movie feeling satisfied. OK, so they may like certain elements of the character, but I don’t believe they will be 100% happy.
Although, what this movie does with Carnage is far better than what it does with another Marvel villain. That other Marvel villain is Shriek, an old flame of Cletus’s, who is introduced as the sonic-screaming second foe in the film.
For want of a better word, Shriek is terrible. The character is paper-thin, and her inclusion feels like an after-thought at best, which is odd as she is integral to the plot.
Naomie Harris takes on the role of Shriek, and she is awful. It’s as if Harris is acting in a completely different movie to everyone else, and I really don’t understand some of the choices that were made here.
But thankfully, she is the only weak link amongst the cast. Tom Hardy is fine as Eddie Brock; Michelle Williams proves to be a delight once again as Eddie’s old flame, Anne; and there’s fun support from Reid Scott and Peggy Lu, who reprise characters from the previous film.
This is a good cast. If there is a third entry in the Venom series (and I expect there will be), I would like to see all of the main players brought back once again.
So, good cast, some decent effects, and a film that feels very much in step with the original. Anything else?
Honestly, no. I feel as if I have covered pretty much everything that needs to be said about Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
Going back to what I commented on earlier, this film is on the same footing as the first Venom movie. It has some elements that work, some that don’t, but ultimately your enjoyment will largely depend on what you thought of the original movie.
If you found something to enjoy the first time around, then you will have a similar amount of fun for part two. But if Venom left you cold, then I very much doubt Let There Be Carnage will heat you up.