By Jason Delgado
Critics don’t always get it right. Case in point, the first Venom movie; it was lambasted by critics, but lauded by many fans. Venom (2018) is by no means a perfect film, but it is fun, and isn’t that the point of going to the movies? Martin Scorsese’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a more serious outing than the first. Woody Harrelson plays Cletus Kasady, a serial killer, a character type to which Woody is no stranger (Natural Born Killers), except that this version is a more cartoonish take. Kasady has major family issues and a huge, giant-sized, X-Men-like crush on a fellow disturbed soul, Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris, Moonlight).
Stellar actor Tom Hardy (The Revenant) is back as struggling (both professionally and personally) reporter Eddie Brock, the man living with a “parasite”, as the joke went in the first film. That parasite is the alien symbiote that we comic book fans all know and love as Venom, aka the “lethal protector”, the Jekyll to Brock’s Mr. Hyde.
The two characters in one body have a strange, comical relationship together, with Brock trying to calm down Venom’s murderous impulses. Brock often gives off the appearance of a nutjob to the outside world, seemingly talking to himself and saying strange things, as if he has Tourette syndrome.
Relationships are a major theme in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and the delightful Michelle Williams (Dawson’s Creek) is back as Anne Weying, Eddie’s ex-fiancé, the one who got away. Yet she is still the person whom he wants to love and protect, despite the fact that she’s with someone else now.
Tom Hardy continues in this film to do an excellent job of playing a relatable loser everyman, and his Venom alter ego still brings some laughs (such as in the comical scene with the convenience store clerk from the first film), but the movie as a whole takes on a darker tone. A lot of the fun of the first film feels like it has been sapped out of the second because of the added seriousness.
B-movies are supposed to be a rousingly good time, that’s what I loved about Venom (2018). I get that the villainous, sick and twisted character of Carnage adds a darker aspect to the story, but I wish that Tom Hardy (he gets story credit) and director Andy Serkis (the brilliant motion capture actor from The Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes franchises) had remembered what made audiences fall in love with the first movie. I wanted more laughs, cheesiness, and playful action scenes.
My other major beef with the film is that the big heavyweight showdown between Venom and Carnage felt anticlimactic to me. An action movie like this should have a spectacular final fight scene, but instead it felt like an old Mike Tyson fight, in that it ended so quickly that it was difficult to enjoy.
I find it ironic that critics on Rotten Tomatoes are giving this movie a much higher rating than the superior first film, as if to atone for their error in the past on their rating, like a referee giving a “make-up call” in sports. The fan ratings for both Venom movies are around the 80% range, so it appears that the audience is still enjoying Let There Be Carnage as much as the first one.
I give Venom: Let There Be Carnage two out of five hot sauce packets. There are spicy moments in it, but not enough flavor to keep my mouth on fire. However, the mid-credit scene has major implications for what is to come next!