REVIEW: ‘Venom’ sequel offers below average action, humor

Eddie and Venom are back for another action film, or maybe a relationship-based sitcom. It gets kind of hard to tell.

“Let there be Carnage” is the sequel to the 2018 film “Venom,” which once again focuses on digital journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), who is host of an alien parasite, Venom. Venom and Eddie try to get along, but the two begin getting on each others nerves and their symbiotic relationship starts becoming strained.

Meanwhile, serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), who Eddie has interviewed a few times, is set to get the death penalty. Before his death, though, Cletus does a last interview with Eddie and in the process, Cletus comes in contact with Venom. The contact mutates into a new symbiote named Carnage, which gives Cletus the power to break out of prison, with vengeance in mind against all who’ve wronged him.

The idea of comic book films branching out from the standard tropes is a welcome one. Films like “Logan” and the recent “Suicide Squad” show the genre can be expanded upon. To its credit, “Let There be Carnage” takes a unique route, too.

On top of its action beats, “Let There be Carnage” also includes aspects common in a romantic-comedy. There’s a relationship where the two get on each others’ nerves, yet they still have a deep connection that brings them together. In this case, it just happens to be a man and a symbiotic alien.

What’s unfortunate is that, despite taking an unorthodox approach, this “Venom” sequel plays things far too safe. The film is already undercut by having a PG-13 rating, rather than an R. However, that doesn’t immediately nix these film’s chances.

While “Venom” would have likely benefited from the same R-rated action featured in “Suicide Squad,” it still could have worked as a darker comic book adaptation. The problem is it doesn’t particularly lean into being a dark action drama or black comedy.

VenomCarnageBlog2
Courtesy Sony Pictures

The movie’s tone is consistently slapstick-ish and silly, to the point it feels cartoonish. It’s simply hard to take a lot of things seriously, which is somewhat of a problem when the main antagonist is a serial killer with a bloodthirsty symbiote.

Kasady is really the prime example of this issue. The character should be a frightening, cold, calculating monster. Yet he’s portrayed as a rather standard comic book villain, and even acts rather comical at points.

Kasady’s motivation being tied to a romance also felt like it just tacked on a subplot and tried to create some type of psuedo-sympathy for the character. Harrelson has the talent to draw an audience in, but the character feels mismanaged.

Eddie, meanwhile, is at least an entertaining protagonist. He’s clearly a man at the end of his rope at times and Hardy goes all in on giving him a somewhat manic energy.

The dynamic between Eddie and Venom is fairly fun at times, too. The relationship is played up to a degree that it’s hard to take seriously, but the humor is still there and it can keep an audience in a good mood.

As for the action, it’s pretty standard stuff. The Carnage symbiote allowed the filmmakers to get somewhat creative with the fights. However, overall, it feels lackluster. Few of the action segments compare to, say, the motorcycle chase in the first “Venom,” for example.

“Let There be Carnage” feels like a missed a missed opportunity. While the humor and action make it somewhat entertaining, it never rises above average. If not a fan of the genre, this is an easy one to skip. 2.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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