Movie Review - Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed the first Venom film. While I found some enjoyment in Hardy’s chemistry with the late Brad Venable’s vocal portrayal of the symbiote, the movie’s writing was far from compelling. After his introduction, Eddie Brock stagnates as a character, with Venom being the one to actually have a character which still felt tacked on without any real development. The plot was incredibly forgettable, and while the visuals were neat sometimes, it was mostly a slog to get through.

Thus, when I heard Venom: Let There Be Carnage would have a change in director, my interest peaked. Then, once reviews started rolling in and they were mostly positive I decided to give it a watch myself. To my surprise, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, with it featuring some solid filmmaking.

This was my first time experiencing Andy Serkis’ directing style and it felt like a major improvement over the lackluster visual style of the first film. It never felt like they were trying to hide the special effects behind shadows and bad lighting. While I think the film could have benefited from having a little more horror imagery regarding Carnage, Serkis and cinematographer Robert Richardson (Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds) still managed to surprise me with many of their stylistic choices.

Maryann Brandon and Stan Salfas’ editing was also surprisingly excellent. Scene transitions were cleaner and fight scenes were much easier to follow this time around.

Venom’s dark appearance can make it difficult to understand his movements, especially during scenes that take place at night. However, I never had trouble following the action sequences unlike in the first film. It also helps that Carnage is bright red, making him an excellent focal point in action scenes since it is hard not to notice him whenever he is on screen. The CGI was far superior here than they were in the previous film, which is likely due to the pandemic giving the VFX artists more time to work on the film.

Speaking of Carnage, Woody Harrelson did an excellent job bringing the psychopathic murderer, Cletus Kasady, to the big screen. Harrelson brought this deranged clarity in his delivery of some of the silliest lines of poetry I’ve ever heard that perfectly fit within the film’s cheesy atmosphere.

However, it is Harrelson’s body language and voice work as Carnage that is really striking. I never saw Harrelson as a voice actor, and likely neither did he before this film. While the dual performance of Kasady and Carnage wasn’t quite as fun as that of Hardy’s Eddie Brock and Venom, it was able to portray Kasady’s broken mind in how quickly he accepted his symbiote. I particularly appreciate how much Carnage referred to them as “we“ instead of “I“ or “me,“ which made the difference between Carnage and Venom even more obvious.

It should come as no surprise then that Hardy stole the show for almost the entire film as the title character. Hardy was certainly enjoyable enough in the first film, but now Eddie and Venom feel like actual characters thanks to them actually having well-defined character arcs in this film.

Getting to actually hear Tom Hardy as Venom certainly took some adjusting to since his performance is more gruff and purposely comical in this film than Venable’s was in the previous one. Marcel saw the ironic hilarity of Venom and Eddie’s relationship in the first film and it seems she purposefully cranked it up to an eleven here.

Many viewers have already described the relationship between the two characters to be similar to those found in a romantic comedy and I would be inclined to agree. The two sound like a romantic couple still adjusting to living together, who, upon separating, realize how much they miss the other person. There is the added incentive that Carnage is after them and they will most certainly die if Venom doesn’t return to Eddie, but there is definitely more to their relationship than in the previous film. This is likely due to Kelly Marcel scriptwriting solo this time around, allowing her to bring the hammy relationship writing of Fifty Shades of Grey into a blockbuster superhero movie without much interference.

A relationship like this can only really work if the dialogue is extremely hammy and on the nose; Venom: Let There Be Carnage definitely finds itself falling under the same umbrella as Aquaman and the Sam Raimi Spider-Man film in this area. I definitely rolled my eyes the first time Kasady said “carnage” before getting the symbiote and then I just forced myself to let it go and enjoy the film for what it was.

Sadly, this didn’t work for every character and Kasady’s love interest, played by Naomie Harris, just did not work for me. I understand that Marcel wanted to humanize Kasady through their relationship, but Harris felt out of place for most of the film. Having Shriek in the film to disrupt the fights between Venom and Carnage could have been a neat idea. However the other ways Serkis portrayed their collective weakness to sound were far more creative. Harris was definitely doing the best with what she was given; she just wasn’t given very much.

I cannot imagine the stress of having to follow-up a composer like Ludwig Goransson, but Marco Beltrami came as close to the mark as he could. Beltrami’s score was still able to capture a similar feeling to Goransson’s from the first film, but it did not stand out to me nearly as much upon first viewing.

Overall, Venom: Let There Be Carnage was an enjoyable experience. While not on the same level as Shang-Chi or The Suicide Squad, I had a lot of fun with the Venom sequel. It was much better than the first in nearly every aspect. While there are certainly better movies releasing this month, if you just want a good time in a theater, then Venom: Let There Be Carnage might be perfect for you.

Rating: 7/10