Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021): The Lethal Protector and the Big Red One Slash Up a Great Time
“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is directed by Andy Serkis (Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, Black Panther) and stars Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road), Woody Harrelson (The Edge of Seventeen, Zombieland), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, Blue Valentine), Naomie Harris (Spectre, Moonlight), Reid Scott (My Boys, Veep), Stephen Graham (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Boardwalk Empire), and Peggy Lu (Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, Always Be My Maybe). This film is the second installment to the “Venom” franchise, based on the Marvel Comics character. This time around, Eddie Brock who has spent time with a venomous symbiote in his body, attempts to interview Cletus Kassady, a serial killer. Kassady soon becomes a problem as he morphs into the big symbiotic creature, Carnage. It is now up to Venom to stop Carnage from unleashing destruction to society.
I hated the first “Venom.” I have avoided this film since the theater. While it was not my worst film experience of the year, I was weary of what this film stood for as far as the comic book movie genre goes. The violence felt generic, the acting came off as lackluster, even from Tom Hardy, and I felt that it was a step down for the comic book movie genre, especially in a year where they have proven to be a force with critics and the box office. The success of “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” were not enough, we needed some schlock in the mix I guess.
The first “Venom” made over $800 million at the worldwide box office. So naturally, when a sequel was announced, I was not surprised. After all, everyone likes money. I had little to no interest in a sequel based on the impression that the first film left me. I felt like that film made me dumber. It was one of those films that by the time we got to 2020, I didn’t really care as much if it got pushed back due to COVID-19. Granted, part of me is now in the mindset that if any movie does well, even if I don’t like it, I will root for its success as it is good for the industry. And that success has been solidified so far with “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” as the new movie made over $90 million the weekend it opened in the United States.
But is all that success just money talking or will I give this film a personal green checkmark? To be frank, I had a lot of fun with “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.” There is a saying in film that sequels are often inferior to the originals. Unless you’re talking about “Terminator 2,” “The Dark Knight,” “Spider-Man 2,” “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” “Fast Five,” “Furious 7,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Toy Story 2,” “Toy Story 3,” and “Shrek 2.” The reason why this film excels is because of the same reason that “Godzilla vs. Kong” succeeded for me. It was big, loud, and delightfully dumb. Granted, you could say that about the first “Venom,” but that film personally had inferior acting, borderline corporate, uninspired writing, and violence that could have pushed the bar, but felt kind of tame. Much like its predecessor, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is PG-13, meaning you can have violence, but not so much blood. But unlike the 2018 piece of crap, I would say “Let There Be Carnage” does a better job at, well, bringing on the f*cking carnage.
And speaking of Carnage, let’s talk about him. This film’s villain is obviously Carnage, an insane serial killer who becomes a red symbiotic monster. First off, big improvement over the last movie, as much as I like Riz Ahmed, who KILLED IT in “Sound of Metal” last year, his performance as Carlton Drake was not the highlight of the original “Venom.” Another improvement I’ll bring up, and this is one I think some would argue gets into nitpick territory, but still, I think the choice of using Carnage in this film gives this sequel an uptick over the previous film’s rivalry because there were times where I was watching Eddie and Carlton duke it out, but I cannot tell who is who because everything is dark and all the fighting is two guys in black symbiotic suits trying to wreck each other. The film is ultimately lit better, the color palette is more attractive, and the action is more fun to watch.
Cletus Kassidy is also a fine villain on his own. I think casting Woody Harrelson was a smart move because he did a good job at bringing a sense of insanity mixed in with a flair of viciousness to the table. Harrelson’s performance in this film reminded me of, as much as I did not like the film, Jared Leto’s performance as Albert Sparma in “The Little Things” because in that film he was subtle and quiet, but every time he spoke, it felt commanding and bigger than what I could actually see. The beauty in Harrelson’s performance was not only what he says, but how he says it. In addition, his physicality is individualistic and much like Tom Hardy as Eddie, I cannot see anyone else at this point playing Cletus Kassidy. As for his love interest, Frances Barrison, I liked seeing her in this movie too, because not only was she a fun character to watch who was decently cast with Naomie Harris in her shoes, but I like how her powers reveal the weaknesses of other core characters, including Cletus himself.
This movie, like the original, has a PG-13 rating. I critiqued the first “Venom” for having action that felt clean for its subject matter and not doing anything special with what was on screen. I wanted to see death and destruction, and there are times where the film looks like it is going to reach that point, but it can’t quite get there. “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” still has a slightly tame feel to it at times, but compared its predecessor, the violence in this film feels pretty close to an R even without all the blood. There’s a scene you may have noticed in the trailer where Carnage takes his tongue and swallows it down another person’s throat, a lot of the combat towards the end of the film is pretty intense, and I will say that as far as the PG-13 rating goes when it comes to language, they kind of nailed it. Because there is a rule in films that are PG-13 where you can only go so far with the f-bomb, and without spoilers, the point where they drop the f-bomb in this movie may have made for a possible spot in the top 10 best PG-13 f-bombs of all time. Might even be #1, it’s that effective and satisfying.
