Venom: Let There Be Carnage Movie Review: A superior sequel that checks almost all the right boxes
Despite, far from being a perfect superhero film, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is miles ahead of its predecessor in terms of content and narration
Venom and its latest sequel dig deep into the not-so-romantic concept of two lives in one body. In its sequel, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, it does exactly that—which is both the boon and bane of the film. In a mid-credits scene from the first film, we got introduced to the latest adversary of Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), the incarcerated serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), who promises him 'carnage'. Keeping in fashion with trailers that reveal more than what they should, we are already familiar with how Cletus gets to taste blood, quite literally, and embark on an adventure while creating havoc. But unlike the 2018 film which suffered from an incohesive screenplay, this sequel works majorly thanks to the relationship dynamics between Eddie and Venom. The humour and drama that stems from their equation cushions the monotony of an otherwise straightforward story.
Director: Andy Serkis
Cast: Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris
Venom: Let There Be Carnage sees Eddie and Venom, the unlikeliest of characters, coming to terms with each other's pros and cons. Director Andy Serkis does this brilliantly by infusing traits like ego and possessiveness into the characters' trademark humour to give us a sense of interpersonal complication. Serkis, of course, is no newbie to the world of superheroes: he starred in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Black Panther, and is also playing the new caped crusader's trusty butler Alfred Pennyworth in next year's The Batman. Perhaps on account of all the larger-than-life fantasy films that he has directly and indirectly been a part of, the director, in this film, takes the road often taken, both in terms of conflict and resolution. The actor-director is also famous for providing voice and motion capture for many characters like Gollum (The Lord of the Rings films), Kong (King Kong), Caesar (Planet of the Apes films) and Snoke (Star Wars films). I assume this experience of Serkis in bringing out emotions from non-human characters has helped him recreate the magic with Venom. The sequel dwells deep into the psyche of the extraterrestrial symbiote and we get to see an emotional side of the dangerous Venom, a baby that craves attention.
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The ridiculously plain narrative, involving less than half a dozen characters, gives space for a lot to transpire, despite the short 97-minute runtime. Tom Hardy makes a mark as the lonely journalist with commitment issues, and we get to see the human side of this character more than in the first film.
What doesn't work are the scenes involving antagonist Cletus who becomes the host for another symbiote named Carnage, and what happens when they team up with Cletus' girlfriend Frances Barrison/Shriek (Naomie Harris). Their onscreen chemistry feels like a blatant ripoff of the explosive relationship Joker shares with Harley Quinn. The film also doesn't offer Woody Harrelson much to work with, as the hunky CGI monster Carnage eventually overpowers him. The same can also be said about Michelle Williams' Anne Weying, and this is a criticism that was levied at her character in the first film as well.
Apart from the relationship dynamics, the core strength of the franchise lies in its dark humour, with this film taking things up a notch. Right from pillaging a chicken farm to satiate Venom's hunger for brains, to jumping from one body to another when Venom needs a new host, the jokes come in, one after another, and this humour spills over even into the most serious scenes. There's even a running gag on how the duo calls themselves 'The Lethal Protector' which is a nod to a comic book limited series of the same name that showed Venom's progression from a villain to an antihero. The CGI is also far better than in the first film and they make the fight scenes a treat to watch, though it leaves you wondering why they again decided to tone down the violence and not go for a blood-splattering R-rated film.
On the whole, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, despite, far from being a perfect superhero film, is miles ahead of its predecessor in terms of content and narration. If you decide on dropping by your nearest big screen to watch this film, stick around to witness one of the best mid-credits scenes. I'm sure it will have you considering the prospects of a potential symbiotic relationship between Sony's Spider-Man Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.