Movies & TV / Reviews

Venom: Let There Be Carnage Review

October 1, 2021 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Venom: Let There Be Carnage Image Credit: Sony Pictures
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Venom: Let There Be Carnage Review  

Directed By: Andy Serkis
Written By: Kelly Marcel and Tom Hardy
Runtime: 97 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some strong language, disturbing material and suggestive references

Tom Hardy – Eddie Brock / Venom
Woody Harrelson – Cletus Kasady / Carnage
Michelle Williams – Anne Weying
Naomie Harris – Frances Barrison / Shriek
Reid Scott – Dr. Dan Lewis
Stephen Graham – Detective Mulligan
Peggy Lu – Mrs. Chen

Marvel’s Lethal Protector is back on the big screen, and this time he faces one of his deadliest challenges yet in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. The first film ended on the promise of introducing Carnage, one of the deadliest foes of the Spider-Man Rogues’ Gallery. Well, Let There Be Carnage certainly delivers on that promise of a giant Venom vs. Carnage battle, with the aptly cast Woody Harrelson as Carnage’s human host, Cletus Kasaday.

Continuing some time after the previous film, reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) has continued life serving as host to the primal, irritable alien symbiote named Venom. Despite his life going to pot in the last movie, Brock was able to restore his name as an ace reporter by documenting the crimes of the notorious serial killer, Cletus Kasaday. With Venom’s assistance, Eddie to deciphers the clues in Kasaday’s cells to track down remains of the psychopath’s victims. This condemns Kasaday to the gas chamber. However, a last chance encounter with Brock enables Kasaday to get a piece of the symbiote. Much like amoeba, fans will know in the comics that the alien symbiotes are able to asexually reproduce, and Kasaday gains access to a vicious, apex predator symbiote of his own, dubbed Carnage.

Unfortunately for the city of San Francisco, Eddie and Venom no longer see eye to eye. Venom is getting stir-crazy and wants more freedom and time outside of Eddie’s body. For Eddie, between trying to restore his reputation as a reporter and even possibly his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Anne (Williams), continued coexistence with Venom is problematic for his lifestyle. Ultimately, they will need to put aside their differences in order to save the city from Carnage’s…carnage.

The editing for the movie is in a word, spastic. Some scenes happen way too quickly and have little time to breathe. Some scenes go on for way too long. There are moments that happen without proper setup and transitions from scene to scene. At other times, the way the movie is edited feels like it’s repeatedly taking purposeful shots to the head with a giant sledgehammer.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a sensory assault, and not in a good way. It’s not that the narrative comes off as gutted, but it’s been set to 2.5x speed to rush from one scene to the next. As a result, certain scenes lack cohesion and a decent sense of interconnected continuity. Additionally, other parts of the movie come off as incoherent, which in some respect, is similar to the first film. In this way, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is reminiscent of past non-MCU Marvel entries, such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Daredevil and X-Men 3: The Last Stand.

The movie spends most of its time building up to the eventual Venom and Carnage confrontation. Before that time comes, the movie forces the audience to endure copious amounts of more Venom and Eddie slapstick. It’s somewhat symbolic of how Venom doesn’t work very well as a heroic figure, or without the equal fixation of the Venom symbiote and Eddie Brock seeing Spider-Man as their fated archenemy. Without these motivations, both characters are incredibly lacking. Venom: Let There Be Carnage leans even further into the goofy and comedy slapstick between Eddie and Venom as a duo. There’s far too much of it. It does induce a couple of laughs, but after a while, it becomes tiresome. Even Venom going to a Halloween party is mostly played for cheap laughs and drunk young people going, “Oh wow, what a great costume,” like an old Halloween episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

As far as a PG-13 depiction of Carnage and Cletus Kasaday, it’s actually not so bad. Carnage and Kasady do appear to be ripped straight from the comics for the most part, with a few tweaks. Showing what would happen if an unhinged serial killer is granted the near unlimited power of a symbiote is probably the best thing about Let There Be Carnage, along with Harrelson’s performance and the Venom vs. Carnage fight. Unfortunately, it’s at the center of a hokey script, bad editing and incoherent direction.

Naomie Harris re-teams with her After the Sunset co-star in Harrelson as the institutionalized mutant, yes mutant, Frances Barrison, aka Shriek. Interestingly enough, Harris and Harrelson are once again opposite each other as supporting romantic love interests, but this time they are both unhinged killers. It does seem like perhaps director Andy Serkis was maybe going for a bit of an update of Natural Born Killers with super-powers with Cletus and Frances. Sadly, while Naomie Harris is an incredibly talented thespian, her performance here is hokey and two-dimensional. Her inclusion in the story in the story is forced, serving only as a romantic partner-in-crime with powers of her own to help Kasady. Conveniently enough, Shriek’s superpowers are the main weakness of the alien symbiotes.

The only other interesting aspect of Barrison as a character is the fact that the movie heavily implies that she is a “mutant.” And by mutant, I mean the Marvel Comics “x-gene” version of mutants. It’s referenced once, but it never comes up ever again. The fact that enhanced humans or beings with mutant powers exist in the world of Venom is introduced, yet never really progresses beyond this, which is another reason why Shriek’s inclusion is disappointing. It teases the idea of mutants, likely to leave further development for other films down the line.

Ultimately, while Venom: Let There Be Carnage has a few things going for it, the script and direction are too haphazard to truly elevate this film above the dregs of comic book fodder of the 90s and early aughts. Much like in the Marvel comics, Venom is not that good of a hero, and he never really was.

The final score: review Poor
The 411
In a few words, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is an incoherent mess of a film. Although the film does deliver on the Venom vs. Carnage action, there's not really enough of it. The movie rushes from one scene to the next without proper narrative establishment. Once the movie finally unleashes Venom and Carnage, there is some fun to be had, but it's really sloppy. Harrelson's performance as Kasady and Carnage are among the bright spots of the film. Oddly enough, the most exciting moment isn't even part of the main story. This franchise has wasted too much time delivering what audiences really want to see. In short, as a "Lethal Protector," Venom is lacking. Venom is not a good hero, and he never really was.