Let there be comedy. Lots and lots of comedy.
Venom, considered to be one of Spider-Man’s most sinister villain, has a rather underwhelming cinematic history. He debuted in Sam Raimi’s Spider Man 3 to less than stellar results given how the film was overpacked and misguided. Sony, in attempting to hold onto the rights to the character, produced a 2018 standalone film, Venom, directed by Ruben Fleischer. While watchable and not the worst produced Marvel film, it removed the interesting and captivating traits of Eddie Brock and Venom to make a bland and forgettable superhero film, quite a far cry for the “villain movie” audiences were promised.
For those who don’t remember the previous film, there was a post credits scene where Eddie goes to interview an incarcerated serial killer, Cletus Kasady. At the end of this scene, Cletus promised Eddie that when he gets out of jail, there is “going to be carnage.” This was a sign that Carnage, Venom’s greatest archenemy, was going to be in the next film, to be titled Let There Be Carnage. After 3 years, that post-credits scene finally gets a payoff, albeit an incredibly disappointing payoff.
Eddie and Venom are still living an unusual life together, with Eddie continuing his reporting job while feeding Venom’s hunger for flesh with chickens and humans, but only the bad kind. Feeling limited by this, Venom eventually breaks free from his bond Eddie to find another host. This happens shortly after Eddie’s final interview with Cletus ends with Cletus being infected with a part of Venom’s symbiote, named Carnage. Before Cletus could be executed, Carnage takes over Cletus’s body, and helps break him, as well as Cletus’s superpowered wife, Frances, out of prison. With the two criminals out on the run looking for vengeance, Eddie, along with his ex-fiancée Anne, must find Venom and bond back together to take on Carnage.
Anyone watching Let There Be Carnage might detect Spider-Man 3 vibes, and not because they both films have Venom. If the 2018 film had mere moments of silliness, the sequel doubles down and lets the lunacy run wild. Everything in this film feels like a joke, from the constant bickering between the characters, to Venom roaming the streets looking for fun, and the terrible puns. The most blatant example is a scene shortly after Cecil bonds with Carnage and escape prison, where he goes on a romp around New York City flaunting his powers and style, like Peter when he bonded with symbiote in Spider-Man 3. Seeing Sony focus more on the comedy aspects of these characters is like Warner Bros. saying a Batman film needs more scenes of dance shows.
Most of the film is practically a rom-com style story between Eddie and Venom, and although the bickering between the two is amusing at times, it continues to reduce the dramatic potential of these characters, and there is plenty to be found in the comics. This direction may a positive for people who enjoyed the silly moments of the first film, but for those expecting a move towards violence and gore, this is a massive disappointment. The film might as well wander into self-parody territory and have Venom himself sing Eminem’s “Venom.” Sadly, that does happen in the film. Twice.
Aside from the humor, the violence, like that in its previous film, feels neutered for the sake of being marketable. For a film with a subtitle like Let There Be Carnage, there is not much use of Carnage, both the violence and of the character. Woody Harrelson is a versatile actor, and his performance as Cletus is entertainingly over the top, but the film barely gives him anything to do, and Carnage’s interactions with Venom are few and far between, and the fight scenes look terrible. One would think that the film’s director, Andy Serkis, who is a masterclass at motion capture performance, would have had more a grasp on making these fight scenes and choreography look spectacular.
At least one good head-biting sequence in-frame would have been enough to be worth the price of admission, but the shot is once again obscured to obtain a PG-13 rating. In an age where movies like Deadpool and the Suicide Squad can be both gory and successful, there is no excuse why Venom can’t be either. Audiences will honestly get much more satisfaction from the prison scene fight in James Wan’s Malignant on HBO Max than they would in any of the violence in Let There Be Carnage.
The film also contains some terrible editing. Certain scenes cut away to each other with little sense of transition or logical progress, and in one case, a scene’s dialogue overlaps the next scene in such a haphazard way, that it almost seems like a scene was cut. It can’t be told yet if there was a better-constructed film lost in the editing room, but chances are that even a new cut wouldn’t help make this film better.
Let There Be Carnage would have been the best superhero film of 1997, except for the fact that it was made in 2021. Like the previous film before it, it is watchable, but mostly forgettable. Fans of the first film may appreciate the humor and Tom Hardy’s performance, but there is barely enough progress in the film to call it a sequel, as rest of the film contains references to the first that feel like checklist mandates, including Michelle Williams bonding with Venom again. Once again, a moment like that is nothing but unwarranted fan service. The closet this film truly gets to connecting with its audience is how Venom’s feeling of unfulfillment mirrors that of watching these films.
There is only one true reason to see this film, and that is for the post credits scene. The reaction of this scene can go in either direction, depending on how people view this character, or in this case, Sony’s depiction. Nevertheless, what happens in this post-credits scene will certainly break the internet, much more than anything that happens in the film itself.