As the various comic book franchises shoot for more crossover in order to leech onto others’ successes (and perhaps mitigate some losses) there is something refreshingly singular about Venom getting a sequel.
Disregarding the obligatory teaser as to how Sony’s cable of Spider-Man characters could show up at other studios, this second outing for the symbiotic alien ‘lethal protector’ focuses inwards to explore down to earth concepts such as co-living, co-dependence, and oh so much bickering.
The biggest draw for 2018’s Venom was a truly unusual performance from Tom Hardy as investigative journalist Eddie Brock / Venom, biter of heads. Venom: Let There Be Carnage continues Hardy’s admirable commitment to look like a walking sweat stain throughout much of the run time.
Director Andy Serkis doubles down on Brock and Venom’s Odd Couple dynamic. Many scenes are simply comedic exercises in Hardy arguing with his own petulant and growly voice as CGI tentacles flail around in a sulk.
In a film with a limited cast, the Brock / Venom relationship stays fresh and funny throughout.
One criticism of the original movie was how, like so many comic book outings, it devolved into two big CGI creatures smacking pixels out of each other. Sadly, Venom: Let There Be Carnage isn't much different except going far enough to choose a prettier church setting rather than featureless rooftops.
Serkis wisely limits this to end of movie fodder, ensuring that serial killer Cletus Kassidy (Woody Harrelson) gets plenty of face time before it melts into the big eyes big teeth Carnage combo.
Harrelson’s determination to not let Hardy mug him off the screen means that he brings an equally swivel-eyed performance, complete with evil grins and wounded grimaces of perceived betrayal.
Is Venom: Let There Be Carnage Worth Watching?
Free from having to explain the whole ‘globs of alien symbiotes causing havoc’ concept (and coming in at a much leaner 97 minutes), Venom: Let There Be Carnage is plot minimalism.
Our only concerns are moving pieces until Kassidy can get his Carnage on, and Venom can storm out away from Brock in a relationship breakdown huff.
As is so often the case the female characters get short shrift. Michelle Williams remains a 2D love interest for Hardy to pine away for (and, amusingly, Venom also).
Even Naomie Harris as ‘Shriek’ is wasted; her supersonic vocals are barely used and her cut out baddie presence dwindled down to merely a star-crossed lovers motivator for Kassidy.
As genuinely hilarious as Hardy and Venom’s scenes consistently are, there is little room left for anyone else (although Stephen Graham’s stock ‘pissed off guy’ support does get a toe in).
If you liked the first movie then Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a definite improvement. The humour is funnier and more assured and most of the fat has been trimmed off, even if what is left leaves little to chew on.
With Venom 3 in development and all sorts of potentially confusing crossover open to the franchise, fingers crossed it will still mostly consist of Tom Hardy growling at himself as his tentacles cook an awful slapdash meal.
Words by Mike Record
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