Last One Standing
After the events of Venom, reporter Eddie Brock [Hardy] and the alien symbiote in his body have a mutual truce but Venom is bitter, feeling they should be hunting down criminals. Brock is brought in to interview serial killer Cletus Kasady [Harrelson] and in the process manages to learn the location of his buried victims. This reopens the case and the State sentences Kasady to death. Brock meets with him once last time and when goaded, Venom lashes out, giving Cletus enough time to bite him and absorb part of the symbiote. In doing so he is able to stop the lethal injection and breaks out of prison to locate a fellow in-mate from his childhood, Frances Barrison [Harris].
I think it’s fair to say, no one saw Venom being the runaway success that it was. It was a bloated mess of a movie but one that garnered enough praise (and more importantly cash) to warrant a return. This time Serkis has been brought in to replace Fleischer and it’s evident certain lessons have been thankfully learned but even with these implemented changes, we’re still left with a remarkably mediocre movie.
In truth, Hardy’s performance continues to be the only real reason to stick around. It was the thing that got people to see the previous film in the first place: the whacky co-piloting and erratic behaviour tarting up an incredibly uninspired script. But despite the energy in the performance, the character of Eddie Brock is still utterly baffling. Venom itself highlights that he was a shambles before the alien parasite came along and the mystery of where Cletus’ victims were buried was only solved thanks to Venom’s observations; which is true. So the film does the dated sequel conflict of forcing Venom out on his own and the two realise how much they need each other.
On the other side of things is Harrelson as Cletus/Carnage. It’s abundantly clear Harrelson is having a lot of fun in the role but we aren’t given sufficient enough reason why Cleitus contacted Brock in the first place. Initially it seems he’s doing it to get a message out to his childhood partner, Frances, but that impetus feels so very weak. From there the film sort of cobbles together a few ideas ranging from him wanting to get his story out because he was abused by his family before he killed them (employing that classic lazy “abused kids grow up to be killers” trope) before settling on “I wanted your friendship.” It may sound like I’m honing in too much on a very minor aspect but it becomes such an all-encompassing motivation that sets most of the story in motion and the fact it’s so paper-thin is telling that it doesn’t matter so long as the two symbiotes get to meet and fight.
This of course highlights arguably the film’s biggest issue: the writing. Everything about this movie feels like a throwback to the superhero films of the 2000s and while that may be a fun welcome return for some, it doesn’t justify sloppy scenarios. The dialogue is unfunny with Venom’s jabs feel like cheap punch up, the scenes are uninspired and at the end of the film, Brock tells Venom about Don Quixote but completely misses the point of the character dynamic to the point it’s worth questioning why they included it in the first place. And then there’s Carnage. There’s no explanation why this symbiote is red or how it has it’s own personality while embodying Cletus. It’s borne of Venom (calling him father) but we don’t get any sort of idea how and why this thing exists and the very implication that all it takes for someone to become an alien parasitical killer is to ingest some blood is worrying to say the least. But the script doesn’t care. The film literally has no time because it knows from the experience of the first film that the strengths will be pithy dialogue, Hardy’s over-the-top performance and a big brawl at the end.
As stated earlier, there are areas where the film excels over the former outing. Number one is the runtime. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is mercifully shorter, to the tune of around fifteen minutes. But that shaving down means that the majority of the manic events don’t outstay their welcome as much. I would also add that the action is a little clearer than the melted snotfest that was the first one – but that’s also because it feels like there are significantly fewer action sequences. But again the tone feels off. In America, these films have both been rated PG-13 but in the UK they didn’t get the 12a rating they were after and had to be released as 15. I bring this up to highlight that the filmmakers weren’t aiming for a dark older teen release but actively trying to force the jovial nonsense of a 12a into this weird possession piece that leaves us with an immature body horror tale with all the potential wasted.. again.
All things considered, this is another surprisingly dull and predictable slog. There’s very little new ground and the arc of Venom and Brock being best buds was how the first film ended and is exactly the same as how this film concluded. No real growth, no progression, just a loud chaotic affair that culminates in a mid-credits tease that will be the most talked about aspect of the whole film.
15 October 2021
The Scene To Look Out For:
While separated from Eddie, Venom takes random unsuspecting individuals on joyrides. Eventually he finds himself in a club with people in costume. We then go through the rather worn-out trope that Venom gets to be his true self and the revellers just accept that his appearance is a costume. Then he walks up to the stage and gives a speech about aliens should be free to live where they want and everyone should be allowed to be who and what they are. This strikes a tone with the (never openly but presumably) LGBTQ+ crowd but the scene doesn’t go anywhere. It’s just a weird one note joke and a cheap visual gag. Which, in all honesty, sums up a lot of issues this film has.
Once again, Michelle Williams is thoroughly wasted. Harris’ character isn’t great but at least she gets to play around as this campy villain but Williams is given the impression of things to do without actually escaping the damsel in distress role.
“Responsibility is for the mediocre”
In A Few Words:
“No better or worse than its predecessor, picking up the slack in certain areas but falling by the road in others. Another thoroughly middling affair”