“Venom: Let There Be Carnage”
BY JOSEPH MOORE STAFF WRITER
“Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” the latest entry in the Sony Pictures Spider-Man Universe, was released in cinemas on Oct. 1. The film, which is a direct sequel from “Venom” (2018), learns from some but not all of the flaws of its predecessor, creating the feel of an early 2000s superhero flick.
The story centers around the introduction of a new symbiote foe, Carnage, who lives in the body of infamous serial killer Cletus Kassidy, played by Woody Harrelson. Kassidy is out for revenge against Eddie Brock, the protagonist, who put him on death row.
The plot of “Let There Be Carnage” feels like a small step up from the original — but that doesn’t say much. The original had a generic villain, Carlton Drake played by Riz Ahmed, who was an eccentric scientist and businessman who was there to be bad. He wasn’t intimidating and didn’t do anything to elevate the film.
This time around, Eddie and Venom’s relationship is front and center while Kassidy plays second fiddle. Harrelson’s performance is entertaining, which works in the context of the role.
The main complaint between both films is the writing is uninspired. It doesn’t commit to a direction or make itself stand out in the era of comic book films Marvel is in.
The only reason this film’s writing is a little bit better in my opinion is the introduction of Tom Hardy to the writing team. Hardy and Kelly Marcel, the screenwriter for the original film, teamed up to do the story and script for this one.
I think the two of them recognized that the highlight of the original was Hardy’s performance as Venom and Eddie. So they devised a story that would showcase that dynamic — which the film does pretty well all things considered, but it doesn’t build a story that services that dynamic very well.
The story has some great high moments but the moments in between can be quite dull, a problem somewhat solved by the short run time. No scene is so long that the audience is bored, but there are some sequences which do slow the film down.
Carnage as a character is kept at surface level. In the comics, he is one of the most powerful and violent characters in the Marvel Universe. The film tones him down. It gives him only a few sequences to shine, with most of his powers being used on canon fodder. The exception to this was in the final battle of the film with Venom.
Considering the run time this makes sense, as the film would rather focus on the odd-couple relationship between Eddie and Venom, but it feels like a let down compared to the source material, as it feels like only part of it got transferred to the big screen.
For me it felt that the film doubled down on what worked in the first one and made some minor improvements to make it an enjoyable watch — but nothing to praise.
It is important to consider in the context of this film that in the original there was a disparity between critics and audiences. The original scored a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics but had a high audience score at 81%, and it seems to be shaping up the same way this time around. The audience seems to understand what they signed up for and they don’t mind.
There are hints of greatness with the “Venom” franchise: Hardy as Venom is entertaining and fun to watch, but I would like to see a more fleshed-out story around his character. Hopefully, with the implications of the post-credit scene, I might get my wish.