The best part of “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is the mix of the runtime and the pacing. There are a lot of movies that have come out over the years that are over 2 hours, maybe 2 and a half hours that maybe I, or someone else, will walk out of saying, that was okay, or that was terrible, one thing they should have done is trimmed at least ten minutes off the runtime. I even did that recently with “Dear Evan Hansen.” So for this to be my next movie in the cinema was a nice change of pace. This movie is all murder, no filler. All carnage, no– Actually, I cannot come up with a good rhyme. If anyone can comment with a rhyme that would be great! This movie ends up with a runtime of 97 minutes, and I don’t think I want more or less. 97 minutes was the perfect runtime for this movie as it allowed the story to establish its points from the beginning, quickly drop the audience into the middle of the action, and offer a simple structure that would appeal to the target demographic. Quite a bit happens in that runtime, it’s almost like the movie was on cocaine.
I was a bit weary on Venom and Eddie’s relationship from the first movie, but it had potential, and I think “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” unleashes all the possible potential there is to be had. I went to see this movie with a friend and I think she described the chemistry between Venom and Eddie the way it should immediately be viewed. She saw the chemistry between the dynamic duo equal to that of an old, married couple. There are several scenes in “Let There Be Carnage” that cement that point. At one point they’re besties, at some other point they argue, one tries to make the other feel better about something. Despite their differences, Eddie and Venom at the end of the day are best pals even if this relationship was not something either of them wanted. In fact, after I watched the movie, I read an article where Andy Serkis and others were debating on calling the movie “Venom: Love Will Tear Us Apart.” As much as I like the current title, that is a fine alternative given what goes on in the movie. And also, I think Tom Hardy himself has done a great job evolving into the character. Even though I thought his previous performance as Eddie Brock was underwhelming, I would have to say that these past two movies have shown that Hardy is embracing his character as much as he can. As far as this film goes, I like Hardy’s performance as both Eddie and Venom. His voice for Venom is ridiculously heightened to the point where I cannot imagine many other people taking this role in the future. If someone else does take the role, I think some major reinvention will have to come into play.
Also, it’s great to see Peggy Lu back as Mrs. Chen, the owner of the convenience store who is in the know of Eddie’s secret identity. I liked seeing her in this film because like Eddie, who has grown to know Venom, Chen has an understanding of Venom that makes the two of them have a connection. Even though at one point, Venom wants to eat her. Pretty normal friendly relationship if you ask me, nothing out of the ordinary.
If I had any other complaints about “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” the obvious one, even though this is not TECHNICALLY a complaint, would be that this movie is not to be taken seriously. The only real Academy Award I could see this film being nominated for is Best Visual Effects. The script does not reinvent the wheel and spends a lot of time trying to be silly. This is not always a bad thing because the film knows its audience and is only doubling down on the success of the first movie. If anything, the more I think about it, this movie has a heir of the tone of “Batman & Robin,” but it uses that tone to show off something ten times as competent.
My one last complaint about the film is also something that I could place into a box that I would write “GUILTY PLEASURE” on in black Sharpie. You know how Sony is… Well, Sony? PRODUCT PLACEMENT! PRODUCT PLACEMENT! GET YOUR PRODUCT PLACEMENT! There is this crucial scene in the film where we see Eddie and Venom bickering with each other, and in this scene, we see that Eddie’s apartment is being ruined in the process, and of course, one thing that gets ruined is the television. In this moment, we see the television face its doom, but in one or two scenes later, we are back at the apartment, and viola! A brand new TV! I’m not suggesting Eddie didn’t have the time to buy a new television. Although I hope he’s wealthy enough to live in the San Francisco area. What I am saying is, right next to the televison is a giant Sony box in all its glory! Ah, the ways to promote your products! Money talks! Money walks! I call this a guilty pleasure because it involves a couple scenes that serve their purpose, one of which had me laughing my ass off like a maniac, but they used them for some easy promotion. It’s not “Transformers: Age of Extinction” levels of obvious, but still.
Also, stay for the credits. You won’t regret it.
In the end, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” brings on the carnage to gargantuan levels! I recommend this sequel over the original. I do plan to watch it again at some point. Tom Hardy has become married to this character in a sense. I hope to see more of him, maybe they’ll do a “Venom 3” someday, I would very much like to see that. This is by no means the best comic book movie of the year, especially not compared to “The Suicide Squad,” but “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” gets a thumbs up from me, and I hope to see more of the character in the future. I’m going give “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” a 7/10.
“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is now playing exclusively in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see my review for the original “Venom,” click the link right here! It’ll take you back a couple years after I saw the movie on opening weekend, where the audience I was with seemed to have a much better time than me. Also, my next review is going to be for “Halloween Kills,” which hits theaters this weekend and will also be streaming on Peacock. I just went to the press screening the other night, and I cannot wait to talk about it. Spooky season is here! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Venom: Let There Be Carnage?” What did you think about it? Or, which “Venom” movie do you prefer? The original or the sequel? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!