There’s a lot that can be said about Venom: Let There Be Carnage, a movie that’s a follow-up to one that many people didn’t like.
Love it or hate it, 2018’s Venom had problems. The plot and villains were weak and it suffered in the editing room with many of its gory entrails left on the floor. And going into the new film, concerns were rife that it would amount to a missed opportunity.
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Thankfully, this isn’t just “Venom 2.0”. It is a sequel that carries on from its foundations. The titular character and the relationship between it and his vessel/slave/partner are put at the forefront along with a new, scary baddie that aims to leave ‘Carnage’ in his wake.
Does the film succeed? Here’s what we thought…
What’s ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ about?
Journalist Eddie Brock (played once again by Tom Hardy) is struggling to live a sane life while bonded to the alien symbiote, Venom (also voiced by Hardy). It’s chaotic. There’s always the risk of someone’s head being chomped off. And to top it all, Eddie himself remains the centre of attention from Detective Patrick Mulligan (Stephen Graham).
In a career-saving move, Eddie becomes a confidant of Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), a serial killer on death row. This kickstarts a chain reaction that leads to Carnage, a grotesque symbiote that sets out to kill him and Venom.
What doesn’t help is Kasady’s desire to reunite with childhood friend and fellow psychopath Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris). It’s up to Eddie, Venom, and Eddie’s former love interest Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) to reluctantly save the day.
Eddie and Venom need a couples therapist
Easily the best part of Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the established chemistry between Eddie Brock and his toxic counterpart. A sizeable chunk of the film is dedicated to the two’s banter and persistent conflict that results in plenty of laughs.
Regardless of what one may feel about Tom Hardy’s character and its portrayal, he enjoys snappy dialogue with Venom that feeds well into the emotional core of the narrative.
This is a good thing as there’s not much emotion to be found elsewhere. Brock’s relationship with Anne is shallower than my bath. Woody Harrelson and Naomie Harris are clearly smitten in their madness, but it’s not really played for sincerity.
Weirdly, where the movie makes up ground is between Venom and Anne’s new partner, Dan Lewis. Reid Scott is only here for comic relief but his rapport with Venom is bizarrely enduring.
San Francisco and its residents are all creepy
Director Andy Serkis (yes, Gollum himself) has proven himself behind the camera before and knows how to shoot CGI entities in front of it. Let There Be Carnage benefits from good-looking cinematography.
The lighting is kept very low with most of the action taking place at night or in dimly-lit locations. It can be a bit dark at times, but the payoff in atmosphere is acceptable.
Where Serkis falters is in the edit and lack of wide-angle shots. The action on screen is compacted and rarely do we get wide shots of Venom and Carnage.
There are several moments where the camera is trained so far in and the shot just becomes a frenetic blob. Couple that with more cuts than you’d typically want and those action scenes start to lose detail while still progressing at full speed.
With the film’s musical score, Marco Beltrami continues to be one of today’s best working composers. The instrumentals lean heavily into off-key string work and it works wonders for Cletus Kasady’s character manifestation on screen.
A gruesome movie lost in the edit and plot
Unfortunately, Let There Be Carnage’s biggest problem is the fact that it’s a PG-13 movie.
Like the movie that came before it, there are telling signs throughout that the movie intended to have more horrific visuals. Character deaths, which are set up to be quite bloody, are never given to audiences as the camera turns away from them.
There are also issues with the film’s plot. While Eddie and Venom’s relationship adds a great deal of buoyancy, the plot surrounding Kasady and Harris’ Barrison feels insubstantial.
To its credit, with a running time of 97 minutes, said plot does not hang around. The film consistently holds your interest and the story is always progressing with little to no distractions. Yes, the relationship subplot between Eddie and Anne adds little. However, the narrative does utilise it to get from A to B.
And the film gets points for Harrelson’s performance. The man is chewing bigger mouthfuls of the screen than Venom does.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage review verdict
Venom: Let There Be Carnage suffers like its 2018 predecessor in that it’s a good movie fighting to emerge from underneath a mediocre one.
Eddie and Venom are a great duo and the relationship pulls the entire experience through to the end. Woody Harrelson and Naomie Harris are having the time of their lives. There is an all-around sincerity to the endeavour. It has great music and the comedy is on point.
But, the editing, action scenes, and plot bring it down. And one can never shake off the idea this was supposed to be a more brutal, more bloody, overall sharper-on-the-edges film.
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