Oh, comic book films. It’s so difficult to get in a position to root against them nowadays because they’re ingrained in our society ever since Christopher Nolan and Jon Favreau gave us wonders back in 2008. You got your Avengers films dealing with the “end of the universe” plots. You got your Justice League ones (like how audiences hounded Warner Brothers for a Snyder Cut). And then there is Spider-Man, the young hero with webs cherished by all (even when three different actors have played the character).
And who would’ve thought that Sony’s Spider-Man Universe could already end up at 0-2, not even three years into its franchise? The giant, evil CGI-blasted Venom is a loser on all fronts so far, and Spider-Man may end up having to save him in the end. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is another bloated mess like its predecessor.
The plot follows a few years after the critically panned Venom, where Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) attempts to revive his journalistic career by interviewing the notorious serial killer, Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). His roommate, the alien symbiote known as Venom, resides in his body, and they constantly bicker about what’s for dinner. Brock wants Venom to consume chickens or chocolate, but Venom is frustrated and wants to eat human brains because he’s “a predator.” Brock interviews Kasady right before his death sentence, and Kasady bites his hand and ingests a symbiote that becomes a red, enormous, tentacled creature known as “Carnage.” Kasady breaks loose, finds his loved one, and Eddie and Venom must work out their differences to stop him from destroying the world.
I mean, we have seen this situation before. Eddie and Brock become a discount Odd Couple with touches of Ted, The Mask, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and all those buddy-cop comedy films. The plot never moves along anywhere aside from settling on big-CGI battles and many characters that have nothing to offer. Michelle Williams as Anne is once again painfully wasted. Naomie Harris as Shriek, the love of Kasady, doesn’t do much aside from scream loudly (fun fact, which is a weakness to the symbiotes and the audiences’ eardrums). And Stephen Graham playing a detective, sits as the third wheel while the rest of the movie limps along.
At this point, we might as well see Topher Grace try to play the character once more as he did in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. At least his incarnation of Venom had a reason to hate, despite being tacked on to please Sony executives. Tom Hardy’s work is silly but too foolish at times, like way worse than Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man. His onscreen character cannot even investigate properly. And then Venom sometimes cannot even be understood. Maybe Hardy should have played Bane again to take digs at DC and their mediocre adventures.
Even with a brief runtime of 97 minutes, most of the gags can be seen across the tilt shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. Yeah, Eddie and Venom are fun, and their rivalry sticks throughout like it did the first time. But director Andy Serkis miscalculates chaos for excitement and chases after dragged out, CGI massacres that do little to service the film. The actors are merely extras to the computerized blobs dominating the screen.
The only huge plus this film offers that will linger in mind afterward is the post-credits scene. No spoilers but pay the ticket if one can muster the energy to sit through this bulging mess to find unholy satisfaction in witnessing it. Or wait for someone to put it on YouTube at some point in low resolution.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is another missed opportunity. Spend your precious time witnessing Spider-Man’s next journey in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (a la Spider-Man: No Way Home). At least Marvel, Sony, and Disney have massive (and sensible) plans in mind for him there.