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Review: ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ is a Campy Throwback to Superhero B Movies of Decades Past

September 30, 2021Ben MK

For millions of moviegoers, the Marvel Cinematic Universe remains the gold standard against which all other superhero movies are measured. But when it comes to your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and his rogues gallery, the box office reception hasn't always been as welcoming as that of his fellow Avengers. With 2018's Venom, however, director Ruben Fleischer managed to strike a chord with audiences looking for something a little different from the usual genre fare. And now, with Venom: Let There Be Carnage, director Andy Serkis is taking things even further.

Pitting the Lethal Protector against his most vicious adversary yet, the sequel finds reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) down in the dumps and not living his best life. Despite basically having saved the planet from an alien invasion, Eddie still hasn't been able to parlay that victory into a reunion with his soon-to-be-married former fiancée Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) — much to the chagrin of Venom, the alien entity with whom he shares both an apartment and a body. His career, on the other hand, might just be getting the much-needed boost it so desperately needs, and it's all thanks to convicted serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), who for some reason has chosen Eddie to be the conduit through which he tells the world his life story.

A complete psychopath in every sense of the word, Cletus has spent the last several years locked up in San Quentin State Prison, while his equally demented other half, Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris), has spent the last 25 years imprisoned at Ravencroft, an institution for the criminally insane. But when an altercation between Eddie and Cletus inadvertently results in the transfer of some of Venom's symbiote powers to Cletus — transforming him into Carnage — it finally gives the death row inmate the opportunity to reunite with his long-lost love. It's a momentous event that's, of course, followed by a violent rampage through the streets of San Francisco. And since it was Venom who spawned Carnage in the first place, it's only logical that Venom be the one to stop him as well.

Thus is born the driving conflict of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, a film that juxtaposes the love-hate dynamic between Eddie and Venom with the hate-hate dynamic between Venom and Carnage, then tosses the result into a blender with a heaping helping of CGI-infused battles and comic book-inspired imagery to churn out something that's often as baffling as it is entertaining. Suffice to say, viewers who enjoyed the hell out of the first movie will undoubtedly find much of the same to admire in this second go-round. But at the same time, neither Serkis nor Hardy, who shares the screenwriting credit alongside Kelly Marcel, do this followup any favors.

By choosing to treat Venom: Let There Be Carnage as if it were a campy B-movie from the mid '90s, the pair have not only reduced its titular antihero to the role of comic relief, they've turned him into the butt of the joke. And while it's fair to say that they're only giving moviegoers more of what made the first installment so uniquely endearing, there's also something to be said for having too much of a good thing.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage releases October 1st, 2021 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some strong language, disturbing material and suggestive references. Its runtime is 1 hr. 30 min.

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