Venom has not had a good run on the big screen. His first on-screen appearance in Sam Raimi’s terrible Spider-Man 3 wasn’t all that and the first Venom film, in which Eddie Brock was portrayed by Tom Hardy, ended up being a messy and uninspired action flick. It’s safe to say expectations for Venom: Let There Be Carnage were low, but surprisingly, under Andy Serkis’ care, Venom comes out on top.
The film once again follows Hardy’s Eddie Brock who now shares his body with Venom, an alien symbiote who has a particular taste for human brains. The two bicker like an old married couple and Venom has a tendency to get Eddie in trouble, especially after he lashes out at Cletus Kasady, a deranged serial killer and accidentally gives him a symbiote of his own, allowing Kasady to escape prison and wreak havoc in his search for his long-lost love Frances Barrison, aka Shriek.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage has very little to offer in terms of uniqueness and originality. The plot moves exactly the way you expect it to and the character beats are predictable, but there’s one thing that Let There Be Carnage does differently to the first one: it remembers to have fun. Let There Be Carnage’s charm is mostly down to Tom Hardy who was already funny in the first film, but has relaxed considerably in this film and his dynamic with himself as Venom is genuinely amusing and entertaining rather than forced. There is a level of self-awareness this time around which gives the film an edge over its predecessor.
Also returning to the world of symbiotes is Michelle Williams as Anne, who was rather dreadful in the first one and Williams was clearly out of her comfort zone in a big budget action romp. Like Hardy’s, her performance here is also much more relaxed and her dynamic with Hardy is playful, but the real MVP of the film is Anne’s boyfriend Dan, played brilliantly by Reid Scott.
The always charismatic Woody Harrelson fares well as Carnage, but due to the studio aiming for a low age rating to allow younger audiences to flood cinemas, isn’t allowed much to do. The film’s biggest weaknesses are its simplicity and it’s lack of brain eating. The plot moves fast and often without any thematic weight; Let There Be Carnage is pure popcorn entertainment and as such, almost first class, but its plot doesn’t stand for any scrutiny nor does it offer anything new or exciting. It desperately needed more spectacle and Venom munching on brains to really hit the mark but Serkis occasionally manages to create the illusion of violence, such as when Carnage shoves his long tongue down a poor man’s throat.
All in all, there is much to enjoy about Venom: Let There Be Carnage. It might not be perfect, but it almost wears its flaws proudly on its sleeve and is only concerned with providing its audience with a good time and in that, Let There Be Carnage excels. It may be a tad forgettable and its plot too convenient and simple, but it’s a bloody good time and it really feels like Serkis finally got Venom right on screen.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is in UK cinemas October 15.