Venom: Let There Be Carnage serves up exactly what it promised: a ridiculous yet heartfelt tale of a man and his hyperviolent alien life partner. It checks all the boxes without feeling like it was checking boxes. Plus, THAT MID-CREDITS SCENE!!!
I love when a sequel stays true to the tone of its predecessor. Sure, we want sequels to be BIGGER and BETTER, but we also want them to feel like a natural part of the same universe. Venom: Let There Be Carnage lives up to that expectation. It’s true to tone, with familiar banter and overall visual consistency.
Let There Be Carnage really leans into the ridiculous. That’s a smart choice. Any Venom flick that tried to go Grimdark would end up as a pretentious cringefest. Venom is an enthusiastically savage alien goo with a weakness for chocolate and a soft spot for his pet chickens. Only by acknowledging that innate absurdity and running with it does the film take us along for the ride instead of beating us over the heads with its own cleverness.
This movie is a lot of fun. I’m already planning to watch it again.
I could have done with more comically gory bloody deaths, but there’s a very good reason Sony didn’t push past to the R rating which I’ll get to later. The PG-13 does allow for some lovely theatrical background deaths. My personal favorite is Dr. Pazzo’s strangulation when Kasady and Carnage break Frances out of the asylum. The “kicking feet dangling, then slowly going still” visual is a classic for a reason.
The pacing is decent, with a few hiccups. For example, I think the club scene needed more setup and went on a shade too long, although it was a great addition to the movie. I really enjoy the idea that anyone not sober and close assumes Venom is in costume. (Should we acknowledge how many innocent hosts Venom leaves to die while he’s on his own? Ehhh! Let’s pretend they were all bad people because Venom is a named character.)
As playful as the movie is, the fight scenes are all high-stakes danger city. They really need to be good to sell the danger. Watching Carnage rampage around the city reminded me how terrifying symbiotes are when they cut loose. Bonus points because I can actually see all the action, unlike 75% of live-action Transformers movies. I swear those robot fight scenes look like throwing a box of car parts down a very long flight of stairs. (At least the toys are cool!)
Well done, Let There Be Carnage Visual Effects team. Thank you for understanding that contrast and lighting are our friends.
A couple of things I thought were brushed past in the first movie are allowed to evolve here. First, after blithely taking Venom back into himself in Venom Eddie has now had time to understand what that means for him in the long run. Everyday life with Venom is not easy. Eddie has to manage the symbiote’s weird dietary requirements and constant aggression (did anyone else cry laughing at the tire chew toy?) while keeping their existence on the down-low. He’s also got a lot of baggage surrounding Anne and his career, and probably some PTSD from the last movie.
Add in the relentless annoyance of a messy combative roommate who constantly destroys your things and you can see why Eddie starts the film in that hunched, miserable posture.
Real talk, though- Venom has survival needs that aren’t being met in the beginning. I wonder how much of his irrationality was due to near starvation. Eddie really should have done a better job of planning to meet those needs. He’s got a Ducati, he can afford recurring deliveries of chocolate and chicken brains. There must be an in-world Amazon equivalent, right?
My point is, neither half of the partnership is taking the other’s needs seriously. The result is Venom on the edge of sanity and Eddie sunk in nihilistic despair. It created a good environment for them to separate when they weren’t under immediate threat of personal death and realize they really did want to be together.
I can’t say enough for Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock. Do I really need to? He’s as much Eddie Brock as Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool. Every scene he’s in, especially scenes with Venom, tells me he loves these characters and wants to tell good stories with them. That makes a visible difference on screen.
One character I thought didn’t get enough screen time is Shriek. She got a nice little backstory, but in practice, she did wind up as both a driving force for Kasaday and a wedge between him and Carnage. Sure, she’s the reason Carnage was defeated in the end… but it felt a bit like the excellent Naomie Harris was being reduced to a plot device. If Anne wasn’t swanning around kicking butt and taking names I’d be pretty annoyed with the treatment of ladies here. (Wait… she does get stuffed in a box in the climax and has to be rescued. Hmm… okay, color me annoyed.)
Woody Harrelson is great as Cletus Kasaday. We all know he can carry this kind of role. I appreciated how he kept Kasaday’s focus on his personal life, brushing past all the murders he’s done because, well, to Kasaday those were just things he was doing. Frances Barton (AKA Shriek) was his home, the place he was always going back to, and that dominated his art and mind even towards the end.
However, Harrelson was given a lot of story beats to hit. I’m not convinced the script gives him time to nail all of them. We don’t find out about his tragic backstory or why he’s really upset with Eddie for a long time. That should have come out sooner to have a bigger impact.
Also, we don’t get any time to see him meet his symbiote. They just sort of run off together and work things out as they go. There’s no banter between the pair. Heck, Carnage barely has any kind of personality. He drops a few lines about his daddy issues that Venom doesn’t even react to- which is a shame, because that deserved more uncomfortable reactions from Eddie and Venom. That is some Grade A banter bait that was fully ignored.
We don’t even know if Kasaday named Carnage (though it is implied that he was at least a factor).
To be fully fair, that could have been a deliberate choice. First, because Carnage is a wee little baby murder creature just days old. Second, the creative team may have wanted to emphasize how different the Carnage-Kasaday and Venom-Brock dynamics are. Either way, I could have done with way more Carnage.
All that nitpicking aside, I had a good time watching… and that mid-credits scene both explained and made up for a whole lot of the tiny faults.
Because Venom and Eddie at least are now in the MCU, courtesy of what looks like a multidimensional ripple of some kind.
As soon as I saw Peter Parker’s sad, frustrated face on the TV screen I realized why Sony didn’t want to take even a soft R rating. The MCU has no R-rated movies, and with Let There Be Carnage dipping a toe into the MCU I’m betting there were RULES and GUIDELINES and APPROVALS needed.
I’ll take a little less violence to get Venom in the MCU, even briefly. I CANNOT wait to see how this plays out.
It’s also more clear why the “Eddie and Venom made a baby” storyline is downplayed to the point where Kasaday almost seems like the main villain, not Carnage. Although- maybe I’m not giving Sony enough credit. They did have Venom fully profess his love to Eddie, who is pleased and indulgent and doesn’t make a “uhh platonically though, right?” comment. That’s a nice treat for Symbrock shippers.
Getting a little long here, so I want to drop a few parting thoughts:
- Venom reminds me of a sulky cat who runs to different family members whenever they’re mad at their human. Mrs. Chen, Anne, and even Dan get a little symbiosis.
- How did Venom and Eddie create a scary red symbiote? Is there an element of the host that affects what kind of symbiote is created? I could look to the comics for an answer, but the movie really ought to have answered these questions.
- If Venom ate Carnage, thus reabsorbing him, could he possibly come out again later? Would he still be Carnage?
- The actor who plays Dan is surely a nice dude in real life but is so unmemorable that I had to check IMDB to see if it was the same guy. I’m glad he gets some hero moments, but he’s just so vanilla that his actions feel like the director reaching in to help Symbrock sometimes.
- Are we really not getting any more information about the Creepy Superpowered People Prison? Really? Just gonna drop that and run off to a new dimension?
- I want to write a whole article about how when Venom surfaces he surrounds Eddie like armor while Carnage sort of rips out of Kasaday’s face any which way, but this is already a very long review and I have Pop-Tarts in the toaster. You get my drift.
- Looks like Lethal Protector is up next as a title and storyline. Or- maybe after No Way Home kicks Eddie and Venom back to their own universe, anyway.
What did you think? Did Venom: Let There Be Carnage live up to the hype for you? Let us know in the comments!
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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