Venom: Let There Be Carnage Review: Tom Hardy Shines in an Otherwise Flat Sequel
Three years ago, Venom hit theaters and became one of the most divisive comic book movies ever made. The critics tore the movie apart, but over time, some Marvel fans began to appreciate the Tom Hardy-led film for what it was: a messy, silly, good time. As someone who falls into the category of fans who enjoys the first Venom, my hopes were high for Venom: Let There Be Carnage, especially since the sequel was helmed by Andy Serkis, the iconic actor known for playing Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboot films, Ulysses Klaue in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and much more. Unfortunately, the sequel manages to be nothing more than a forgettable 90 minutes that's barely saved by its exhilarating mid-credits scene. With any luck, Venom: Let There Be Carnage will get better with age like its predecessor, but for now, it's just a letdown.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage kicks off fairly strong with a flashback to the younger versions of Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) and Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris). The two are separated after Frances is taken from their home for troubled youths, but it's clear the future Carnage and Shriek have formed a love bond that will last. When the movie cuts to the present day, we see Eddie and Venom living as harmoniously as a stubborn reporter and a sentient alien symbiote can while sharing one body. Venom is struggling with his diet of chickens and Eddie's career isn't quite what it used to be, but they've settled into an adorable routine that makes them feel like a quarreling old couple. Just like Venom, Let There Be Carnage shines best when it's focusing on the banter between the two characters. There are plenty of laughs up top, and you can't help but initially feel giddy that Eddie and Venom are back together, but sadly, the movie doesn't put enough emphasis on this dynamic to sustain its momentum.
As seen in the first Venom's mid-credits scene, Eddie has formed a relationship with Cletus, who is set to be executed for multiple murders. Cletus only wants to speak with Eddie, giving him exclusive interviews about his killings. After a scuffle between the two men, a piece of symbiote latches on to Cletus and eventually allows him to escape his death sentence. Carnage is now on the loose and the new symbiote duo seeks out Cletus' lady love, which could have led to some awesome destruction on par with Harrelson's twisted, murderous romance from Natural Born Killers. Unfortunately, everything from the couple's goals to their chemistry falls flat and it isn't until Carnage really takes over that things become even remotely interesting.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a cool 90 minutes, which really works for the first movie, and can be a refreshing change these days. However, the run time leaves you wanting a lot more from the second go-around. My biggest issue with the film is Eddie and Venom end up separating for about 30 minutes, which only leaves you with them for an hour, but the last 30 minutes is mostly their fight with Carnage. Do that math, and you'll realize the movie's best back-and-forth moments between Eddie and Venom are reserved for the first 30 minutes. Serkis does a great job with the long-awaited Venom vs. Carnage fight, which is fun and features some impressive effects. There was a time when it would be a standout scene, but there have been so many epic comic book movies this year alone, Venom: Let There Be Carnage's one big action sequence doesn't even make my top five action scenes of the year.
As for Michelle Williams' return as Anne Weying, her role is pretty much exactly what you'd expect. Williams is one of the greatest living actors, so she does her best with what she's been given, but just like with the first movie, that's not much. All of her scenes (and the scenes with Reid Scott as Dr. Dan Lewis) are cute, but you can't help but wish they'd given the four-time Oscar nominee a little more to do.
While Venom: Let There Be Carnage has a more coherent plot and a couple more vigorous action scenes than the first Venom, its paint-by-numbers execution makes it forgettable and near-lifeless. The sequel is technically better than the first film, but I'd rather watch a sloppy goof-fest that features memorable moments like Hardy in a lobster tank than one without a standout example aside from the mid-credits scene. The only real memorable moment of the entire film comes after the movie ends, but it's worth sitting through everything that comes before it.
Whether you just spent the movie having a blast or being utterly disappointed, those few minutes will knock your socks off. If you look at all of the early reactions on Twitter, pretty much every tweet's highest praise is for the mid-credits scene, which is exciting but also not a good indication that this is a decent film. Worth noting, this movie does not have a post-credits scene, just the mid-credits sequence.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a movie you might enjoy if go in with low expectations. Like the first Venom, there will definitely be people who love and defend the sequel, but we at ComicBook.com are not among them. There's no denying Hardy's magnetism when it comes to playing these roles, and one can only hope there will be more chances for him to act the part in a script worthy of his talent.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Venom: Let There Be Carnage hits theaters on October 1st.