I feel like this one is what the original wanted to be, for better or worse, and we even got some Carnage this time around!
Set a short time after the events of the original film, Venom: Let There Be Carnage sees Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and Venom take on their murderous offspring known as Carnage, while simultaneously contending with a new baddie in the form of Shriek (Naomi Harris). Still dealing with the fallout from the last movie, Eddie and Venom are taking it easy for the time being, only to be quickly drawn into the gravitational pull of one Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), a derange murderer who has escaped from death row. Wanting to hunt Venom down for a variety of evil villainous reasons, Eddie and Venom are tasked with taking down one of their own just as their personal relationship begins to fray at its gooey seams. What follows is carnage, Carnage, and more symbiote shenanigans than you can shake a superhero at, making this adventure one of Eddie and Venom’s most dangerous and perilous yet.
Let’s be honest, the first film in this franchise wasn’t all that great, but something about the sheer lunacy of seeing Tom Hardy talk to himself in a sweaty stupor every other scene stood out to me as a high point amongst all the shoddy storytelling and questionable CGI fuckery that plagued the rest of the experience. And while I begrudgingly admit I enjoyed that film, that was then and this is now, and for this sequel, the quality of what’s presented here is markedly better all around, just not enough to call this a good movie through and through.
Continuing to follow Tom Hardy and his “Lethal Protector” through their ups and downs as a symbiotic pair, the addition of Carnage and his human protege immediately make this film more interesting than the first. Better than I expected but still left a bit wanting in terms of portrayal, Harrelson’s Cletus Kasady gets more than enough screen time to satisfy fans like myself, giving the movie a very comic book feel as Carnage is more or less dialed up to 11 and having a blast the entire time. Wrangling in a few new and returning characters alike as well as giving audiences something to laugh and be thrilled about, this film’s script isn’t exactly the best, but knows what it needs to do to give audiences an enjoyable albeit dated pre-MCU comic book movie.
A leaner and meaner film than the previous entry, new director Gollum…er…I mean Andy Serkis, does a lot with a movie that probably would have been worse off with most other alternatives behind the lens. Giving the film a much needed visual boost (especially with Carnage kicking around), the brutal fight scenes, quicker pacing, energetic directing style and comedic undertones do a lot for a movie that had no right being as good as it is in spots, making this the movie the original should have and could have been to begin with, yet still falling short of becoming something truly great.
But even with better action, more competent direction and a somewhat more coherent script, the final cut of this film ultimately does itself no favors by the time the credits roll. Chock-full of some fun action/comedic scenes to help push the thin story along, the first half of this film isn’t actually half bad (a few eye-roll worthy moment notwithstanding), with things only really falling apart around the third act. Considering this movie just barely clocks in at an hour and a half, the shortening of a film that this time around might have actually benefitted from a longer runtime is kind of a bummer, especially when the overall quality of the film takes a nosedive in spots clearly because of it.
A guilty pleasure for anyone interested in the comics yet still reeking of meh filmmaking decisions that need to be further addressed in the inevitable sequel, I actually enjoyed this movie for what it was, but was still disappointed by a quick and lazy third act and some silly moments that were just too much to bear at times. Regardless, I’m happy we got a film that brought Carnage to life, but I honestly think Venom: Let There Be Carnage could have been even better if the filmmakers took the property a bit more seriously, because as it stands, there’s more to this franchise than what’s currently being shown.