Venom has always been one of those characters that is very hard to pin down, from his debut in the comic as a villain against Spider-Man to become a huge part of the Anti-Hero craze of the 1990s, to being one of those films that most people thought would never be made, to his current status as an outsider from the Marvel Cinematic Universe who is still a huge success (See our review of the first Venom movie). Now heading into his second outing, Venom: Let There Be Carnage looks to take on another character who is just as hard to bring to the big screen: Carnage.
Title: Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Production Company: Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment, Tencent Pictures & Pascal Pictures
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by: Andy Serkis
Produced by: Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, Amy Pascal, Kelly Marcel, Tom Hardy & Hutch Parker
Written by: Tom Hardy & Kelly Marcel
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham, Peggy Lu & Woody Harrelson
Based on: Maximum Carnage by Tom DeFalco, J.M. DeMatteis, Terry Kavanagh & David Michelinie. Venom created by Todd McFarlane & David Michelinie. Carnage created by Mark Bagley & David Michelinie.
Release dates: October 1, 2021 (United States)
Running time: 97 minutes
I have a story for you, Eddie…
In 1996, a young Cletus Kasady watches helplessly as his love, Frances Barrison, is taken away from St. Estes Home for Unwanted Children to the Ravencroft Institute. On the way, she uses her sonic scream powers to escape and attacks young police officer Patrick Mulligan. He shoots Barrison in the eye and suffers an injury to his ear due to her scream. Unbeknownst to Mulligan, who believes he killed her, Barrison is taken to the facility, which is hardened against her powers.
In the present day, Mulligan, now a detective, contacts Eddie Brock to speak to Kasady, a serial killer who refuses to talk to anyone other than Brock. After the visit, Venom is able to figure out where Kasady has hidden the body of the victims, which gives Brock a huge career boost. Kasady, who is sentenced to lethal injection, invites Brock to attend his execution. However, Venom is provoked to attack Kasady via insults towards Brock. Kasady bites Brock’s hand, ingesting a small part of the symbiote. Brock is contacted by his ex-fiancée Anne Weying, who tells him that she is now engaged to Dr. Dan Lewis.
Kasady’s execution fails when a red symbiote emerges and blocks the injection. It introduces himself as Carnage and goes on a violent rampage through the prison, freeing inmates and killing the guards. Kasady and Carnage then make a deal: Carnage will help Kasady break out Barrison from Ravencroft, and Kasady will help him eliminate Venom. Mulligan calls Brock and warns him about the situation. Meanwhile, Venom, wanting more freedom to eat people, has an argument with Brock and detaches from his body; they go their different ways. In Ravencroft, Kasady frees Barrison, and they travel to their old children’s home to burn it down.
Mulligan, suspicious of Brock due to his interactions with Kasady before Carnage emerged, takes Brock to the police station. Brock refuses to answer Mulligan’s questions and contacts Weying as his lawyer. Brock reveals that Venom has separated from him and needs the symbiote to fight Carnage together. As Venom makes his way through San Francisco by hopping from body to body, Weying finds and convinces him to forgive Brock. She bonds with Venom and breaks Brock out of the police station. Brock and Venom make amends and bond again.
Kasady takes Mulligan hostage, and Barrison captures Weying after failing to find Brock. Barrison gives Lewis information on Weying’s whereabouts, and he gives it to Brock. Kasady and Barrison plan to get married at a cathedral, where Venom appears and fights Carnage. Barrison seemingly kills Mulligan with her sonic powers. Venom is overpowered by Carnage, and the latter decides to kill Weying atop the Cathedral. Venom manages to rescue Weying in time and provokes Barrison to use her powers again; her sonic blast causes both symbiotes to separate from their hosts as the cathedral collapses and a falling bell kills Barrison.
Venom saves Brock by bonding with him before the impact. Carnage tries to bond with Kasady again, but Venom devours the symbiote, killing it. Kasady states that he only wanted Brock to be a friend, but Venom bites Kasady’s head off. While Brock, Venom, Weying, and Lewis escape, a still-living Mulligan’s eyes flash blue. Brock and Venom decide to take a tropical vacation while they ponder their next steps. As Venom tells Brock about the symbiotes’ knowledge of other universes, a blinding light transports them from their hotel room to another room where they watch J. Jonah Jameson reveal Spider-Man’s identity as Peter Parker on television.
