Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)
Dir: Andy Serkis

This is a paddling pool of a movie, short, amusing enough for a little while, but ultimately disappointingly shallow.

Who is Carnage?
Cletus Kasady was showing in the post-credit scene of the first ‘Venom’, played by Woody Harrelson, he’s a serial killer on death row, who requests Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock to write his story. 

When does this film happen?
Not long after the events of the first Venom movie. A little time has passed, Brock and Venom have some routine, more ease in their partnership. 

What works?
Serkis is the undisputed king of motion-capture performance, but when it comes to directing, he’s not really made a big splash. Knowing what actors have to consider when portraying CG characters must really help and with Tom Hardy also writing the story, they’ve made sure Venom is more present than the first film. Though Eddie and Venom argue, they’re not constantly pulling the film in different directions, and so there’s a more even tone throughout the film than its predecessor, seemingly better knowing what it wants to be, a fun, crazy action-filled comic-book movie. It’s almost a throwback to the comic adaptations of over a decade ago but with the modern standards of effects and cast. It’s also really short, 97 minutes, so there’s no time wasted, nothing drags or feels extraneous, it pulls you into the story and action then keeps up the pace to hold your attention.  

Where does the film go wrong?
I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, there’s plenty of fun action, it certainly doesn’t drag, but it’s cut down so much that there’s no room to breathe, the only thing that’s given time to hit are punches. Somehow, it feels small, restricted in a way, that should be an opportunity to develop on depth over spectacle, yet it doesn’t do that, it fills the limited space it has with the overbearing title characters. The incredible cast, Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Willams and Naomie Harris are all Academy Award nominees, some of the most talented actors alive, but they all feel criminally underused as the film stays so superficial. No time is given to develop any of them, especially the ones established in the first film, in a meaningful way. 

Why doesn’t it work?
There are parts of the story that take up a few (in this case very precious) minutes, that would’ve been better used elsewhere to add depth to the human characters. While Venom is more present, he dominates. Tom Hardy’s performance never settles into anchoring any scenes, Eddie Brock gets constantly interrupted, overruled, enveloped and ultimately lost. That means that, apart from a brief section when the two are not bonded, we’re getting nothing from Eddie, it’s all Venom’s take, even on Eddies’s life and relationships, rendering him mute, impotent and pointless. Ultimately, that draws the focus on the film to the CGI characters of the title, culminating in a showy, CGI end fight, that again is an amorphous alien creature fighting another amorphous alien creature. The half-baked motivations of their human hosts, once powerful and engaging in the pages of the comics and included to add backstory and depth, are summarily overshadowed, and add very little to the stakes. There’s an amazingly complex love story that’s key to the storyline, yet it feels so rushed and juvenile, that it’d be easy to miss the poignant heartbreak that their love can never be while Cletus is host to Carnage. It should be a counterpoint to Eddie and Anne’s own romance, but that idea is never given the time or attention it deserves. 

How will this affect the Spider-Man movies? (SPOILER ALERT)
There’s a post-credit scene, one that’s unambiguously giving us the other side of what we’re about to see in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’. Brock and Venom are suddenly pulled from their universe into (what appears to be) the universe of the MCU, where they see on TV both J. Jonah Jameson and more importantly Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, grabbing Venom’s interest. There’s no doubt they’re going to appear in ‘No Way Home’, though this whole movie has been setting Venom up as an anti-hero working hard to eschew his villainous tendencies, so Venom is more than likely going to embrace the ‘Lethal Protector’ arc, helped in some way by his interaction with Peter Parker. I can’t imagine any other elements from these films that are going to cross over, certainly not immediately, except Brock and Venom.

This was such a stand-out success in the subdued pandemic box-office that it’s unsurprising that Venom 3 is being planned, with Serkis looking likely to return to direct. I fear its success might be taken as justification to do the same again, and they’ve already set up another symbiotic character to develop. Hopefully, the expanding universe will mean that next time there will be better options than yet again showing us Eddie Brock doing little more than just being a host to Venom as he bashes another gooey CGI symbiote.  


2 thoughts on “Venom: Let There Be Carnage

  1. Pingback: The Amazing Spider-Binge |

  2. Pingback: A Little Bit of Spider-Man: No Way Home Speculation! |

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