On opening night I couldn’t get into my local theatre. They got filled up (by COVID regulations) even though I was 20 minutes early. Got in last night instead. It was worth returning for another shot. I needed a photo for a journalism story anyway. And if theatres are starting to sell out again, I’m glad that Venom: Let There Be Carnage can be one of them. We need more anti-superhero movies like these two, excited to be naughty, shocking and wicked. Too often there are criminally underrated blockbuster movies like Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows that don’t get the box office returns they deserve.
As was promised from the predecessor’s mid-credit sequence, we get up close with Cletus Kasady (the irreplaceable Woody Harrelson), a criminal and psychopath who’s been locked up for life at San Quentin for not only the murder of his grandma and mother way back when but his suspected involvement in dozens of disappearances. Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) still has Venom, and though he doesn’t have a show anymore, he’s back to reporting. With a bit of Venom’s supernatural help, Eddie ends up finding the place where Kasady hid the remains of all his victims. This brings him an overturned death penalty.
Meanwhile, though Eddie is now making more money again, he’s still living in his rundown apartment, alone, other than Venom, distracting him with commentary any time he has his own thought or is with a pal or foe or ex-girlfiend. Anne (Michelle Williams) is now engaged to Dan (Reid Scott), thereby closing any opportunity for them to ever get back together. Venom’s driving Eddie even more crazy than that, however, wanting to eat some fresh, live human brains to amend his appetite, having not eaten anybody in ages. Chocolate, and feathery disgusting live chickens can only cut it for so long. What does this all lead to? Well, a new symbiote is in town, and for that to have happened, its carrier must’ve broken out of prison. And little does anyone know, he has a long lost lover, a Bonnie to his Clyde as an FBI agent puts it, a woman who’s been confined in a soundproof holding cell for 25 years named Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris).
The first Venom was one of the most undemanding masterpieces I’d ever seen, in both markets of no demand to the audience (as in having to think and struggle) and masterful filmmaking. You sat back and enjoyed a ride of mayhem with enough independence to not need a cluttered cinematic universe to give it life, a fair dollop of grungy realism, and a hilarious titular protagonist ready to give us some salivated slapstick. But at the end of the day, it also had a welcome amount of heart, and at the time, villain movies were still just starting to take off. I think they are still in their early stages, and I can’t wait for more to come.
What I liked most about Venom: Let There Be Carnage was it didn’t change what made the first one such a win for me and many movie fans. Dan is still a reasonable guy, and this time he even helps Eddie in one of the fights. Eddie may want Venom confined and unable to eat anyone for the time being so they can’t get in trouble, with police and federal bureaus keeping a threatening authoritative eye on them, but we get the chance for the symbiote to have a little fuuuuun, and we’re along for the party. Don’t worry. This isn’t a Deadpool film. Those are good too. The movie also has some shock value, especially with one character getting an eye agonizingly squashed and a different character getting his legs broken with a sledgehammer. Not everyone likes that sort of thing, but I like it when movies are willing to be a little edgier and grittier. Not every story has a clean ending for the good guys. In fact, the more I grow up (I’m in my early twenties) the more it’s harder for me to be sold on completely happy endings without some drawback or impending threats.
We’re given plenty of banter between Eddie and Venom, Kasady ends up becoming Carnage, no surprise or true spoilers there, and the two of them (Carnage and Kasady of course) end up, eventually with Barrison’s help, killing some smug and heftily-loaded people in the law enforcement and penal businesses. Oh, and we get loads of monstrous screeches, from Barrison and Carnage both, and I swear, the floor rocked a little bit with some of their mighty screams. The movie also doesn’t disregard a fandom rom-com between Eddie and Venom. Anyone familiar with the Symbrock nickname will know what I’m talking about. And in the end, what more do you need to have a good time?
Admittedly, I gave the first movie an A+, primarily because not only was it so much fun, I couldn’t find any actual complaints to give. I wouldn’t have changed anything in that movie. Therefore my expectations were high, and sadly this one is not complaint-free. The movie feels like it cut 20 minutes out, which is definitely possible, as this movie is about 20 minutes shorter. We are left a little confused with the actual backstories of Kasady and Barrison. We can guess Barrison’s. She was probably seen as dangerous and got either taken away or disowned from her family as a kid. But nothing ever explains what made she and Kasady fall in love at St. Estes. Plus, we first hear Kasady violently killed his family with no emotion like a true psychopath, and then we hear maybe it wasn’t that way, emphasis on the maybe. It’s left unclear what with a feeling it won’t be ever resolved. Also, Venom ends up doing something to Barrison in the battle that felt out of place. Maybe I have to rewatch the movie to make sure it was Venom that did that and not Carnage, but it sure looked that way.
So, people are saying Let There Be Carnage is an improvement over the first Venom, and I don’t think so. But it still retains so much of what made me fall in love with Eddie and his sly symbiote. The movie’s definitely strapped onto that ride. And the mid-credits scene definitely lives up to the hype you’ve been hearing about. My goodness, a certain movie that’s coming out in two months is going to be the movie with the most expectations and hype since The Force Awakens brought back to the big screen storm troopers, lightsabers, and a lovable beast whose nickname rhymes with Gooey.