On occasion…less is more.
With Venom: Let There Be Carnage in theatres today, we get less of the ballast of a comic book origin story and more of the bickering and comedic insanity that kind of made us like the first film to begin with.
Venom (Tom Hardy) faces off against Carnage (Woody Harrelson).
That’s basically what you need to know…seriously.
In what is essentially an extension of the first film, we see Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) with his life back together working as an investigative reporter and dueling with the likes of one Cletus Kasady aka Chaos (Woody Harrelson) who is on death row for multiple murders and learns about Eddie’s secret companion.
In a shocking twist from what we are used to seeing in films in the MCU, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a stripped down, gonzo ride which basically lets us see the odd couple dynamics between Venom and Eddie which is actually what made the first film salvageable in the first place.
Sliding into the director’s chair on this installment, Andy Serkis does a smart job of keeping this all to the comedy and the action set pieces rather than trying to give us a healthy ton of back story which honestly we don’t need all that much of anyway.
Serkis gives it all energy and flow and even when the narrative occasionally wants to make you roll your eyes at the screen, there’s honestly not a dull moment in this movie. The action set pieces look great and really pop exactly as they are needed to.
And while the script is fairly basic, it focuses on exactly what is needed to move this engine along. Rather than us really looking into the “tortured” soul of Eddie Brock, he’s really just a bit of a schmuck who is loaded with potential and needed his new alien pal to bring it out of him.
It’s hard to believe that Tom Hardy actually plays an affable schmuck this well…but he does. This is film is truly about embracing the partnership that is Eddie and Venom and how they have to move forward (which you’ll see in a mid-credits sequence you’re not going to want to miss).
On the flip side of the coin, Woody Harrelson is at his usual stalwart levels as he basically gets to chew the scenery at over the top levels that we haven’t seen him do since Natural Born Killers. Obviously this movie is PG 13 so he does dial it back a bit and manages to understand the gonzo comedic moment that his character is basically living in as a part of the MCU.
The too often underrated Naomie Harris plays Frances Barrison as his also incarcerated love and in some brief moments together they get to channel a Bonnie and Clyde energy that is rarely seen in these films. Michelle Williams is still around as the lost love of Eddie’s life getting him out of jams while the returning Reid Scott, Peggy Lu bring their familiar energy while Stephen Graham shows us hits of what might be to come.
At the end of it all, Venom: Let There Be Carnage might actually be the first real popcorn movie we’ve had coming out of the pandemic. It’s hardly reinventing the wheel, but if you want 90 minutes of CGI spectacle and fun on the big screen it just might be for you.