Relationships are hard, especially when your other half happens to be a slimy symbiotic alien. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the sequel to the hit 2018 action movie Venom and offers plenty of gore, goo, and drama. Full of humour and some dynamic camera work, here is an anti-hero sequel full of hilarious ideas and narrative potential. However, with questionable writing and some pacing issues, you can’t help but feel that at times, Venom 2 is lacking on both the entertainment and, dare we say, carnage factor.
The first Venom movie, helmed by Ruben Fleischer, was a financial success, as well as surprisingly fun, showing a wacky spin-off anti-hero franchise that could stand next to Marvel and Sony’s Spider-Man universe. Directed by Andy Serkis, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a faithful sequel to its predecessor. It is just as bonkers, and first and foremost, centres around the charmingly funny relationship between Tom Hardy and his outer space BFF, Venom. But in this new movie, we witness the two’s relationship being put to the test and see how the reporter and symbiote must bash out their issues to stop a vengeful serial killer.
Picking up where the first movie left off, the flick opens with a flashback sequence showing us the origin of Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) – who appeared in the post-credits of the first film – and his lover Shriek (Naomie Harris) being separated. In the present day, we learn that Shriek has been locked up in the Ravencroft Institute for the Criminally Insane, and Cletus is now awaiting the death penalty for all his crimes. But all isn’t lost for the murderous star-crossed lovers. Eddie scores an exclusive interview with Cletus, and after a violent incident occurs, resulting in Cletus tasting his blood, a new deadly alien is born – named Carnage.
Although the premise presents Cletus and his newly born symbiote Carnage as the leading antagonists, at the heart of this film, the main source of conflict is Venom and Eddie’s relationship problems. In some aspects, it feels as if Venom: Let there be Carnage isn’t so much about a brain-eating intergalactic gorefest but is instead a romance movie or buddy comedy.
After a fight, we see Venom and Eddie split up – literally – however, once Cletus and Carnage manage to escape prison, the two must work through their differences to save the city from an all-out blood bath. The focus on Venom and Eddie’s strife puts a fresh spin on the typical cat and mouse chase between heroes and villains that we see in most modern superhero stories. Furthermore, their interpersonal relationship is the most enjoyable part of the film and the most coherent.
Written by Kelly Marcel and Tom Hardy, Venom: Let There Be Carnage struggles in tying together three main storylines into one sleek film. We see Cletus and Shriek’s romance, Cletus and Carnage forming a dynamic, and Venom and Eddie doing what Eddie and Venom do. Besides the latter plot point, none of these story threads is ever fully developed or explored.
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The fractured narrative results in certain scenes feeling out of place and forced – with Carnage and Cletus’s partnership feeling especially two dimensional. Eddie and Venom’s relationship shines while the others in the film feel more like an afterthought and only work to dilute the movie, making the entire production feel thin, and unfortunately, less entertaining as a result.
Despite the significant fumbles in the script and some continuity errors in the movie’s logic, it must be said that Serkis’ experience as a motion-capture artist comes through in his directing of Venom 2. The action scenes are a fun spectacle that picks up the movie’s pace when its narrative dips.
From the battles between Venom and Carnage to the humorous spats between the alien and Eddie – such as a scene where the two start fighting each other, throwing TV’s and chickens out the window – is pure gold. There is something about seeing Tom Hardy throwing himself around and yelling at Venom that just never gets old.
Hardy’s performance is full of dedication, and his comedic beats never miss the mark. The compelling moments in Venom: Let There Be Carnage truly highlight that in this formula, simplicity seems to be key. Viewers won’t find themselves taken in by Cletus’s love life, quest for revenge, or typical serial killer backstory. No, they will be engaged in Venom and Eddie’s arcs, seeing them working out their relationship issues by slapping around bag guys.
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Like its predecessor, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a fun and snappy feature. However, its writing trips itself up; as it tries to match other Marvel movies by weaving in multiple characters and shifting focus on the story, it loses its charm. Woody Harrelson and Naomie Harris’ relationship feels out of place, all character development outside Tom Hardy and Venom is arguably non-existent, and the campy silliness that we all know and love from these characters gets bogged down by the narrative whiplash of constantly switching between different storylines.
That being said, Venom 2 is enjoyable in parts and does start to show how we will see the character in future Spider-Man movies and perhaps even part of the MCU. It’s still a bizarre, messy and disjointed ride. But, despite its failings, it is a smile-inducing entry that fans of the franchise won’t want to miss.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage hits UK theatres on October 15.
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