Monday 29 November 2021

Venom - Let There Be Carnage

Carnage Hall

Venom - Let There Be Carnage
USA/UK/Canada 2021
Directed by Andy Serkis
Marvel Studios/Columbia

Warning: Slight spoilers
concerning the mid-post-credits scene.

The first Venom movie (reviewed here) really shouldn’t have worked at all. Without the Spider-Man character as a catalyst for the look of the ‘suit’ that is Venom, it really doesn’t make much sense, either. However, despite the bizarre gymnastics to get the character into a stand alone film and giving him a totally new origin story (which, as I said, makes no sense), the first movie was a really fun, good time at the cinema... so I was more than happy to reacquaint myself with the character for a second movie.

The film once again stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom and Michelle Williams as his ex-girlfriend... and, as teased in the post-credits scene of the last movie, we have Woody Harrelson back as serial killer Cletus Kasady. Kasady becomes Carnage in this move in the most totally unlikely and unconvincing way, it has to be said. The film also features modern Miss Moneypenny Naomie Harris as a version of Shriek from the comics.

So all well and good and I’m here to say that the sequel, Venom - Let There Be Carnage, is a fun if frothy and insubstantial sequel to the first movie (well, even more insubstantial than the first movie at any rate). Certainly, the film is all about the humour as Eddie Brock and Venom try to live with each other and much of the film’s comedy comes from them trying to work out a few kinks in the symbiotic relationship. So there’s a scene played for laughs where Venom is trying to cook up a breakfast for Eddie to cheer him up after he has been heartbroken by the impending marriage of his ex, where he practically wrecks everything in the kitchen in the pursuit of culinary delight. There’s also a nicely done ‘break up’ scene where the two have a massive argument and go their separate ways in the movie for a while, just as Carnage comes into play and Cletus/Carnage is hunting down Eddie for a quick fix of revenge.

And it’s all... fine. Just fine.

It’s also, maybe, a bit of a mess. There’s nothing much but gloss and, coupled with the fact that the movie runs for just over an hour and a half, which is a nice running length for a movie normally, it feels like it’s finished before it’s even begun properly. The resolution, such as it is, just feels one or two set pieces light before you should be getting to that point and maybe, it turns out, a two hour running time is best suited to movies with big, modern, mythical characters. Which is strange because the action all feels epic but the scope of the story does not. Very little actually happens which is why it’s lucky we have some great performances to carry the movie by the likes of Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson here. Without actors of this pedigree, I suspect that this movie might have really dragged.

I still don’t think the imagination is quite there for the alien symbiotes in these movies though. Venom, as CGI and fluid a character as he is, still feels like some guy standing around in a suit (even if, you know, he isn’t) and, okay, the precedent has been set for that character in the previous movie so it’s fine to go with that here. But, the real problem is that Carnage, who always looked really ragged, edgy and dangerous in the comics (at least from the cover art that I remember) really doesn’t look all that different from Venom in the movie. He’s red and a little more scrappy for sure but, I felt they really needed to go to town a little bit more on the visualisation of the character in this to give him a more distinctive feel. I just felt he needed to be a bit more splintered from reality and all over the place but, still, the character works fine as a psychotic version of Venom to an extent and it looks fine on screen... it just doesn’t really feel as perilous as Harrelson’s pitch perfect reading as human serial killer Kasady, it has to be said.

But it’s still a nice blend of comedy and action and the scenes with Peggy Lu playing the grocery shop owner Mrs. Chen build on the ones from the first movie and should definitely make you smile. There’s also an extra added dimension to where things go at the end of the movie. While Venom is trying to show Eddie some of the things it knows about the universe at the end of the movie, something happens to them which transports them to a different aspect of the multiverse and they end up in a hotel room watching J. Jonah Jameson’s reveal that Peter Parker is Spider-Man... a different look at one of the post credits scenes from Spider-Man - Far From Home. Which means two things. One, the Venom moves are officially crossing over with the current Marvel Cinematic Universe and two, the various multiverses are beginning to collide. I can’t guess for sure as to whether this happens before Doctor Strange messes up the spell in the next movie... after all, this could be a reason that original post-credits scene happened but, saying that, going by the first trailer for Spider-Man No Way Home, the spell appears to get cast as a reaction to something similar happening in the first place so... yeah, I guess the jury’s out on that one.

Anyway, speculation aside, if you liked the initial stand alone Venom movie then you should have an okay time with Venom - Let There Be Carnage. It doesn’t have a great deal going for it but it is suitably entertaining and that’s more than enough reason to go see a movie anyway, right? So it’s fine.

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