Unpopular opinion, but 2018’s Venom was so much better than this. Venom: Let There Be Carnage once again follows Eddie Brock and his symbiote pal Venom as they face off against Carnage, an offspring of Venom that latches onto serial killer Cletus Kasady after biting Eddie’s hand. Now, with a bloodthirsty Carnage on the loose, Eddie and Venom must work out their differences in order to take down the red symbiote. After the surprising success of the first film, Tom Hardy and co return to deliver a leaner and wackier sequel! Whatever you liked or didn’t like about the first film, Let There Be Carnage delivers even more of what made the first Venom successful. Sometimes, too much of a good thing is a bad thing and unfortunately for Let There Be Carnage, it’s more obnoxious than it is pleasant.
A bit of context for the unaware, but I adored the first film! I acknowledge its absurdity, but there’s an undeniable charm and magic about Venom. Whether intentional or not, Venom was a throwback to the superhero films of the early 2000’s, which made it feel out of place in the current film landscape. I also have a bit of a man crush on Tom Hardy, so watching his unhinged performance was a treat for me. As I walked into the theater, I was anticipating that same magic that I experienced with the first film. Imagine returning to Disney World after spending so many years away only to find the experience to be lifeless and disappointing. It sounds devastating, doesn’t it? Well, that’s how I felt after watching Let There Be Carnage. It’s tonally consistent with the first film, but Let There Be Carnage tries so hard to outdo its predecessor, that it comes across as grating.
There was a point during the film where my girlfriend turned to me and said, “Yo, Venom talks too much. Like, shut up!” I laughed because it was true! The dynamic between Eddie and Venom is the first film’s greatest strength, but Let There Be Carnage tries too hard to play up that odd couple dynamic that it eventually starts to overstay its welcome. The only time I’ve heard this much nagging in my life was when my mother was nagging me about going to college! There’s never a moment in Let There Be Carnage where sequences are allowed to breathe because Venom always has to say something funny in order to generate cheap laughs. Every line of dialogue out of Venom’s mouth is just throwing stuff at the wall in the hopes that something sticks.
This film does absolutely no favors for Woody Harrelson. For a film titled “Let There Be Carnage,” Carnage lacks any sort of menace, motivation, or presence. Visually, Carnage looks great, but it’s all show and no go. Why does Carnage want to kill Venom? Your guess is as good as mine. There’s one sequence that tries to give Cletus Kasady some sort of depth and it’s an animated sequence that recounts his childhood. Tonally, it’s consistent with Cletus’ demented personality and provides some insight into why the character is the way he is.
Speaking of visuals, this is one pretty movie, and I’m not just talking about the actors either! This is one aspect where Let There Be Carnage outdoes the first film. There’s a clear sense of scope and scale that cinematographer Robert Richardson effectively manages to convey with the symbiotes. There are so many gorgeous shots that emphasize the magnificence of these alien creatures in ways that the first film was unable to do. As previously mentioned, the hand drawn animation for Cletus’ backstory is so unique for a superhero film because it’s something that hasn’t been done before in this particular genre. Richardson’s cinematography is an absolute improvement over the last film.
From a technical aspect, Let There Be Carnage is about as good as it gets. The design for the symbiotes is top notch and accurate to the comics and the cinematography captures scale really well. The biggest issue is that it tries so hard to be in on the joke that it feels staged. Part of the magic of the first film was that it was unintentionally silly. The sequel tries to throw anything and everything at the audience in the hopes that something will stick, but it simply can’t replicate what that first film was able to capture. Sometimes, less is more and even with its shorter runtime, Let There Be Carnage does too much only to accomplish very little.