The honeymoon phase is over. Now that the meet-cute between disgraced journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and disgraced alien Venom have gotten behind them, cohabitation proves trickier than either one expected. Toss in an illegitimate love child, and Venom: Let There Be Carnage winds up serving as a violent, sloppy, yet entertaining battle through couples counseling for the pair.
Eddie’s career is slowly on the mend thanks to his superpowered symbiote, which helps him solve a decades-old cold case tied to serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). But Eddie cramps Venom’s style and the two have commitment issues that breed constant bickering, eventually building to domestic violence. It leaves both vulnerable when Kasady escapes death row after transforming into Carnage. Kasady’s first stop is to spring lost love Shriek (Naomie Harris) from her padded cell before setting their sights on revenge.
Written by Kelly Marcel (Cruella, Fifty Shades of Grey) from a story by Hardy, Let There Be Carnage leans in hard to the odd couple schtick from the previous entry. Nearly everything else falls to the background or wayside; this is a rom-com in disguise. Eddie and Brock quarrel, break up and must learn to overcome their differences once the child they’ve unwittingly birthed turns out to be a homicidal maniac with daddy issues. Eddie’s always struggled with commitment issues, but for the right symbiote and help from his ex Anne (Michelle Williams), well, Eddie finds personal growth in the chaos.
Director Andy Serkis hits the ground running and doesn’t stop for the brisk 90-minute runtime. It’s the perfect runtime for a rom-com, but as a superhero movie, it gets sloppy. Let There Be Carnage winds up feeling more like an abridged version of Carnage and Venom’s long-awaited cinematic confrontation, with chunks of story excised to get to the action. It hurts Shriek the most. Harris attempts to inject wild, psychotic energy into her character, but there’s nothing in the script for her to grab hold of. Shriek winds up relegated to plot device meant to highlight how three’s a crowd in her doomed romance. She does have a grudge against the officer that led to her capture, but that, too, gets skimmed over. Shriek’s inclusion winds up landing with a thud.
The PG-13 does sanitize the action a bit. Carnage racks up quite the body count, Venom to a much smaller extent, but it’s never as satisfying as it should be. Serkis attempts to circumvent the limitations with many explosions or quick cuts, but it’s difficult not to miss the lost potential. A mid-credit scene serves as a requisite tease but also possibly explains the reduced rating.
Comic book fans hoping this would be the battle for the ages will likely come away disappointed. It’s a quick and dirty brawl that wraps up tidily. For those connected with the quirky bond between Eddie and Venom, the sequel dedicates its entire identity to that aspect. It’s a sloppy entry in superhero fare, but it’s hard not to be charmed by Venom attempting to cheer up his host with a lavish breakfast and pep talks. Or a dose of self-love and acceptance in the form of a confessional mic drop at a costume party. If you’re in the mood for silly, this sequel nails it. But for an epic showdown among monsters, it lacks bite.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage releases on October 1, 2021.