Inmates of the Asylum
- Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock / Venom:
Seeing this one guy playing two characters is just as good as it was in the first film. However, I think the division between the two for the majority of the film was a bit off-putting. After all the growth the two had to come together to save the planet in the first Venom film, to see them still be the bickering odd-couple again in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, only to come together again, again, really feels like the way these two were written just didn’t capitalize on the development and might keep Hardy in Venom stagnation till the contracts run out. Hell, even Marvel had the characters develop more than this in the same time frame.
- Michelle Williams as Anne Weying:
While I do enjoy seeing Michelle back as Anne in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the use of her character goes from a kick in the dick to horny jail material, and back to the damsel in distress. This does the character nothing in the terms of development. In the comics, the events of Anne being tied to the symbiote for only a moment, which had her eating someone’s head just like in the movie, left her psychologically scared and afraid of Eddie completely. This idea could have been a much more interesting development for Anne, leading her to get even further away from Eddie and Venom before being dragged back into things by Carnage.
- Naomie Harris as Frances Barrison / Shriek:
Don’t get me wrong, Naomie as Shriek is excellent casting, however, I’m not a fan of how the character was used in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Shriek is used in one of two ways in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, as an object of desire for Cletus, and as a secondary villain that helps bring everything together for the main characters. Honestly, outside of the reference to a much better story, Shriek brings nothing to the table, an unfortunate waste of a good character.
- Reid Scott as Dan Lewis:
Dan returning was just as pointless as most of the other secondary characters in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Outside of one moment in the final battle, Dan contributes nothing to the overall plot and did not need to return. We got the whole “Anne is dedicated in another relationship” thing through Anne’s character, and didn’t need him there at all. Dan could have been setting things up in another state or city so he and Anne could be together away from Venom and all the stuff that happened in the first film, giving more gravity to what Anne does in this film. Instead, we get another wasted and pointless character.
- Stephen Graham as Patrick Mulligan:
Mulligan is a character who is here to give Shriek someone to get revenge on, nothing more. He is a pain in the ass to Eddie, another authority figure who is berating Eddie and trying to cause Eddie to feel like more of a loser. Used more as a connection piece for multiple moments and characters that really did not need to be there at all.
- Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady / Carnage:
Given that the subtitle of the film is “Let There Be Carnage” with Carnage being emphasized is done for good reason, Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady/Carnage is the standout in the film. Yes, the character overall is stunted by the PG-13 rating of Venom: Let There Be Carnage in terms of violence, but the filmmakers really do push as far as they can with the rating. Carnage is violent, doing some very violent acts throughout the film, and Cletus is so psychological in terms of justification for his actions that the two really work and are on the level, if not better, as Tom Hardy as Eddie and Venom. I haven’t seen such a good psychopath in mainstream-type movies as Cletus since Heath Ledger played The Joker in The Dark Knight, he’s that good. You’ll want to see more of the character by the time the film ends, but unless something crazy and unexpected happens, you’ll just need to enjoy what you get in Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
- Peggy Lu as Mrs. Chen:
I love Peggy and her role as Mrs. Chen in Venom, and she brings more of that into Venom: Let There Be Carnage. A more confident and bitchy shop-owner who is sick of being strong-armed by thugs and then Eddie/Venom after the events of the first film, she is a better, but small, character here. Extra points to a moment in the film where she actually joins with Venom to deliver a great back and forth with Anne late in Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
Thank you, one person!!
What makes Venom: Let There Be Carnage work is the dynamic between Eddie Brock and Venom itself, we see that nothing has really changed since their first time pairing up in Venom. Eddie is still a loser who is hated by just about everyone else around him. Venom is an aggressive predator who, while having a soft spot for a pair of chickens, still wants to eat the brains of anyone while Eddie tries to use chocolate and chickens to stop him from actually doing it. This leads to Venom coming off as an asshole for the majority of the film, a pissed-off Alien who has had enough of being kept secret and hidden in the shadows. While this worked really well in the first film, in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, we see what would happen if the two were to split apart, with Venom going on a binge of new hosts, but keeping to Eddie’s morals, and then what could happen if the two actually trusted in each other 100%. This gives a bit of character development to both Eddie and Venom, making the idea behind the “bromance” aspect something of a good story to work with.
