Ironically, the hype for Venom: Let There Be Carnage is as high as it can be. In the years since it released, many have come to embrace the gonzo nature of 2018’s Venom with open arms. While others still maintain that its outdated style is more of a chore than anything, that negativity hasn’t been enough to silence the true believers. And you know what? That’s fine. When more and more comic-book movies are starting to feel the same, people should be able to relish in something that’s a bit more cheeky or unusual – even if they also thoroughly acknowledge that it’s not good. We’re all allowed to enjoy our fair share of trash.
Although, despite what some might tell you, Venom isn’t some self-aware, intricate deviant. Sony did not contact Eminem to make a theme song because they knew it would spawn viral memes online, boosting their PR in the process. Most people don’t laugh when Venom calls Eddie Brock a p*ssy because it’s witty comedy, they laugh because it’s plain old dumb. But it turns out Sony did do something right (you could attribute most of this to a very dedicated Tom Hardy) because Venom was a box office hit, leading us now to Let There Be Carnage. Well, if the first film is sporadic lightning in a bottle, then this sequel is a desperate attempt to recapture that genuine magic. A joke that loses its sting the second time around.
The true believers might find this a hard pill to swallow, given that this is the live-action debut of freaking Carnage, played by an unhinged Woody Harrelson no less. Many have been waiting years to see the two title characters side by side on-screen, so when they read any criticism they’ll either won’t believe it (which is fair to a degree) or bust out the classic “it’s not for critics” card. Trust me, this review isn’t trying to knock down Let There Be Carnage for not being some kind of genius game changer. To put it simply, the movie is just sloppily put together.
Even for a film that leans more into schlock and goofy humor, the least you can ask for is decent pacing and editing that actually makes it feel like a real movie. The first film, in spite of all of its generic or lesser qualities, at least runs like an efficient enough machine. You more than often forget that a storyteller as profound as Andy Serkis is behind the camera here. Perhaps his directing abilities aren’t up to par, or maybe the studio interfered far too much? It’s really difficult to say for now. Spare for a handful of inspired scenes, you’ll know exactly when you see them because they feel like they belong in a better movie, Let There Be Carnage isn’t all that different from the bottom of the barrel comic-book adaptation.
The most uncanny element of it all, Let There Be Carnage literally feels as if it’s running on fast-forward from start to finish. When the hour and thirty-minute length was first revealed, fans were divided. You had those with premature concerns and those who weren’t expecting it to be long, to begin with. Ultimately, the problem doesn’t inherently lie with it being slightly shorter than predicted. It just honestly feels like a longer film squeezed into a shorter runtime. Scenes and information fly by quicker than you can expect, leaving almost no breathing room for you to process anything. It’s as if the movie knows it only has so much time to get through everything, so it just plays at a faster pace – making so many moments that are supposed to be cool or badass come across as awkward. If there’s one film that could possibly give 2016’s Suicide Squad a run for its trailer house editing, it’s this one.
Alas, as previously mentioned, Let There Be Carnage is sprinkled with bits of hilarity, thanks again to Tom Hardy. The sequel dives more into Eddie and Venom’s bromance, and Hardy is clearly having a good time at least. The film is at its best when traversing the thick and thin of the duo’s relationship, such as when they take some time apart, leading Venom to travel on his own and discover himself at a rave – a scene so unbelievable that you’ll wish everything else is just as off the rails. For being called Let There Be Carnage, it’s not as chaotic as it thinks it is.
Speaking of Carnage, he isn’t given much to solidify himself as a unique villain. Just like in the first film, the threat is just a bigger, meaner symbiote with not much of a personality – which is a huge shame given Carnage’s history. Those who buy a ticket solely to see the two duke it out might be disappointed that they have to sit through a whole lot of nothing to get there. Their meeting can be entertaining, though you can see how it ends way before it starts. But hey, Carnage looks cool, right? In reality, you would have to purposefully try to mess up a look as recognizable as his.
Whatever you’ve already seen from Venom: Let There Be Carnage that’s got you hooked is all that you’ll end up getting. Sony very much threw ideas at a wall and surprisingly found something that stuck, and here we are again with them quickly proving that they didn’t really understand what made it stick in the first place – the superficial can only get you so far. Sure, Hardy’s still funny and dedicated, yet when the pivotal showdown between Venom and Carnage feels more like an afterthought, maybe it’s time to do some reevaluation. Or who knows, maybe they’ll get lucky again the next time they throw an idea at the wall?