History will look back on 2021 as a significant year for comic book movie fandom. Between the big and small screen, fans have been treated to Zack Snyder's Justice League, a Black Widow movie, and a new golden era for superheroes on television following a record-dry 2020 due to pandemic-caused delays.
To add to the showering of riches fans have enjoyed this year, they have also been given the symbiotic sequel everyone has been waiting for. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is here, and the Sony Spider-Man Universe will never be the same.
With quotes coming from Hardy and Serkis about Peter Parker and marketing re-coining the phrase "expanding the universe," Venom: Let There Be Carnage quickly became about what's next just as much as about what happens in this movie. The early reactions doubled down on this narrative when they mainly focused on the post-credit scene being an Earth-shattering event.
Factors like runtime, initial reviews, and the non-focused marketing campaign had expectations for this movie lower than most in 2021. But the anticipation for what this movie could mean for the greater Sony Spider-Man Universe is sky-high.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is an important piece to a puzzle much larger than itself. How did it go?
Venom & Carnage's Romantic Comedy
The simple fact about this sequel is that if you enjoyed the first one, there is a high likelihood you will enjoy this one. Director Andy Serkis and his team looked at the elements that they felt propelled Venom to box office success and put all of their chips on those numbers. The buddy cop dynamic between Eddie Brock and Venom is the core of the movie with the B plot sprinkled around it.
This leaves little room for the rest of the story to develop around our dual main characters. "Fast-paced" was a common tag given in early reviews, and if anything, that is an understatement. Elements like Cletus Kasady (Carnage) and Frances Barrison (Shriek) were halfway down the field moments after being introduced. Fans will get little to no time to get to know these new characters, but that is not why they paid money for the ticket.
The admiration this movie will receive will be majority reliant on the aesthetic and feel of the symbiote characters. The way Venom and Carnage move and interact with each other and the rest of the world is about as elite as monsters on-screen get. Add in some incredible sound design and exciting fight choreography, and this movie is a treat for the eyes anytime Venom and Carnage are on the screen.
Tom Hardy is Eddie Brock & Venom
The people making decisions at Sony Pictures are the biggest Eddie/Venom fans of all time. Tom Hardy brings back his eccentric and unique take on the estranged journalist and turns it up to 11. Now, with an entire 90-something minutes of Venom to play off of, this duo is the foundation for everything happening in this movie.
The execution of this dynamic is where the movie asks audiences to suspend disbelief. This is a movie about an alien lifeform taking over a person's body to get into all kinds of wacky adventures. Even so, the communication between these two characters resulted in a heavy dose of Tom Hardy talking to himself. This is a staple of the Venom character that may be destined for a flat presentation on the big screen.
If you liked the Eddie/Venom dynamic in the first one, this sequel may be perfect for you. It feels like no one was asked to change anything between these two characters but only to do more of what was done in Venom. Lacking some character development relevant to screen time, these two provide what charm this movie has to offer and will be something fans can grab on to throughout the film.
Woody Harrelson Is Cletus Kasady & Carnage
Like the majority of movies in the world, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a love story. At the center is the sociopathic murderer and all-around bad dude Cletus Kasady, played by the legendary Woody Harrelson. Kasady is the reason for the season as he invites Eddie Brock to do a story on him and tell his story. When Brock doesn't paint Kasady in a bright light and uncovers a few of his biggest cold cases, Kasady sets out a personal vendetta to bring down Eddie Brock.
While the look and feel of Carnage is everything comic book fans have ever dreamed of, one layer deeper is a character who has a serious lack of motivation. The Cletus Kasady character lives in short spurts of moments throughout the movie that gets him and Carnage from A to B with exciting battle and destructive action scenes along the way. What is missing is any real explanation as to why Cletus has it out for Eddie Brock and why these characters are connected in any way. The ambiguity of this relationship comes off as jarring.
The problems with the human version of this two-part baddie also carry over to the symbiotic version, Carnage. Carnage enters the game and immediately starts making huge destructive plays over and over. Watching Carnage wreak havoc on everything and everyone in his path is the highlight of this movie. The VFX team responsible for these creatures should be proud of their work. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by character development that was glossed over, at best.
In the panels of the comics, Carnage and Venom have a complicated, dark, and interesting father/son relationship that pits the two against each other at every turn. In Let There Be Carnage, this was handled with throw-away lines of dialogue in the middle of a few of the many exposition-heavy quick-cut scenes. This leaves little room for the audiences to connect with Carnage on a level past looking scary.
