VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE Review; "Seeing Venom And Carnage Clash Is A Comic Book Fan's Dream Come True"

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is nearly here, and while you might have low expectations after Venom, trust us when we say that Andy Serkis' sequel will blow you away. Read our spoiler-free verdict here...

In my review of 2018’s Venom, I concluded by saying that "there's so much here that doesn't work, it makes for frustrating viewing and is a complete and utter disappointment." Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed, and as a longtime fan of this character, what Ruben Fleischer delivered simply did not work for me. Beyond the lack of adherence to the source material, there were bigger issues at play, and it’s easy enough to understand why some comic book readers have their reservations about the sequel, Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Well, trust me when I tell you that while I wasn’t expecting much from this one, the movie is, in fact, the best non-MCU Marvel Comics adaptation to come our way in a very, very long time (it's also every bit as enjoyable as many of those Marvel Studios movies...and better than quite a few of them!).

Despite a surprisingly short runtime, the story of the first meeting between Eddie Brock and Cletus Kasady shouldn’t leave you feeling too short-changed, as Serkis forgoes the typical superhero movie trope of a midpoint fight scene and instead builds to what proves to be an epic, action-packed conclusion that delivers the big screen clash between Venom and Carnage you’ve been waiting your whole life for. Kelly Marcel’s screenplay, which received some input from Tom Hardy, deepens the relationship between Eddie and his alien symbiote, giving it a lot more heart and dropping jokes about the reporter being a "p*ssy" in favor of giving their bond some meaning. Eddie’s dynamic with Cletus is similarly impactful, while the unexpected love story between the latter and Shriek proves to be an unexpected highlight that helps make the serial killer so much more than just a cookie-cutter villain. Don’t worry about him being softened, though; Cletus is a monster, while Carnage is an unstoppable beast of a character who proves to be one of the most formidable comic book movie villains of all time.

There’s no denying that Venom: Let There Be Carnage might have benefited from an extra 20 minutes, especially as things wrap up in a way that might not be wholly satisfying to some fans. Still, with Andy Serkis at the helm, there’s so much to love about this movie that was absent in 2018; for example, we get a brilliantly crafted animated sequence detailing Cletus’ origin story, along with humour that, we’re particularly pleased to report, is actually funny! The jokes don’t fall flat this time, while there’s a clash between Eddie and Venom in their apartment we would go so far as to say is one of the most inventive we’ve seen in any comic book movie. The boundaries of that PG-13 rating are also pushed to the limit, and while we don’t get a tonne of gore, Carnage is a scary character and brings some much-needed darkness to a relatively light-hearted adventure for Venom.
 


Hardy’s wacky performance in Venom proved to be a major talking point, but he’s dialled it down a little and made Eddie more human here. With his alien other demanding to be let loose as a "Lethal Protector," Eddie finds himself less a fish out of water this time, and the actor manages to find the right balance of humour and seriousness so that we feel like we’re spending time with a layered, complex character rather than one who feels like he should exist in a cartoon. With Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the actor has fully tapped into what makes Venom tick, and we’re excited to see what comes next for him. Woody Harrelson proves himself a fitting co-star here, though, and appears to be having an absolute blast bringing this iconic villain to the big screen. On the page, Cletus too often becomes a wild-eyed killer with no real personality, but this version makes a bigger impact and has a fascinating dynamic with his symbiote that is enhanced by Harrelson’s moving performance.

Elsewhere, Michelle Williams and Reid Scott don’t get a huge amount to do, but both make the best of limited roles. We’d have liked to see more of Stephen Graham’s Detective Mulligan, but he’s fantastic in every scene, even though we’re not necessarily getting to explore him beyond a surface level. On the plus side, it feels like there could be big things to come for the character down the line and a backstory at least provides some insights into his actions. Naomie Harris’ Shriek is another character we’d have liked to see more of, though she’s superb in the role and is a welcome addition to Carnage’s story. Getting that little bit closer to the two-hour mark would have benefited these supporting players, but at least there's no unnecessary padding that slows the momentum of this easy to digest adventure.

Visually, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is vastly more interesting than its predecessor, and Sony's decision to save it for the big screen does make sense. Marco Beltrami’s memorable score accompanies action that proves Serkis is a perfect fit for blockbuster filmmaking, and we’d hope that the door is open for him to return to this franchise (where he’ll hopefully get a little more time to better explore his subjects). There are lots of little touches that enhance what we're watching on screen, including the impact Venom has on the world around him and inventive uses of the symbiotes that the trailer showing the alien making Eddie breakfast really doesn't do justice. If you were a big fan of Venom, then you'll be blown away by this follow-up; if you're of the opinion that poor Eddie needed redemption after his 2018 solo outing, then you're going to walk away much happier this time. The wackiness still feels like a strange addition to the character’s big screen adventures (Venom attends a rave at one point), but at least Serkis makes it work within this world. Previously, it felt horribly out of place, but this time, it makes sense within the context of the movie it’s taking place in. Simply put, if you’re a comic book fan, you’ll love Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Now, bring on that clash with Spider-Man...

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the ultimate Marvel movie; seeing Venom and Carnage clash is a comic book fan’s dream come true, but the epic action is bolstered by incredible visuals, some big laughs, and a surprising amount of heart.

IF

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