Review: Venom: Let There Be Carnage' (2021) Dir. Andy Serkis
Updated: Jan 4
The second film in Sony's Spider-Man Universe and sequel to 2018s sleeper-hit 'Venom' sees the original cast back to expand on the parasitic anti-hero and the new villains he's facing...
Freelance reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) maintains his symbiotic relationship with the parasitic Venom, going about his daily life and controlling the darker side to his alter-ego as they go about both a day job and night job cleaning up the streets.
Trying to win back former fiancé Anne (Williams), Brock also is working to unlock the life story of convicted serial killer Cletus Kasady (Harrelson). But Kasady is unknowingly exposed to the parasite from Brock, that starts to take hold.
It falls to Brock and Venom to not only battle the vengeful and dangerous Shriek (Harris), Kasady's life-long soulmate, but also the parasite that takes over Kasady and allows him to become Carnage, a beast even more powerful and dangerous than Venom himself....
Tom Hardy returns as the carefree Eddie Brock, freelance reporter (now for the Daily Bugle) writing hit and miss stories and still living the single life, bar his parasite. Hardy was a dubious choice for the 2017 casting of the infamous anti-hero Venom, but has now forged a rather entertaining and often pleasing interpretation. As Brock, Hardy manages to retain an edge that always simmers on the point of breaking as a man willing to bend the rules and get his hands dirty. As Venom, his vocal performance just shows how much fun he's having in the dual role. It's clear how much fun he's having back in the comic book world of action movies.
Woody Harrelson, teased in the mid-credits of the previous film, makes a (wig-less) return as serial killer Cletus Kasady, a man due on death row but has a fascination with cryptic clues and messages shared with Brock for publication. But it's not long before the parasite finds its way to our villain and he becomes a rampaging, blood-red coloured CGI beasts living up to his namesake as Carnage. With spikey tendrils, elongated limbs and a bark worse than his multi-teethed bite, he certainly is more of a foe than Riot was. Yet, it's the CGI that takes over for the most part and we have little of Harrelson to enjoy. Still, he has a brilliant glimmer of insanity and menace to Kasady outside of Carnage when he gets the chance to shine.
The off-beat buddy comedy is rife from the start, the double act of Hardy's Brock sparring with Hardy's Venom through squabbles, conversation and bickering make for some amusing moments.
Hardy is commendable in giving both vocal and physical performances for the symbiote, thanks to generous CGI enhancements. They're the perfect odd couple who have learnt to live together, but still battle to decide who is the one in control. It's Brock/Venom where the humour comes from, and to be fair most of the entertaining elements arise from. Venom as a character still has great dark humour about him, his lust for blood and violence remaining in check as he goes about eating chickens, learning housework and protecting good citizens against criminals. He's the foul-mouthed anti-hero who offers a little bit of variety in the superhero genre. Especially when he comes "out of the Eddie closet" and tries to experience the expressive nightlife, unknowingly becomes a LGBTQQIP2SAA hero and becomes something you begin caring for.
Newcomer Stephan Graham is the San Francisco cop out to catch Kasady, not easy when he doesn't trust Brock either. Michelle Williams returns as Anne with more time to flex her inner Venom, and Naomi Harris makes her debut as mutant villain Shriek, a psychopath who has a life-long bond with Kasady and will destroy anyone - and anything - in her way to protect him. Harris is clearly enjoying herself here in this vicious role, and it shows with her gleeful insane killer.
While the story does take a while to pick up pace, it's only for the final act where the brakes are taken off and the action ramps up. It's surprising how much of the story relies on Brock / Venom for the entertainment value, and when we are away from them things feel a little less, well, entertaining. That's not to say it's bad, it's still a rather dark ride and introduces some new angles to the franchise.
Rest assured, the action is fast and frantic when it arrives with lots of physics defying CGI fighting between our two CGI parasites, which is just video game fluff. It's part crime thriller, part buddy comedy. There's no great threat, no real sense of wider danger that there was in the first, and feels much smaller in scale somehow. It doesn't totally improve on the original, but doesn't lower the tone either and will certainly deliver for 90mins of nonsense.
There are also plenty more nods to Sony's Spider-Man universe popping up, so it may not be too long before we see Tom Hardy and Venom on a much bigger stage encountering other heroes and villains, which he now deserves to do instead of just another CGI parasite.
There seems to be less carnage this time around, but this sequel delivers more of the Brock/Venom bromance that is far more entertaining. Hopefully we'll seem more of them on a bigger Marvel stage one day.
'Venom: Let There Be Carnage' is a co-production between Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment, Avi Arad Productions, Matt Tolmach Productions and Pascal Pictures