Logo for Byte Magazine at Ball State University

'Venom: Let There Be Carnage' Shreds Expectations

<p>Image from <a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7097896/" target="_blank">IMDB</a></p>

Image from IMDB

The first Venom movie was not a hit with critics, but was more popular with audiences, or at least the audience members that know how to have fun. Those who enjoyed Venom were eagerly awaiting a continuation of Eddie Brock and his strange symbiote partner's escapades. 

In this sequel, Eddie and Venom are struggling to manage their conflicting personalities and needs, a full time job when you're a human and a brain-eating alien sharing a body. However, duty calls, and Eddie finds himself interviewing Cleetus Kassidy, a particularly twisted serial killer. After Eddie and Venom's investigative work lands Kassidy on death row, he decides to seek his bloody revenge with a symbiote partner of his own—Venom's own offspring, Carnage. 

So did this movie match—or dare we hope, improve—over the quality of the first one?


Second Verse, Worse Than The First

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is so baffling in some places that while watching the film you have to wonder, "Is this what the first movie felt like for people who didn't enjoy it?" Even without comparisons to the first film, Let There Be Carnage fails on its own merits. The pacing is strange—so much happens in the first 10 minutes of the movie that they could have filled the entire first act. The second is relatively normal, but the ending drags; so much so that it was a while before I even realized that this was, in fact, the climax.

Several scenes don't connect to anything that comes before or after them. Apparently, there's just not enough space goo to stick this movie's disparate parts together, which is a shame. The scenes that center around Venom and Eddie's contentious relationship—what many audience members were drawn to in the first place—are by far the most entertaining and genuine of the story. Unfortunately, like a symbiote in the wrong host body, they just don't fit in with the rest. 

Image from IMDB

The first movie felt like an exercise in failed sincerity. Those filmmakers wanted a cool, edgy action movie, but instead made an alien rom-com featuring a lot of car crashes and explosions. Audiences responded well to it. This movie gives the impression that director Andy Serkis and screenwriter Kelly Marcel saw what happened the first time, tried to replicate it, failed, and ultimately produced something more ridiculous but less entertaining. 

To give a similar example that might be familiar to other movie fans: You know how long-running horror franchises like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street started out taking themselves seriously but devolved further into self-parody with each new installment? Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a speedrun of that phenomenon. The filmmakers gained self-awareness far too quickly and did not use it wisely. Instead of making you wait four or five movies to see the monster lumbering around at a rave, it’s right here in the second one. 

This is the Jason Takes Manhattan of Marvel comic movies. Tons of senseless violence (but very little blood), unintimidating villains, one-dimensional characters, and an overall lack of satisfaction. 

Shallow Impact 

Most people don’t sit down to watch a comic book movie expecting high art, but they do expect to feel something or at the very least be entertained. Part of the draw is all the action you get to see happening, big and loud, on the silver screen. 

Image from IMDB

Venom: Let There Be Carnage doesn't lack action, but it does lack meaningful action. Sure, plenty of people get beat up—even mauled or murdered—but it feels more like dolls being thrown around.

Some fans argued that the first Venom movie was hampered by a PG-13 rating instead of an R rating, and this time I found myself agreeing. It felt like a cop-out to know that Venom was snapping spines and biting heads off without us actually being able to see it in its full glory, either because there was no blood or because it was cut around. This even led to instances of choppy and confusing editing that almost looked like someone made a mistake and cut what we were supposed to be seeing.

Why Are We Here?

If you're a fan who simply wants to see their favorite comic characters destroy each other on the big screen, you will get that, but whether or not it will satisfy you is far from guaranteed. Part of this problem is that Cleetus Kassidy is just not very intimidating as a villain in this incarnation. The script sure does like to make him talk about how depraved he is, but it’s never very specific, and most of his behavior doesn’t live up to these vague promises of bloodshed. The addition of the Carnage symbiote enables him to do a lot of damage, but it feels much more like things simply blowing up than a formidable villain enacting revenge on the world. 

Image from IMDB

The connection between Kassidy and Carnage—very important to both their characters in the comics—is barely explored, if it exists at all. The design and movement of Carnage is cool to look at, I just wish he had a personality to go with it. Fans of the comics may also be disappointed with seemingly small changes to character lore that make huge differences to the story in the long run. 

At every turn, the film seems to be trying to create parallels between its major players—Eddie and Kassidy as hosts, Venom and Carnage as their alien partners, Anne Weying and Shriek as old flames—but it never manages to pay off in a satisfying way. Most of the characters besides Eddie and Venom, who do at least learn from each other and grow closer over the course of the story, just don’t have writing strong enough to support whatever comparisons the movie is half-heartedly setting up.

Overall, while there isn't a lack of effort displayed by Venom: Let There Be Carnage, a lack of understanding is clear and present. Things sure are happening, but for what? Kassidy's plot requires checking items off his vengeance list, and the movie is doing so right along with him. So much of it feels like killing time until the aforementioned endless climax.

Featured Image: IMDB

Images: IMDB