Venom: Let There Be Carnage strikes better but shatters its claws and teeth.
This week, we’re heading back to Sony’s own Marvel Cinematic Universe with another film coming up after the first film. Actor and director Andy Serkis walks into his office as director of this sequel with Kelly Marcel returning as a sole screenwriter. Despite being a Marvel film, Venom: Let There Be Carnage only includes some small numbers of actors reprising their roles in the film with a few newer additions added to the film while sharing the same connected universe with Spider-Man and other Marvel superheroes owned by Sony.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage takes place sometime after the first film and focuses on investigative journalist Eddie Brock who struggles to adjust life as a regular human and the host of the alien symbiote Venom, which grants him superhuman abilities in order to be a moonlighting vigilante. As Brock attempts to reignite his normal life and journalism career, he soon encounters and interviews Cletus Kasady, a psychotic serial killer who later becomes the host of the symbiote called Carnage.
Most of the actors from the first film return for the sequel. Oscar-nominated actor Tom Hardy (The Revenant) reprises his role as Eddie Brock/Venom, a journalist trying to balance his life as a human and as the host of Venom, while Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, Manchester by the Sea) reprises her role as Eddie’s ex-girlfriend Anne Weying. Woody Harrelson receives his big role as Cletus Kasady/Carnage after appearing in the mid-credits scene from the first film that foreshadows his twisted villainy role in the sequel.
New actors Naomie Harris (Moonlight) and Stephen Graham (The Irishman) appeared after being summoned by Serkis. Harris portrays her role as Francis Barrison/Shriek, a woman who possesses her screaming power that breaks the sound barriers to anyone who comes across her and is Cletus Kasady’s love interest while Graham appears as Mulligan, a somewhat corrupted detective who utliizes Eddie Brock to pick up the pieces of Kasady’s murder victims. Taking some advice from his previous films as an actor, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is Andy Serkis’ third directorial effort due to his wide experience with films containing CGI, visual effects, and motion capture technologies. As director, Serkis takes on his heavier camera shooting skills to focus more directly towards Hardy’s character as both Eddie Brock and Venom, giving him an improvable-balancing character development. Serkis even shines the tone and color for the steady-timely pacing, the returning actors, the on-and-off chemistry between Hardy and Williams, the violent action sequences, and the pieces of San Francisco setting. While the film improves its quality and tone, the story seems tacky in number of levels due to the distracting CGI on the Venom and Carnage scenes. In addition, the visuals and the weak Cletus Kasady character are what needs to work while trying to focus more attentively on that Carnage villain.
Also returning in the film is Reid Scott (HBO’s Veep) as Dan Lewis, a doctor who now becomes Anne Weying’s fiance, and Peggy Lu as the convenience store owner. And if you have a good eye while watching this film, another easy-to-miss cameo hidden reference shown in the film is the late Marvel comic book titan Stan Lee.
I’m not a Rotten Tomatoes type-of-guy but Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a smooth, bold attempt to outshine the original film (despite being less than 100 minutes for the time length) with some interesting visual points and plot twists down the road thanks to the director and the returning cast members, particularly Hardy and William’s acting performances. While my honest reaction to this film lies between “good” and “mixed,” this sequel is a tad better with funnier moments being included. Unfortunately, this sequel fails to make up for its movie-infested CGI, the visuals, horrifying plotlines, and weaker villainy characters inside and out. The sequel is surprisingly good, but stupidly funny. I’m not sure whether this film is a good option, but you can give this a try if you want. It’s a hard gamble between your time, your money, and this movie.
One last thing, if you guys stick around for the mid-credits scene, there is a J.K. Simmons cameo in the film, reprising his role as J. Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man films, that ties directly from Spider-Man: Far From Home and possibly setting the stage of the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home and the future Venom sequel.
(Review by Henry Pham)