Cast: Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, Amy Pascal, Kelly Marcel, Tom Hardy. Directed by Andy Serkis.
2018’s Venom was, to put it nicely, a mess. A super anti-hero origin movie that took a popular supporting character from the pages of Marvel’s poster boy Spider-Man and tried to make him his own thing. Reuben Fleischer’s film was successful if not wholly satisfying, at times a weird comedy, others a standard action film. Now, as Sony attempt to create their Sony universe of Marvel Characters, they opt to go weirder for the sequel.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage sees reporter Eddie Brock still trying to claw back his life as a journalist by interviewing deranged – and condemned – serial killer Cletus Kasady. Meanwhile, his relationship with alien symbiote Venom is even more strained.
From the off, getting Andy Serkis in to direct this film is a stroke of genius – not only is he a fantastic actor, but he’s also a wiz when it comes to CGI characters having pioneered the world of performance capture. It means that the scenes of Venom and Carnage are not just two CGI blogs knocking seven bells out of each other but feel like two actual creations that exist.
Serkis, working on a script from Kelly Marcel a long-time friend and collaborator of Tom Hardy (who co-wrote the story), gets the most from the premise. Serkis allows slapstick comedy to take over as well as moments of horror. This is a heightened world and as such he allows it to be so. Psychiatric hospitals are not giant gothic manners ripped from Hammer productions, cells are large echo chambers.
Marcel hones in on the rom-com aspect of Eddie and Venom, which Hardy relishes. He clearly loves the duality of this guy and his love/hate relationship with the alien inside him. Marcel conceives moments of absurdist comedy – Venom proudly speaking Mandarin to a local shopkeeper, his obsession with eating brains, his hatred for ex-Anne’s (Michelle Williams) new boyfriend.
But, unlike the first film, this one also allows the secondary characters a little room to breathe. Woody Harrelson – in a better wig than last time – is very menacing a Cletus Kasady. A serial killer who’s background is not surprisingly for a killer but doesn’t make him sympathetic. His Bonnie & Clyde romance with Naomie Harris’ Frances “Shriek” Barrison is one of the more interesting aspects. The interplay between Hardy and Harrelson are some of the film’s strongest moments. While Harris isn’t given a lot of screen time the relationship between her and Harrelson is surprisingly tender and makes for an interesting interplay.
It helps that the film at a slender ninety minutes gets in and out without much fuss. Despite some fancy editing and work by Serkis, the film doesn’t feel the need to outstay it’s welcome building to big finale before heading off on it’s way. Despite some sequel baiting, the film just gets the job done and leaves.
It’s a definite step up from the original which was only at times as silly as its premise, this time the character of Venom has more personality and Hardy is clearly having a blast as the absurdist monster at the heart of the film, but the film’s fatal flaw is that by the end of it you do leave wondering if there was much point to it. It was loud, busy, in-your-face but did it amount to anything? Ultimately nothing more than a pile of goo.