Venom: Let There Be Carnage Synopsis: Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) attempts to reignite his career by interviewing serial killer Cletus Kasady. Before he is executed for his crimes, Cletus becomes the host of the symbiote Carnage and escapes prison after a failed execution. It’s up to Venom and Eddie’s dysfunctional odd-couple relationship to save the day.
While critics denounced the film’s oddball mixture of superhero formula and zany comedic beats, 2018’s Venom became a worldwide phenomenon. Sony’s anti-hero spinoff performed on par financially with its web-slinging peer Spider-Man, signaling a fresh new inclusion to the sizable mass of superhero offerings.
It certainly suffered from unevenness, but I readily enjoyed what Venom brought to the table. Star Tom Hardy delivered a hilariously unkempt performance while forming a surprisingly sincere oddball pair with his surely, human-eating symbiote. The long-awaited follow-up, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, thankfully grows from its mixed bag predecessor by leaning into the franchise’s distinct strengths.
Hardy’s dedicated acting chops have never been in question, yet these shamelessly affable superhero offerings showcase a new skillset in his repertoire. As the constantly down-on-his-luck journalist Eddie, Hardy offers a brilliant comedic see-saw of action and reaction as he plays off his CGI counterpart. In a world where super-powered protagonists are celebrated for their honorable heroism, Hardy’s bumbling sincerity and screwball comedic energy serve as a welcomed change of pace. Let There Be Carnage fearlessly allows Eddie and Venom’s bickering relationship to be the narrative focal point – building upon their unlikely connection with humorous and surprisingly genuine results. The inseparable pair share comfort in each other’s support as they wrestle with feelings of insecurity and isolation.
Let There Be Carnage often feels like a relic from a bygone time, which isn’t necessarily a bad quality. Gone are director Ruben Fleischer’s flavorless aesthetics. In its place, Andy Serkis imbues the sequel with bold dashes of colorful personality. I loved how grand the film felt in its wild swings between goofy humor and swaggering wickedness. Serkis unabashedly conjures the type of vivid, comic-like expression that made Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Tim Burton’s Batman work so well on the screen, rarely conforming his tendencies to the atypical grandeur of modern superhero efforts. Cinematographer Robert Richardson’s imagery would benefit from more pop aesthetics (some shots reek of murky and unfocused techniques), but Serkis successfully invests viewers in a nonstop ride of delightful carnage.
The sequel’s new additions also add a dash of sinister personality. Woody Harrelson is fittingly unkempt as Cletus, bolstering the killer’s wildcard bravado with a villainous menace streak lying under the surface. Naomie Harris is overqualified as his piercing confidant Shriek, although the actor’s natural gravity onscreen creates a sympathetic victim of circumstances. The duo’s eye for vibrant theatrics fits the script’s campy tendencies like a glove.
I had a blast throughout Let There Be Carnage’s runtime, although the film could benefit from having more meat on its bones. Like Eddie’s venomous infliction, the truncated 97-minute runtime acts as a gift and a curse. While it allows the film to retain a refreshingly breezy pace, the material’s intriguing dynamics don’t receive enough screentime to grow onscreen.
Carnage and Shriek share a shaky arc that lacks proper shading, while Venom and Eddie’s descent into an anti-hero lifestyle feels like a frantic, last-minute stinger before the film’s dramatic end-credit sequences. These films’ unique strengths could be even stronger in the hands of writers who could spin more reflection into the characters’ underlying grief and turmoil. Glimmers of Batman Returns-level ruminations on heroes and villains conjoined existence as outcasts are ignored for the film’s single-minded pursuit of crowd-pleasing entertainment.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage forwards the franchise’s vibrant personality with winning results. Tom Hardy and company imbue infectious glee into every frame, continuing to craft a blockbuster franchise that confidently rides its own wave.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is now playing in theaters nationwide.
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