On the alternate side is Carnage. First, I must give credit to Woodie Harrelson for his amazing work as Cletus Kasady. His work in the jail scenes and also in the finale is on par with one other villain I’ve seen in that situation: Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight. I was getting the same cold and calculated tone from Cletus as I did Joker so many years ago, which gives his time on screen some of the must-watch moments of Venom: Let There Be Carnage. As Carnage, which is the original symbiote version of the character (while mixing in version 2 aka the Blood suit) for the most part, you get the crazy overpowered monster that he first came off as, a complete mirror to Venom who is trying to get its head around morals and doing things according to Earth laws. This contrast really makes for a good story as it comes off as not quite a good vs evil battle, but more of a battle of morals and how to treat others.
As with the first Venom movie, there are a lot of jokes in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, some of which are pretty good and got a laugh out of me, with others not really landing in the way that the director thought they should. I will say that the ending to the big fight in the third act leading to the only joke that had me rolling around in my seat laughing with, so keep an eye out for it.
Fire and Sound can hurt me!
There are a few things that really annoyed me as a long-time Venom and Carnage fan in Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
The first thing that really annoyed me was the storyline involving Shriek. Maximum Carnage, the story which sees Carnage and Shriek team up for the first time. While there was a little bit of flirting between the two in that story, there was never any romantic involvement in the story or characters. Venom: Let There Be Carnage changes that by making Shriek the love interest of Cletus and a huge focus of what he wants to do in the film. The majority of the third act revolves around a wedding scene between the two before becoming a huge fight that involves Cletus being emotionally torn between the woman he loves and the power that the Carnage symbiote gives him. For someone who constantly stated that all he wanted was carnage in both of these films, the sudden change in character to humanize him really hinders who the character is in general. I can understand what they did with this part of the story, showing Shriek as the “bright light” he found on the hell of his life, but we didn’t really need a love story in Venom: Let There Be Carnage at all.
Speaking of the love story, I know a lot of people were fans of the use of Anne from the first Venom film, but having her return just to rub her engagement in Eddie’s face felt like a low blow. I know this was done to create more anger and division between Eddie and Venom, pushing Eddie down further into his loser state, plus to recreate the She-Venom moment from the first film too for all you people who belong in horny jail. But all of this was completely pointless when you think about it. In a story where Eddie and Venom need to learn to work together and did so very well, for the most part, adding Anne in for a few moments and to be the damsel in distress trope was frustrating that the writers couldn’t think of anything better to bring the two main characters together in the final battle.
Lastly, and this is a HUGE carry-over from the first Venom film, is the film’s rating. Venom & Venom: Let There Be Carnage should NOT have been PG-13 rated films. Characters like Venom and Carnage, especially Carnage, are ultra-violent characters who are going to bring death and destruction in everything they do. Venom: Let There Be Carnage did a decent job of making Carnage look like a threat and a violent creature within the PG-13 rating, but there are moments where you can see that would have had a much greater impact if Venom: Let There Be Carnage was given the freedom with an R rating as Deadpool did. Seeing Carnage (or Venom) actually eat someone’s head instead of a cutaway would mean these guys mean business, plus Carnage could actually rip people limb from limb, and going so over the top that the divide between Venom and Carnage’s morals would be way opposite and make for a better battle, not only between the two symbiotes but also psychologically between Cletus and Eddie.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is one of those films where you’ll want to turn your brain off and watch as a “dumb action film” and a “homage to 1990s superhero films” instead of the epic cross-over megablockbuster that the rest of the MCU offers, or even the Spider-Man franchise, presents. Carnage is the star of the film, and that’s the way it should be. However, given the post-credits scene, we’re going to see a cross-over that could either make or break the Venom franchise… And we all know the mouse isn’t a fan of more violent anti-heroes… At least we still have some incredible comics to read and upcoming video games to look forward to that involve our favorite goopy-looking alien.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a great follow-up to the first Venom film, another run at the odd-couple experience that is Eddie and Venom while bringing in one of the best villains to come from the symbiote characters. However, once again, the PG-13 rating and some writing issues hold Venom: Let There Be Carnage from being a huge smash hit. With the future of Venom looking to be added into the realm of Spider-Man, it’s going to be interesting where this franchise goes.
- Woody Harrelson as Cletus/Carnage is a show-stealer.
- Venom’s interaction in the party scene
- The mirror dynamic between Cletus/Carnage and Eddie/Venom
- Shriek, Anne, Dan, and Mulligan feel like they could be handled better or dropped completely.
- The PG-13 rating still feels like it has hindered the movie from being really great.
- Integration into the Spider-Man/MCU franchise could hurt future movies.