Released: 25th September
Seen: 30th November
In 2018, a little film called Venom came out and I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it was that good. I still don’t, it was badly edited and rushed with a tone that felt all over the place while also being incredibly restrained by the PG-13 rating that it was going for. It got a serious critical thrashing and was just kind of mediocre, and yet, audiences loved the thing. It made nearly $900 million at the box office and was guaranteed a sequel. I won’t lie, when I heard about a sequel, I let out an exasperated sigh because I was so sure we were going to get another bland film… and then Venom: Let There Be Carnage turns around and ends up being one of the most obscenely entertaining films of the year.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage catches up with Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) who has started to figure out how to live with Venom in a way that doesn’t lead to a never ending number of headless corpses. It’s not exactly the best scenario but they make do well enough so Eddie can have a relatively normal life, which for Eddie includes interviewing the noted serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) before Cletus is executed. During one of those interviews, an altercation happens that leads to Cletus biting Eddie and accidentally absorbing a little bit of Venom. That little bit of Venom mutates into something much more horrific, the unstoppable creature known as Carnage who is here to create havoc and destroy everything that’s in his way, unless Eddie and Venom can work together and stop this creature.
While the first movie had a lot of problems, it did have some bright spots in the delightfully camp performance by Tom Hardy, the interactions between Venom and Eddie and some of the action scenes… Venom: Let There Be Carnage noticed that those were popular elements and decided to do all of that but at an 11 for the entire film and god damn does it create an incredibly enjoyable experience. From start to finish we are blessed with performances that chew the scenery, banter that’s witty as hell, enough queer subtext to teach a college class with and action scenes so over the top and fun that you forget that this is somehow also a bloodless film.
Everyone involved brought their A game to this. Tom Hardy delivers some of his best manic comedy ever, including one outrageously funny fight scene where he basically has to fight himself. Woody Harrelson goes from being a living cartoon to one of the most terrifying creatures you’ve ever seen. He also somehow gives his vile serial killer a heart in the scenes he shares with Naomie Harris, who joins the film as Frances Barrison AKA Shriek. The scenes with Woody and Frances feel like a supervillain Bonnie and Clyde… or that other movie Woody Harrelson was in where he’s a serial killer on a rampage with his girl, what’s that movie called again? Oh well, who cares, point is that their scenes are amazing.
Every possible problem that one could have with the original Venom is fixed here. The pacing is so much better and easier to follow, which undoubtedly is due to the incredible talents of director Andy Serkis who really makes everything flow with such ease. You never wonder where anything is or where everyone is going, it’s so smooth and simple to follow that you can probably even take a 5 minute nap and not be lost for a second… of course, you’ll be laughing and cheering too much to properly enjoy that nap, but the option is there.
The option I didn’t expect to be there was for this film to have as big a heart as it does, but oh my god it somehow even pulled off a touching and emotional story about a pair of men (OK a man and a male symbiote) who are stronger together than they are apart. Basically they took the story that they tried to tell in the first movie and actually made it work this time, letting Eddie and Venom slowly realise how much they need each other throughout the movie which culminates gloriously in the epic ending at the Church. Also they REALLY lean into the queer subtext that the first one barely touched on. As in Venom proclaims that he won’t stay in Eddie’s closet while going to a night club and wearing bright coloured neon necklaces. It’s kind of glorious that they just shoved this into a mainstream film so effortlessly (Almost like it’s been a thing you could do all along!)
Of course the catch with all this praise is you have to be the kind of person who enjoys big over the top camp gaudy monstrosities that throw everything they’ve got at the wall just to see what sticks… fortunately for me, that’s the kind of film that I thrive on because I enjoy big bold choices that should completely fail but somehow end up working. If that’s not something you enjoy, then this might not work out for you, it’s a movie that doesn’t like to slow down for a minute because it’s too busy moving onto the next big thing and that can be overwhelming for some people.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a glorious improvement on the first movie, finally showing the potential of this character in this specific universe and having fun with it. Sure it’s still a bloodless affair but it covers that well enough that you won’t even really think about it at the time. All the crap of the last movie has been cut out and all the good stuff has been supercharged leading to a movie that has no damn right being this entertaining.
Also there is one mid-credits scene and it’s an important one for the future of this character so it’s worth sitting through the credits.