Venom: Let There Be Carnage is an outlier of a comic book movie. With a brisk running time of 97 minutes (which includes credits), the film’s main focus is not to give us complicated character stories or confusing subplots. Instead, it wants to take what worked in the first film and crank it up to 11, sometimes leading to mixed results.
Tom Hardy returns as reporter Eddie Brock, who is no longer the high-profile superstar reporter that he was in the first film. He is summoned to a prison to interview serial killer Cletus Kasady, as Cletus refuses to talk to anyone but Eddie. After their conversation, Eddie and Venom are able to locate the bodies of Kasady’s victims. With Eddie’s career shining once again, he visits Kasady one more time to bid him farewell before he dies by lethal injection for his crimes. Kasady antagonizes Brock on this visit, causing Venom to lose control, leading to Kasady biting Eddie and ingesting part of the symbiote. This causes Kasady’s transformation into Carnage. That’s the setup for the film and I thought it worked.
One of my favourite parts of the original film was “The Odd Couple” chemistry between Eddie Brock and Venom. The sequel capitalizes on that in the first and third parts of the film. The back and forth they have, especially when Eddie is in public and talking to Venom is wonderful. I love when they are conversing to each other and other people stare at Eddie wondering who he is talking to. It makes me laugh because it is just pure fun. Their relationship is the heart of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, so when they are on-screen together, the film moves at a brisk pace.
I mentioned at the start about Venom: Let There Be Carnage having a run time of 97 minutes. Subtract credits and it is less than 90 minutes, which is very short for a comic film. I have no complaints about that as it was almost refreshing to see a comic book movie that has a singular focus and doesn’t get distracted by too many plot points or overindulging in character development (although it does under develop quite a few characters).
There is some nice framing of the camera in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, as I absolutely love the shot, which is shown scene in the trailer, of Carnage in a church, going up in the air and posing in front of a stained glass window. It looked amazing and I appreciate the thought and effort it took to make the shot possible. Much like the first film, I love the voice work Tom Hardy does as Venom. His delivery of the line “Oh Yeah!” is the best read of that line since Mr. Kool-Aid did it in those classic commercials! I’m not even joking, when I heard it delivered, I was genuinely pumped up and excited in the theatre.
You may have noticed in my review that I said that Venom: Let There Be Carnage moves along nicely when Eddie and Venom are together in acts one and three because of how good their chemistry is, which is why it was a very odd decision to have them separated in the film’s second act, as all the momentum the film has evaporates. The second act lacks energy as Eddie and Venom are lost without one another and it takes too much time for them to notice that in the film. I don’t mind them arguing or disagreeing, as they do that when they are together, but seeing them take a couples time out was a downer.
A dynamic that was good in the first film was Michelle Williams as Anne Weying and Reid Scott as Dan Lewis playing Eddie’s ex-fiancée and Anne’s new fiancé respectively. Unfortunately, they are not given a lot to do this time around, but they do make the most of their scenes when they occur, with the exception of making Anne a damsel in distress in third act. Naomie Harris’ character Shriek is also not given much to do other than yell and act creepy. Harris is an excellent actress (I highly recommend watching the National Theatre Live’s production of Frankenstein with Harris in a supporting role), so I wish she had been given more to work with, but with Venom: Let There Be Carnage‘s lean runtime, it was not possible.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage does have some good laughs, but at times they were trying a bit too hard and when it gives into its excesses by doing a joke for too long, it kills the momentum of the film. For me, the scenes when this happens were when Venom attempted to make breakfast for Eddie and we discover that he is a terrible cook, as well as Venom going to a rave and talking to the crowd. I know much has been made of the rave scene because it shows Venom coming out. Films have to stop saying they are being progressive on LGBTQ+ issues just because they have a line of dialogue or a passing mention. It seems insincere and not genuine. Do better.
Much like the first film, when Venom is in a CGI fight with a symbiote, it is hard to follow what is happening on screen. Venom and Carnage can do so much with their shape that when they fight, it continues to be a bit hard to follow the action because they are not uniform creatures. When their bodies branch out and do crazy things, it can make for a frustrating viewing experience.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the definition of a popcorn flick. You watch, you enjoy what you see and you quickly forget about the film once the credits role (yes, the post-credit sequence is interesting, but you’ll probably talk more about that than the rest of the film). If I’m being honest, I liked the first film a bit more than the sequel, but I will look forward to the next Venom tale when the inevitable sequel happens!