After Venom (2018)’s unprecedented box office success, it was only a matter of time before Sony greenlit a sequel. Exactly 3 years later, Venom: Let There Be Carnage has hit the silver screen and is breaking post-pandemic records. The first film, while poorly made, was wholly enjoyable because of the unintentionally corny, over-the-top dialogue, and has since amassed a bit of a cult following. Venom was one of the first films I ever reviewed, so I feel that I’ve come full circle by delving into its sequel. So, without further adieu, let’s look at how Venom: Let There Be Carnage managed to turn the missteps of the first film into triumphs.
The most substantial change between the two films was the switch from Ruben Fleischer and Andy Serkis in the director’s chair. While Fleischer went for a grounded version of the fantastical character, the script contained too much humor and came off as a bad comedy. Serkis, on the other hand, fully leaned into comedic elements, resulting in a movie with flaws more forgivable than its predecessor. Once again, Tom Hardy puts his passion for the character on full display through his performances of both Eddie Brock and Venom. While his American accent for Eddie is still croaky, Hardy’s ability to act against himself is commendable, and he manages to skillfully create strong comedic timing despite the challenge. On the other hand, Woody Harrelson as Cletus Cassidy and Carnage is a bit more complicated. Cassidy carries the plot forward, as Eddie and Venom are stuck in their (quite hilarious) lover’s quarrel for the bulk of the film, resulting in the villain feeling like a walking plot device. Luckily, Harrelson’s deliciously psychotic performance is enough to make you forget that.
To my surprise, the action was my main qualm with Let There Be Carnage. While many hoped for an R-rating from the action, it was brutal enough for me to justify Carnage’s name. For me, the issue was in the battle itself. The first two acts played as a parody of the superhero genre and felt fresh in comparison to the myriad other Marvel films that sort of blend together after a while. The third act maintains this humor, but, say it with me, devolves into a standard CGI monster fight. The oddly beautiful setting and the quippy comedy were enough to hold my interest, but this trope is becoming exhausted in the genre. Another small thing worth mentioning is that the color palette of the movie is nothing short of perfection. The saturated reds, oranges, and browns help set the mood during the constant transitions between humor and action.
With its 90 minute runtime, there isn’t any time to breathe, which surprisingly works to its advantage, as some aspects just wouldn’t hold up. The biggest strength of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, funnily enough, is that it isn’t trying to be a profound film. It’s a movie with mass appeal precisely due to its lack of complex storytelling, and that’s alright. Serkis understood the best direction to take the tone of the film and did a solid enough job executing it. The jokes are well written, and the rest of the dialogue is bad enough to read as humor. There isn’t too much to say, since it is very much one of those “turn off your brain” action-comedy excursions.