Venom: Let There Be Carnage – The baddest bad movie of the year

Film: Marvel sequel might have been a blast if the exchanges were not so dull

Tom Hardy in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Film Title: Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Director: Andy Serkis

Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham, Woody Harrelson

Genre: Sci-Fi

Running Time: 97 min

Fri, Oct 15, 2021, 05:00

   

In 2018, powered by a core fanbase who plastered the darkest corners of the internet with Eddie Brock/Venom– aka Vrock – erotic art and fan fiction, Venom proved a criticproof sensation, grossing $856 million worldwide, or about €735 million.

Noisy, chaotic and inconsistent, it was, by any metric, a bad movie. Case in point: an hour in which nothing happens. Another case in point: the hopelessly miscast Oscar nominee Michelle Williams, who signed up to work with Tom Hardy and only seemed to realise she wasn’t in Blue Valentine halfway into the chaotic action. In this sequel, incidentally, she mostly seems to believe she’s in a mid-1990s Jennifer Aniston romcom. This may be closer to the mark. It’s hard to tell.

The real romcom action belongs to Hardy’s Brock and Hardy’s Venom. Taking cues from the outpourings and fantasies of Venom stans, Venom: Let There Be Carnage goes all out with its odd-couple romance between Brock and Venom. “Those two really need couples therapy,” one character observes. “I’m out of the Eddie closet!” Venom cries at a culturally queer party.

As with its frantic copyright-countdown predecessor, Venom 2 is, by any metric, a bad movie. But, gosh darnit, it’s going to be the baddest bad movie of the year.

Frenetically edited – the introduction to Woody Harrelson’s bad guy lasts nanoseconds; a decisive domestic bust-up between Venom and Brock lasts picoseconds – it’s an impressionistic flurry.

Never mind the occasional head-biting though: Venom 2 is a kids’ movie made for the post-TikTok generation, punctuated by a foot-stomping inner voice aimed squarely at preschoolers for whom Paw Patrol is too cerebral. “Pull up your big boy pants,” is what passes for a classy retort.

The plot, insofar as one can tell from the editing, sees failed-everything Brock leaning into Venom’s journalistic skills for a scoop on the serial killer Cletus (yes, really), as essayed by Harrelson in a hairpiece; both actor and syrup are, to be fair, in on the joke. Reid Scott and Stephen Graham, equally, make for ovation-worthy straight men.

Brock, as was the case last time, remains a hopeless paramour and even less successful journalist. It falls to the alien parasite Venom – looking often like something from a Punch and Judy show – to do the sleuthing on Cletus Kasady, an investigation that leads to Venom’s mad-powerful symbiotic rival Carnage and the superhuman longtime prisoner Frances (Naomie Harris).

Andy Serkis’s film leans into Brock’s domestic squabbles but, alas, not for long enough to produce anything like characterisation. Venom 2 might have been a blast if the exchanges weren’t so deadeningly dull. Sample zinger: Eddie, reflecting on his abysmal skills as a reporter, says, “The only scoop I’m getting today is double chocolate chip.”

Against this, more happens in any random 90 seconds of Venom 2 than the interminable No Time to Die manages in almost three hours. And it is way less pretentious than any DC Extended Universe film or any of its sleek Marvel Cinematic Universe cousins.

If that devil-may-care attitude can affect Spider-Man’s upcoming adventure (stay tuned for the mid-credits sequence), it would be a blessed relief from the usual glossy world-building around Disney’s properties.

For now, though, that fierce kineticism has failed to coalesce into a quasi-coherent sequel. Venom 2 is certainly riotous, but where did the fun go?

In cinemas from Friday, October 15th