Sony’s Spider-Man universe or whatever acronym they are currently using hasn’t exactly had the best track record regarding their films. There’s the Sam Rami Spider-Man trilogy starring Tobey Maguire that many regard as the best Sony has put out (I think we can all agree that it’s farfetched given Spider-Man 3, I don’t think that horrible dancing will ever leave my brain), Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield that batted .500 and with a team up with Marvel Studios, Jon Watts Spider-Man trilogy with No Way Home coming in a couple short months. Beyond those three attempts, the most successful Spider-Man film has been an animated affair with Miles Morales as the star and Peter Parker as the supporting player.
However, in 2018, Sony developed a film in the universe that wouldn’t have Spider-Man nor Peter Parker in it let alone mentioned by name. That film was Venom – a way too dark, campy, shallow story of the arch-nemesis sometimes anti-hero alien symbiote. Why should anyone trust Sony with a Venom story given their track record in rebooting a franchise twice let alone exclude one of the most popular superheroes since the existence of Marvel is beyond reasoning. But for what it was, Venom was a fun time at the movies especially in a crowded theater full of strangers. Take it for what it is, curb all expectations at the door and you won’t be disappointed in the slightest.
That’s the mentality one should have when going into the 2018 follow-up Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Expect the same mindless, surface level entertainment where you can turn your brain completely off and enjoy a little escapism for 90 minutes. If you enjoyed the first Venom film like many people did ($800 million worth would agree) you may enjoy this one too. Its tighter, faster paced and still completely dark – maybe as to capture the Venom aesthetic from how he sees the world in which he crash landed on. Regardless, I couldn’t tell you if I tried on what happened in this film in some scenes, the brightness was turned down low to almost zero.
Picking up where the first film left off, Venom and his host Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) get a call from a serial killer Cletus Kassady (Woody Harrelson) who’s awaiting death row and lethal injection. Kassady has been killing since a boy in a horror-like depiction of his early beginnings – killing his grandmother by pushing her down the stairs than turning to his abusive parents. Opening the film is flashback to a younger Kassady (Jack Bandeira) while at St. Estes Home for Unwanted Children. There he falls in love with a fellow inmate Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris) who is also a mutant being taken to the Ravencroft Institute. After Cletus’s final visit with Eddie, Kassady bite’s Eddie, getting a taste of the blood thus creating Venom’s spawn – Carnage.
For a film that has a PG-13 rating, writers Kelly Marcel and Tom Hardy and director Andy Serkis sure get away with a lot of death and murder within the 90 minutes. The rating alone cripples any type of potential the film may have and in doing so it keeps a short leash on a its villain. This is a watered-down version of Carnage that audiences and fans may not deserve. How many successful Rated R comic book properties function better with a more mature rating? Certainly, Logan, Deadpool and Joker would agree. Let There Be Carnage toes the very line that The Dark Knight toes by not showing any blood when Carnage and or Cletus is viciously murdering innocent bystanders. A lot is gotten away with by the amount of carnage (no-pun intended).
The main draw to Venom: Let There Be Carnage was the same as the first film – the odd-couple relationship between Eddie and Venom. Dialogue between the two is done all by Hardy but that doesn’t make the actual words campy and more humorous. In that regard, Let There Be Carnage suffers from an identity crisis – mixing both comedy and horror styled action into one amalgamation that doesn’t land the way its intended. Humor has and will always be in the Sony-verse and MCU’s DNA and Let There Be Carnage has its moments of genuine humor. Majority of it doesn’t work but the relationship and Tom’s performance does – It holds this film together by the tips of its sharp pointed claws.
In what other universe would two chickens have named Sonny and Cher work? None, it’s completely on brand for the type of humor in this sequel.
2018’s Venom was a re-introduction to a character that was handled so poorly in the Sam Raimi trilogy. At least in 2018 the character Eddie Brock was given a personality and a chance to stand on his own two feet while figuring out who he is and where he fits into the world. Let There Be Carnage deals with growing pains (anyone else see a sitcom pattern here) between the two. Although they are not on the same page more half the film, both are still their best option to survive.
Let There Be Carnage is too short. The appeal of a 90-minute film is there – get in, get out and be on your merry way but a lot looks to be left on the cutting room floor. The film would have done better with another 15, 20 minutes added on, especially with supporting characters. Anne (Michelle Williams), detective Patrick Mulligan (Stephen Graham) and Dan Lewis (Reid Scott) are misused with no significant role to play. It’s a waste of talent.
If for anything, Let There Be Carnage is an improvement on the previous film though, not by much. An explosion of sound and noise fill each scene making peace and quiet that much more desireable. See it if you had a great time with the first but if you didn’t, see it for the post-credit scene that will leave your jaw firmly on the floor.
Written By: Kelly Marcel & Tom Hardy
Directed By: Andy Serkis
Music By: Marco Beltrami
Cinematography: Robert Richardson
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Woody Harrelson, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham
Release Date: October 1, 2021
Running Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 59%
My Score: 2 out of 5