Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

There are movies that I should be inclined to hate.  The entire Resident Evil series comes to mind.  Six movies, barely a plot line or any substance to any, but for some reason the majority of them work as empty entertainment.  Rarely are video game movies successful and, while we're not talking high-class cinema, somehow they work.  

The first Venom was the same way.  Critics hated it, audiences were lukewarm and I only watched it since I'm at the point where I'm watching the extraneous Marvel films and doing whatever I can to put off seeing Morbius.  But a strange thing happened; I liked it.  It was a big-budget b-movie, but Tom Hardy did a great job as Eddie Brock, the effects were good (so much better than Venom was in Spider-Man 3) and it worked as a good origin story.  Venom itself didn't appear until about halfway through the movie giving the audience time to get to know and care about Brock, something I didn't expect in what I thought was just going to be an empty effects movie.

As much as I liked Venom I did not have high hopes for Venom: Let There Be Carnage.  It made enough money that there will be a third one - and by now it's public knowledge that it was tied in with Spider-Man: No Way Home, and thus is now tangentially part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - but the critics and even most of the audience that cut the first one some slack despised it.  So, of course, I was expecting to do the same.  However, like those silly Resident Evil films, I still enjoyed it. 

Eddie Brock has managed to mess up his life again.  Anne (Michelle Williams) has gone back to her boyfriend Dan (Reid Scott) and Brock is trying his best to deal with living with Venom.  With Venom's help he is able to interpret the scribblings on the cell wall of serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), leading to the discovery of some of the places Kasady buried his victims and renewed fame for Brock once again.  However, Kasady is not happy that the revelation has led to the reinstatement of the death penalty in California, nor that he is at the top of the list.  In a final confrontation with Brock, Venom emerges to attack Kasady, resulting in Kasady biting Eddie. 

The repercussion is that the combination of human and symbiote blood leads to a new being growing inside Cletus - one called Carnage, whose powers seem to be greater than Venom's.  Unfortunately, this comes at a time when Eddie and Venom have had enough of each other and decide to part ways.  Eventually, with Carnage running wild in San Francisco and helping rescue Kasady's mutant girlfriend Shriek (Naomie Harris), the two are forced again to cooperate to save the city. 

Everything in Venom: Let There Be Carnage is about as predictable as it gets, but that doesn't bother me as much as it does with a lot of superhero films.  The focus is still on the relationship between Eddie Brock and Venom, both played by Tom Hardy, and whatever monster he'll have to battle at the end is inconsequential.  It's going to happen, they're creatures that like to break stuff, and in many ways these films play out like Godzilla films.  Everything else that happens is secondary to setting up the big fight at the end.  Andy Serkis directs this and, as can also be predicted, his expertise in motion-capture and CGI effects translates well into the concept of the more insectoid, demon-like Carnage. 

Woody Harrelson has experience playing villains and he does a great job here.  I don't as much care for Naomie Harris as Frances Barrison, aka Shriek, largely because her voice is largely the same one she used in The Pirates of the Caribbean.  For me it's like nails on a chalkboard, and it doesn't help that it makes it hard to understand her as well.  Something like this requires some overacting, and Harrelson does it perfectly, but Harris seems like she is trying way too hard.  Perhaps if allowed to do her native accent it would have been better. 

Michelle Williams's Anne unfortunately is relegated to a damsel in distress in this one rather than being as active in helping Eddie as she was in the first.  Thankfully it still doesn't try to reanimate the relationship between the two no matter how much Eddie and Venom both wish it would happen, but in truth Eddie is symbolically married to Venom, so it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to go that way especially since her now-fiancée Dan gets in on the action this time around, allowing Reid Scott to do more than just play perfect replacement guy that often pops up to provide romantic tension. 

I'm not going to try to convince anyone that this is anything more than just the creature feature it is.  I still say it's a mistake to try to keep in PG-13, but this time around Tom Hardy had influence on the story and on keeping it this way.  I hope in the future maybe it decides to push things a bit further, but as Spider-Man looks to possibly be involved in future Venom adventures it's highly unlikely.  It is possible that this series of movies, originally not tied in with anything else, might be forced to fall in line with the rest of the MCU, which would be a shame to lose the bickering between Brock and Venom in place of trying to shove a lot of long-term plotting in its place.  

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)
Time: 97 minutes
Starring: Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris
Director: Andy Serkis



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