19 April 2024

Film Review – Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

Surprising almost everyone in 2018 with its mega box office takings and its new legion of fans worldwide, Sony’s new anti-hero take on the Eddie Brock/Venom saga saw a new franchise born. Initially, many couldn’t quite see how a standalone origin story of the usually villainous symbiote would work and yet, people lapped it up, forgiving the lack of a Spider-Man appearance and the comics-correct story of the black Spidey suit. Since then, though, its feverish fanbase have been gunning for a sequel that promised more of the same – odd couple comedy, manic CGI set-pieces, a whole lot of bad-guy head eating – so if that’s your bag then you’re in for a wild ride. For everyone else, it’s a painful, barmy, wildly off base headache that won’t stop hurting.

After the events of the first film, Brock (Tom Hardy) and Venom are still together – aww – and are lured back to San Quentin Prison by serial killer Cletus Kasidy (Woody Harrelson) who offers Brock the chance of journalistic redemption by helping him tell his grizzly story of destruction and his long-lost love Frances (Naomie Harris). Soon, though, he is sent to the electric chair for his crimes but not before one final encounter with Brock soon sees Kasidy imbued with similar symbiote powers to Venom and merges with Carnage, who is hellbent on destroying everything in its path, including local Detective Mulligan (Stephen Graham) and Brock’s old flame Anne (Michelle Williams).

Carnage is actually the most appropriate word to use in describing the sequel as, whether you like it or not, the screen is full of it during the film’s refreshingly short runtime of just over 90mins. A cavalcade of nonsensical plotting, stupendously stupid dialogue, vacuous characters and loud, frantic and preposterous set-pieces, Let There Be Carnage is certainly more bonkers than its predecessor but in no way is that a compliment. Scripted by Kelly Marcel and Hardy, it is an absolute mess of a film that cranks the volume up to 11 while forgetting to do or say anything remotely entertaining or exciting, instead relying on its already waning comedy double-act at the centre of its perpetually ridiculous premise. We’re talking Batman & Robin-levels of ineptitude, here, but much, much less fun.

Yes, many will say that Hardy and Harrelson are “having the time of their lives” but, frankly, both looked decidedly disinterested in what is going on around them yet decided to join in for their own glutton for punishment. It’s really the only explanation possible for why two such gifted acting talents would agree to something as farcical and relentlessly inept as this. In fact, you can say the same for Michelle Williams and new additions Stephen Graham and Naomie Harris: what are they doing here, seriously? They are all so much better than this garbage, as is director Andy Serkis, whose previous films Breathe and Mowgli showcased much more dynamism and ability than he is allowed to show here, unable to pull himself from under the sludgy void of symbiote bile.

But what do I/we know? A mega $90million opening weekend in the US has proved how critic-proof this still-new franchise has become and is immune – at least from the outset – to any negativity. But despite the talent attached and its potential next routes, this really is one massive s*** show.

Comic-Book, Action, Comedy | USA, 2021 | 15 | Sony, Marvel | October 15th | dir. Andy Serkis | Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Stephen Graham, Reid Scott

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