Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the latest attempt by Sony to muscle in on the MCU’s territory, and whilst it holds more promise than its frankly terrible predecessor, it still doesn’t quite come together as well as it should. After the financial success of 2018’s Venom, a sequel starring Tom Hardy‘s alien anti-hero with attitude was a surefire thing. A new director in the form of Andy Serkis (who has some previous experience with CGI characters apparently) certainly gives the film some much needed oomph, but there’s little on offer here that won’t be forgotten moments after the credits finish.
As the title makes clear, Venom: Let There Be Carnage centres on two major fan favourite Spider-Man characters – Venom (well, duh!) and the insane serial killer symbiote Carnage (played here by a bad wig that seems to be wearing Woody Harrelson). After Eddie Brock/Venom provides evidence that damns serial killer Cletus Kasady to a short stay on Death Row, the madman demands to face Brock one last time. In doing so, an accident occurs that imbues Kasady with the power of the symbiote and turns him into the monstrous Carnage. Together with his lover (and fellow mass murderer) Shriek (Naomie Harris), Carnage sets out to get his revenge on both Brock and Venom (who just so happen to be going through a messy little lover’s tiff at the same time).
It’s a simple, decent enough story. The main detriment to the film though is the runtime. Clocking in at a brisk 95 minutes, the plot practically screams out for an extra half hour or so in order to bring everything together in a satisfying way. With such little legroom to manoeuvre, a lot of potential for greater depth falls by the wayside. There are no high stakes, no character arcs and plot developments don’t so much flow as leap uncontrollably. The movie rattles along at a fair enough lick, but the story and character development moves in such a stop and start manner that viewers may get whiplash!
The over reliance on weird jokes and one liners don’t exactly provide much support either. Kelly Marcel‘s script is stuffed full of non-stop gags and pointless scenes that exist solely to be weird or quirky, but do little to advance the film or the characters. Comedy is all well and good, but Let There Be Carnage leans too heavily on the humour for support, relentlessly sledgehammering every moment with an interjection from Venom as if to remind us he exists and this is his movie. Some of it lands, but a lot of it feels disjointed and out of phase with the overall tone the movie is striving for.
Put all this aside though and Venom: Let There Be Carnage entertains enough. Andy Serkis‘ directorial skill shines through in the action scenes, which are beautifully choreographed and brutal in their execution. Carnage’s first appearance is genuinely exciting to watch, and the final battle, whilst a bit all over the shop, is climactic enough to entertain. Performances too, whilst perplexing, are impossible to not enjoy. Tom Hardy has his sweaty, manic Brock/Venom schtick down to a fine art now, whilst Harrelson and Harris are both fun to watch, even if they each have some occasionally groan-worthy dialogue to contend with. Unlike Venom, both Carnage and Shriek feel true to their comic book counterparts, which certainly pleased this Spidey fan’s inner geek, but it remains a shame how little depth and development time they get in this fleet-footed film.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage has the makings of a decent blockbuster, and for at least half of the film, it is exactly that! Were it not for the truncated running time or the juddering narrative or the odd tone, it could have perhaps reached the lofty MCU heights it’s clearly aiming for. As it stands, Let There Be Carnage is occasionally enjoyable but ultimately feels like a wasted opportunity to lend its titular anti-hero some genuine emotional scope.