Watching Venom: Let There Be Carnage, a quote from Joker came to mind: “I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realize, it’s a comedy.” In the case of Venom, his life has become a romantic comedy. Michelle Williams returns in the sequel as Anne Weying, but she’s hardly a love interest at this point. The real love story here is between Venom and Eddie Brock, once again charismatically played by Tom Hardy. They bicker and break up like a couple, but always get back together in a toxic fashion. While this doesn’t sound like the Venom we know from the comics, it is a unique approach to the superhero genre. If only Let There Be Carnage went all the way with this angle.
Picking up where the last movie sequel-baited us, Woody Harrelson reprises his role as the incarcerated Cletus Kasady, who has thankfully gotten a haircut. Harrelson is well-suited to play a serial killer who takes an interest in Eddie. After all, he was brilliant in Natural Born Killers, and Naomie Harris is a worthy replacement for Juliette Lewis. Let There Be Carnage has two problems, however. First, Venom is once again saddled with a PG-13 rating, despite rumors that it might roll the dice on an R. Second, there isn’t as much Carnage as the title suggests.
It takes far too long for Kasady to make contact with the red symbiote. When Venom and Carnage do finally clash, the audience might assume that the film is only at the halfway point. It turns out that we’ve reached the climax. The big showdown is indeed a spectacle, even if director Andy Serkis goes overboard with the CGI. Throughout the film’s surprisingly brief 97 minutes, though, we learn little about Carnage or his connection to Kasady. So, it’s hard to get that invested when our heroes and villains square off.
The film doesn’t quite deliver the Venom vs. Carnage movie that fans likely wanted. To a certain extent, though, it does give us the Eddie/Venom love story we didn’t know we wanted. Hardy once again carries the film on his shoulders in this duel role, selling it as both the Felix and the Oscar. The dialogue Hardy is given doesn’t always hit its mark, however. Screenwriter Kelly Marcel has talent, having previously worked on Saving Mr. Banks. Granted, she also adapted Fifty Shades of Grey, but there isn’t a screenwriter in the world who could make E. L. James sound natural. Regardless, Let There Be Carnage could’ve used a screenwriter with a more comedic background, i.e. somebody from Deadpool or even Robot Chicken. While there are comedic situations that show promise, the execution mostly falls flat.
Much like Eddie and Venom, Let There Be Carnage is torn on what it wants to be. One half is a straightforward superhero movie with promising yet ultimately underdeveloped villains. The other is a rom-com that comes close to working, but it doesn’t fully commit. At the very least, the film doesn’t overstay its welcome, and there is one scene that will have all of social media buzzing. While I won’t say what it is, this moment almost makes up for the rest of the film’s shortcomings. It’s not enough for me to fully endorse Let There Be Carnage, but this sequel is more fun than the original and paves the way for some potentially fun ideas to be explored in the inevitable Venom 3.