Review: 'Venom: Let There Be Carnage' never finds rhythm
Courtesy of Sony
Eddie Brock is having a little bit of an identity crisis in the tepid “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” an “in association with Marvel” sequel to Ruben Fleischer’s 2018 box office and audience smash. Brock, played with Jerry Lewis levels of commitment by Tom Hardy, is attached at the hip with the alien-symbiote Venom, who compulsively contours and bends Brock’s human body to his will. Each time Brock, now a reputable journalist, tries to have one cohesive thought, Venom (also voiced by Hardy) annoyingly injects his sarcasm into the scene and makes his opinions known. It’s like the commentary track from hell.
Which is a shame considering motion capture guru Andy Serkis has taken over directing duties, but Kelly Marcel’s screenplay (with a story credit by Hardy) fails to enliven 93-minutes of basement level exposition. It’s an improvement over its predecessor in that it finally understands the campiness which made Venom a household name and maximizes what audiences loved from the previous iteration, with promise of more interconnected adventures in the future; remember Venom belongs in Sony’s catalogue of C-grade Marvel characters sans Spider-Man. The only method to make Venom relevant is to plant those breadcrumbs of a potential crossover, but it’s tough to ask anyone outside of the devoted fanbase to give this one a shot.
Hardy is so deeply intertwined with the tone/creation of Venom, you almost want to give “Let There Be Carnage” a pass on principle. Hardy’s Brock is now back on the reporter beat, scooping up exclusives, having recently landed a major interview with the notoriously secretive Cletus Kassady (introduced in a “Venom” post-credit stinger and played by Woody Harrelson), a serial killer with a high body count. There’s a grim backstory dropped about Kassady murdering his parents and how those crimes have landed him on death row, away from the love of his life, Frances Barrison (super-villain alias: Shriek) whom he met in an orphanage. Naomie Harris is essentially wasted as the super sonic screaming baddie alongside Harrelson who seems content with just going through the motions. Hardy, at least, feels committed.
On their last interaction before his execution, Kassady ingests Venom’s symbiotic DNA thus transforming him into the titular Carnage, paving way for an explosive prison escape, and ultimately a CGI slugfest between the two alien organisms. In between the, well, carnage Venom complains about current living arrangements, bitches his steady intake of chocolate and chicken brains (Venom needs human brains as part of a balanced diet as he’ll tell you over and over) is insufficient and adds his comedic zingers to every scene whether audiences like it or not.
Some of the inspired banter allows Hardy to showcase his physicality and take bold creative swings, but there's too much commotion happening in the background to create a memorable performance. Michelle Williams, Brock’s ex-girlfriend from “Venom,” shows up for approximately five minutes of screentime. (Did she not have anything better to do?) “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” never reaches the laugh-out-loud highs its narcissistic alien protagonist would assume and the much hyped climatic battle is muddled at best. Aside from optimism about the character's eventual integration with other Sony properties (stick around for an important post-credit scene), “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” offers little incentive and literally bites off more than it can chew.
VENOM LET THERE BE CARNAGE is now playing in theaters.