‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’
Directed by: Andy Serkis
Written by: Kelly Marcel (screenplay), Tom Hardy (story), Todd McFarlane & David Michelinie (Venom character creators)
Starring: Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham & Peggy Lu.
Comic book movies are big business. Everyone knows this. The general audience has certainly been spoiled when it comes to these movies. We used to get the occasional trickle of them with the likes of 1978’s ‘Superman‘ or 1989’s ‘Batman‘ and even lesser known comic book properties like 1994’s ‘The Crow‘ and 1999’s ‘Mystery Men.’ But around 2008, the occasional trickle became a virtual firehose as fans are now treated to usually no less than half a dozen or more CBMs (comic book movies, for the uninitiated) each year. The reviews have varied by movie and even have varied between the opinions of critics and audiences on the same movie (I.E. ‘BvS‘, ‘Thor 2‘, etc). So in 2018 when Sony Pictures released the original ‘Venom‘ film, many wondered how successful it would be to have a movie centered on one of Spider-Man’s arch enemies without being attached to Spider-Man in any way, shape or form. But despite the doubters, ‘Venom’ opened to an $80 million weekend and went on to gross nearly $900 million worldwide. Given this level of (some might say unexpected) success, a sequel was all but guaranteed. And a sequel is exactly what we got.
In a post-credits scene at the end of the original movie, Eddie Brock / Venom (played by Tom Hardy) goes to visit convicted serial killer Cletus Kasaday (Woody Harrelson) in prison. Avid comic book fans will know that Kasaday goes on to become the super villain Carnage, an antagonist to both Spider-Man and Venom. In this sequel, we begin with a flashback to a young Cletus Kasady in an orphanage talking through the walls to his girlfriend Frances Barrison who has the power of unleashing sonic screams. Kasady is furious that she is being taken from him and Frances almost manages to escape but is wounded by an Officer Mulligan during her attempt. She is taken to a maximum security psychiatric facility called Ravencroft where others with similar powers such as her are held captive and studied. Flash forward to the present: reporter Eddie Brock is still bonded to the symbiote Venom and his life is still quite the mess. But with help from exclusive stories given to him by incarcerated death-row serial killer Cletus Kasaday, Eddie’s star begins to rise. Eddie pays one final visit to Cletus the night before his execution is scheduled and Cletus is enraged that Eddie won’t do anything to help him or even admit that he is Cletus’ friend. Cletus goads Eddie (and unbeknownst to him, Venom) into attacking Cletus who bites Eddie and ends up accidentally biting off part of the symbiote as well, thus transforming Cletus into the super-powered Carnage.
As I said earlier, this film is every inch a sequel. It lacks the charm and novelty of the original and also leans more into the silly than the serious. The writing is a step down from the original which, as Kelly Marcel is the only leftover on the writing team from the first film, I can only blame on her and/or Tom Hardy who helped to craft the story on this one and is given a writing credit as a result. Naomie Harris, who I think is brilliant, is completely wasted in the film and her character, Shriek, is reduced to little more than a plot device for how to stop Carnage in the end. Michelle Williams, also a very gifted actor, can only do so much with the dialogue she is given and even Tom Hardy’s normally impressive acting chops can’t save him on this one. Woody Harrelson appears to be relishing the role of Cletus / Carnage and is definitely the scene stealer of the film and one of the only bright spots in the entire movie. Andy Serkis directs this movie but I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t seen his name in the credits. The whole movie feels like a very mediocre, generic 90’s flick with modern-day CGI porn thrown in. After being very pleasantly surprised by the original ‘Venom‘ movie (of which I was one of those doubters), I think I let my expectations get a little too high for the sequel only to be disillusioned all around. That being said, there is fun to be had if one goes into it just wanting a popcorn flick with comic book characters and no real substance at all. Sadly, I would have to give ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage‘ a brain-devouring 4 out of 10. Tickets are on sale NOW at our local theater for those who just can’t wait to see Woody Harrelson chew the scenery or who just need to see the jaw-dropping 1 post-credits scene with their own two eyes!!