Director Andy Serkis seemed to have found the charming attributes of Venom and leaned into them in the sequel. Unfortunately, he also seemed to have brought one of the biggest critiques of introducing major story points with uninspired writing. In Venom, the bonding factor of Venom being a loser, just like Eddie Brock, is brushed over in a walk and talk that seemed less than vital. The same is done here with both Kasady and Carnage's motivation to go after their respective foils.
Harrelson does his best to bring a sadistic and creepy passion to this character but is left behind by writing that seemed too scared to be Rated R.
An eccentric and misunderstood villain has a great opportunity to shine in a role like this, but it gets more difficult when the quirkiness falls on the title character.
The Supporting Cast of Let There Be Carnage
The motivation that Cletus did make clear was his love for his old St. Estes girlfriend, Frances Barrison. Shriek's sole purpose is to be the two to Cletus Kasady's one. With the powers of supersonic screeching, Shriek plays the henchman role for Kasady and becomes the brief crux of the disagreement between him and Carnage. She opens the movie only to be a supplementary piece to the overall plot. The character was saved by the authentically crooked smile Naomi Harris brings to the role.
Stephen Graham is the third and final new character to play the part of Detective Mulligan. With a thin-threaded connection to Shriek, Mulligan is unknowingly a piece to the puzzle he is trying to solve. He and Eddie Brock have an agreement to avenge the victims of Cletus Kasady, but the two do not see eye-to-eye in the process. Mulligan has an interesting balance between the accessory piece and sneaky importance throughout the movie.
To round out the supporting cast is the return of everyone's favorite Venomverse couple, Anne and Dan. Michaell Willaims and Reid Scott return to be the awkward tag-team partners of the ever-failing Eddie Brock. Early in the movie, Anne is the crux of tension between Eddie and Venom.
The Story and Plot
Something that this movie seems to do that gives it a charming edge over its predecessor is that it is delightfully aware of its role in the comic book movie landscape. This is not going to be the emotional character study that fans can see themselves in, and it is not going to be an elaborate plot with exciting twists, turns, and surprises. This is, more than anything else, a reason for two iconic comic book characters to get isolated time to be adapted to the big screen.
As laid out in the character breakdowns above, this movie does not give audiences a great deal of time to get to know and care about these characters. But that does leave more room for the whimsical banter between the title character(s). Fast-paced is tough for character development but great for getting to the next action scene. The final battle in this movie throws the plot aside for a few minutes to focus on the beautiful display of alien combat.
Something is endearing about a movie that knows what it is trying to be. While the plot misses a few opportunities to take advantage of its characters, it does shine a light on what the general audience loves about this franchise. That gives a redeemable floor for this movie as opposed to trying to be something it is not.
Venom Visual Victory
Advice that is sometimes given for movies with lackluster stories is to not think so hard about the plot and focus on the fun stuff.
Well, if fans aren't caught up in the whys and hows of these characters, they are in for effects as good as they have ever seen. Animating and designing these monsters to move and feel unique and creative is one of the tallest tasks these movies provide. This team put an incredible effort toward that task, and it pays off with top-tier visual effects.
Along with the incredible aesthetic of this movie, the auditory experience is another highlight of the movie. Carnage specifically had a scream that was both unique and scary. This does a ton of heavy lifting in painting Carnage in the intimidating light he was meant to be painted in. Along with the visceral SFX brought over from Venom in 2018, this movie gets the popcorn tag as an audio/visual experience that warrants the movie theater setting.
THAT Post Credit Scene
The early reactions set the bar about as high as it could go with the post-credits scene being the focus of many early reviews.
This end-credits stinger sets the stage for the future of the character and adjusts the trajectory of the Sony Spider-Man Movie Universe franchise.
Final Thoughts On Venom: Let There Be Carnage
The post-credits scene will be the first, second, and third talking point coming out of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which could warrant the story receiving the label of "forgettable." Despite some amazing VFX work, a charming sense of presence that was lacking in the first installment, and some great visual representation of classic comic book characters, this movie leaves a lot to be desired due to its messy narrative.
There is a version of billiards called 8-Ball that forces players to hit the balls in numerical order until the last eight ball has been sunk. The players alternate shots when a ball is not put in a pocket and whichever player sinks the eight ball wins, despite the result of 1-7. This game is famous for the common luck behind being able to miss every shot, sink the last ball, and win the game.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage had a shaky performance for the first seven balls but was able to get lucky and sink the eight ball with a big action scene and a post-credit hall of famer.