Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a mostly passable sequel that has the same highlights (an amazing dual performance from its lead and a strong sense of humor) and flaws (lackluster villains) as its 2018 predecessor. I doubt it will win over anyone who didn’t appreciate the first film, but I don’t see it completely turning fans away from the symbiote-focused franchise either.
Let there be Carnage delivers on the promised premise from Venom’s post-credit sequence and pits the Lethal Protector against his blood-red spawn and its most prominent host, Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). The movie spends little time building up Kasady and his long-distance love, Francis Barrison/Shriek (Naomie Harris), which works in its favor at times, but hinders it in others. Part of me wishes we got to know them more, but another part of me enjoyed the feature’s brisk pacing.
To be entirely honest, I’m not sure why Shriek is in Let There Be Carnage. All she does is provide unnecessary motivation for Kasady, and bogs down the otherwise terrific climax with one of the two frustratingly out-of-character moments that had me almost shouting at the screen. Also pretty disappointing is the fact that Carnage’s human counterpart doesn’t fare much better than Shriek. Cletus Kasady’s arc is so muddled and confused that I had a hard time enjoying the all-in performance from Woody Harrelson.
Side note: even if they don’t pan out, I always appreciate it when an award-winning actor is willing to completely envelope themselves in schlocky, campy performances to match the tone of their projects.
While Kasady/Carnage and Barrison are pretty one-dimensional, the action set pieces they take part in are anything but. Carnage’s initial rampage is particularly awesome, and gives an immediate impression of how powerful/terrifying the newly-formed monster is. The film’s final battle is also noteworthy, and even though it boils down to “CGI goo vs CGI goo” yet again, the lighting, characters designs, and colors of the symbiotes in play are much, much more appealing than the Venom/Riot fight in the first film. The superior camera work doesn’t hurt either.
Another big win for Let There Be Carnage is the returning cast. Tom Hardy (along with Kelly Marcel’s script) leans even more into the Eddie/Venom buddy-comedy shtick that their first outing so much fun, and is basically worth the price of admission alone. Michelle Williams is back as Eddie’s Ex, Anne, and she puts forth the only main performance that I’d put anywhere near Hardy’s in quality. Reid Scott and Peggy Lu also reprise their roles as Dan and Mrs. Chen respectively, and are both surprisingly funny whenever they get the chance to be.
I feel like I ragged on Venom: Let There Be Carnage quite a bit earlier, so let me make myself clear by ending on this note: I enjoyed most of it. It isn’t the best superhero movie of the year, but it’s still an entertaining – if bumpy – ride, and I’ll definitely be there for the razor-toothed antihero’s next adventure.