Things aren’t going well between Venom and Eddie Brock. Eddie’s rules about not eating human brains begin to fuel resentment in the alien symbiote. And Eddie is being driven nuts by Venom’s chaotic antics. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that Anne has moved on with her life, thus leaving them both depressed.
In an effort to get their lives back on track, Venom and Eddie try to revive his journalism career. Opportunity presents itself when notorious serial killer Cletus Kasady requests an interview with Eddie.
Their dialogue begins a relationship that hastens Kasady’s death sentence and brings Eddie newfound fame. But in the course of their interactions, the serial killer becomes infected by Venom, resulting in a new, terrible, and unstoppable monster. The combination of Kasady and the alien symbiote creates Carnage.
After breaking out of prison, Carnage begins his reign of terror in San Francisco. Unfortunately, Venom and Eddie must reconcile their differences if they’re going to save their loved ones and the city.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some strong language, disturbing material, and suggestive references.
Getting to the point, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a big mess, but there are a few high points. As with the first movie, the relationship between Venom and Eddie is the highlight. It’s an Odd Couple pairing where the two characters who are literally bonded together. Venom’s snarky commentary during the scenes generates a lot of laughs.
The alien also provides a lot of physical humor as he trashes Eddie’s apartment, knocks people around, and destroys Eddie’s life like a terrible teenager. One scene in particular stands out as Venom ditches Eddie and hits the town on his own. The giant toothy alien fits right in with the San Francisco rave scene and finally finds acceptance at his “coming out party.” The humor with Venom is the only thing that saves this film.
Among the supporting cast, Peggy Lu stands out as Mrs. Chen, the convenience store owner. She also generates a lot of laughs with her limited screen time and is a welcome returning cast member.
As a longtime fan of the Spider-Man comics, I was reading the series at the time of the debut of both Venom and Carnage. I was impressed to see Carnage’s CG creation on the big screen. He looks just as he was drawn in the Marvel Comics. It’s a visually faithful adaptation of the character.
The other notable thing about Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the end credit scene. It’s more interesting than the entire movie preceding it and bodes well for Venom’s future. I’m quite interested in seeing where Tom Hardy and Venom go from here.
As previously mentioned, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is pretty bad. I was very excited to see how director Andy Serkis would deliver this movie, but it clearly got away from him.
First off, Woody Harrelson, as Cletus Kasady, is a complete mess. You can’t look at him and see anything other than Woody Harrelson. (As a side note, there’s a flashback to 1996 where another actor is shown as “young Cletus,” but anyone alive in 1996 knows Woody Harrelson looks the same in 1996 and 2021.)
The movie tries to build him up as Hannibal Lecter, but his obsession with Eddie Brock is never believable, and his creepy prison dialogue is alternately awkward, cliché, and boring. When he eventually turns into Carnage, there’s not much special about it. We already saw a symbiote villain with Riot in the first film, so Carnage’s thunder was largely stolen. For a favorite Spider-Man villain, it’s disappointing to see how he was realized.
An additional problem is Naomie Harris as Frances Barrison / Shriek. A couple of hours before seeing Venom, I saw her in No Time to Die as Moneypenny. It was a Harris double feature. While she was great with James Bond, she’s weird and unlikable here as Kasady’s love interest.
Oddly, she has a mutant-like ability to produce sonic screams, but it is never stated that she’s a mutant. In fact, her powers are never explained at all. When paired with Harrelson as Cletus, they’re clearly trying to recreate Natural Born Killers, but it never works.
Then there’s Stephen Graham as Detective Mulligan. He has a chip on his shoulder that is never explained and makes him constantly unlikable. And if you are a fan of the Marvel comics, then you know who his character eventually becomes, yet there’s nothing here that really makes that something to look forward to.
There are a lot of other things that simply don’t work. For example, they repeatedly drop the name “Lethal Protector” when referring to Venom, and they eventually yell it in unison like a battle cry. It was the name of one of the Venom comics, but it’s hokey. Then there’s the final battle that just turns into a CG mess of a battle. It brings nothing new to the table.
This movie is really only for Venom fans. Nobody else will really have the patience to sit through it and overlook its flaws. The end credits scene is a great payoff, but it’s debatable if the movie is worth paying for to see it.
VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE REVIEW SCORE: 5/10
Scott Chitwood has been writing about film online since 1995. He is a co-founder of TheForce.Net, IGN Movies, and the Houston Film Critics Society. Scott wrote for ComingSoon until joining Vital Thrills in 2020. Scott is also the publisher of Red 5 Comics and lives in Houston, TX.