Thursday, September 30, 2021

Venom: Let There Be Carnage


Venom and Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) have a falling out as they try to navigate their complicated bromance without jeopardizing each other’s life. The symbiote has been patiently holding out against his cravings for brains, a component of which is necessary for his nourishment, making up for it through a strict chicken and chocolate diet. The final straw is when Eddie interviews serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), for which Venom helps in unraveling the secrets of his criminal mind leading to a resurgence in Brock’s career. The duo part ways just as Kasady is about to be executed via death penalty, not knowing that he has also been infected by a murderous symbiote that goes by the name of Carnage. As he breaks out of prison after a killing spree, he looks for his long-time girlfriend Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris), a superpowered human who has the ability of weaponizing sound waves. With a new villainous pair terrorizing town, Brock and Venom will have to reevaluate their relationship to save the planet they care about.

Clocking in at just an hour and a half, this sequel should either be short and sweet or simply terrible. Still processing what I just watched, I still can’t decide which is which. Perhaps the 50-50 verdict stems from the realization that Venom 1 and 2 are not that different from one another as far as plot is concerned. As such, it makes you feel as though this sequel is unnecessary, either an obligatory cash grab thanks to the unexpected success of the first film or Sony’s half-baked attempt to expand their own Spiderverse.

The odd couple phase is further developed in this sequel and the never-ending banter between host and symbiote takes center stage. The script has obviously improved a lot, but it also reaches a point where every dialogue’s endgame is to come up with a punchline. At one point you start asking, am I still watching Venom or are we watching a Deadpool spinoff now? Nonetheless, the constant bickering is still an enjoyable metaphor for internal conflict, if you elevate your analysis to a more psychological focus, that is.

As for Carnage, Harrelson makes good use of his acting chops to come up with a creepy villain whose serial killer tendencies are further amped up by the presence of a symbiotic infection. Kasady, Shriek, and Carnage form a formidable trio. It’s too bad that the screenwriter has decided to treat them as disposable villains instead of building up their characters for a more satisfying multipicture story arc. It doesn’t help that Carnage’s origin story is not thoroughly explained. Is he Venom’s spawn? What is the difference between a black and red symbiote and why was Venom afraid of Carnage in the beginning? 

The much talked about post-credits scene is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it paves the way for the elaboration on what symbiotes really are as Venom tries to impress his host about the vast knowledge of multiverses his kind is aware of. The blinding light used as a plot device is anybody’s guess, but the resulting revelation just feels like a desperate attempt to link this to the MCU. The question is, would Feige and friends be able to fix this expansion should Sony drop the ball and not be able to deliver on this exciting new crossover premise? At this point, we can only wait and see.

Overall, Venom: Let There Be Carnage has all the elements that made the first film an enjoyable watch, but as far as character development is concerned, it looks like they are just going around in circles here. As a buddy comedy, this sure is a fun franchise. However, if Sony is planning on multiple crossovers, they should learn how to give their heroes and anti-heroes more convincing storylines. Otherwise, they might just end up stacking up half-baked characters that are just there for novelty’s sake.

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