Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 37 minutes, Director – Andy Serkis
While trying to live with each other’s differences Venom and reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) must take on the murderous force of serial-killer Cletus Kasady, and new symbiote Carnage (Woody Harrelson).
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a film of many unexpected surprises. In fact, that itself may be one of the unexpected surprises. Back in 2018 Venom worked in its third act after embracing its ridiculousness and having fun with its events. From the off the sequel runs with this by being a full-on buddy comedy between the titular symbiote and reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), whose body he still inhabits. The two bicker about rules and what can and can’t be eaten. Eddie feeds Venom on a diet of chocolate and chicken – except for two specific ones, Sonny and Cher, which Venom insists “are best friends” – however, the alien craves more. The heads, or even full bodies, of criminals who the pair put a stop to.
As Venom clutters Eddie’s apartment while making breakfast to a destructive, rumbling rendition of Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off I found myself marvelling at the fact that this could perhaps be one of the best films of the year. A five star film that embraced a buddy comedy, bordering on rom-com, nature with laugh-out-loud hysterical results. It’s certainly an odd feeling to have had, but the entertainment factor is undeniably there within Venom 2. All thanks to the fact that screenwriter Kelly Marcel appears to have pinpointed the dynamic between the central pairing, had fun with it and ran. The same goes for director Andy Serkis and the cast and crew, particularly Tom Hardy. Even Woody Harrelson (and his wig) as the main antagonist of the piece appears to have understood the tone of the film and what he should be aiming for. Chewing up the scenery whenever he gets the opportunity.
Harrelson plays imprisoned serial-killer Cletus Kasady, intent on escaping to reunite with super-powered fiancé Frances Barrison (AKA Shriek, AKA an underused Naomie Harris). When, after an encounter with Hardy’s Brock, Kasady becomes connected to his own murderous symbiote, Carnage, he manages to free himself with the intent to destroy Brock and Venom before moving on to more around him. It’s around this point that more seriousness appears. Of course, it’s present within the somewhat intense and dark-bordering action, however this begins to take over as the core tone. Particularly as we reach the third act the action becomes the dominant factor, which while not being a bad thing does mean the initial tone that brings you into the film in the first place is pushed aside and barely referenced for much of the rest of the run-time; where the seriousness occasionally feels out of place in comparison to what has come before it.
Admittedly, it is nice to see a third act where the stakes aren’t to the extent of city-shattering, world-ending peril. It’s simply a not-always-friendly, neighbourhood not-quite spider-man trying to stop a villain (albeit one with advanced symbiote assisted superpowers) from leading on to further gradual death and destruction. With this in mind it helps that the film is a relatively short 97 minutes (the 2018 film was 112 minutes), both allowing for things to pass by quickly and not feel overlong and also slightly boost the initial comedy feel of the piece. The fights have their moments, although the CG still isn’t always best – The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin’s statement in regards to the first film that Venom “looks like someone drizzled with Creme Egg filling onto a bin bag” still stands – but the feeling that they verge on going on for slightly too long is certainly present in the film’s latter stages. As if Carnage hasn’t been fully developed amongst everything else and therefore his full potential and range of threatening abilities still needs to be scanned through.
Luckily, by the end Let There Be Carnage manages to step back up and remember its original comedic tone and style. Just about leading towards an ending with that same buddy-comedy-cum-rom-com feel. It feels aware of its nature, and certainly embraces the ridiculousness of its premise and scenarios on many occasions throughout the film. Making for a very enjoyable, highly funny first half where the cast and crew clearly understand what they’re making. It’s more in the second half as the more standard comic-book fights of perhaps a few years ago come into play where things slightly drop. However, there’s enough oddly hilarious bickering flatmate bromance between Hardy’s characters to carry things through and not want to entirely call the whole thing off.
While slightly dipping for the action of the third act there’s a lot to like about the frequently funny humour and central dynamic of Venom: Let There Be Carnage and the way that the cast and crew embrace its ridiculousness, particularly in the first half.