MOVIE REVIEW: VENOM LET THERE BE CARNAGE is a fun fanboy-fueled follow-up that doubles down.


Director Andy Serkis joins the merry mayhem of the Tom Hardy-led Marvel franchise in helming this monster vs. monster feature-length battle of the symbiotes.

When Venom hit theaters in 2018, there were many naysayers who felt the movie was a massive misstep and a cash grab by Sony trying their best to make back some of their investment in the rights to Spider-Man and his ancillary characters in the wake of the success of Marvel Studios’interconnected film universe for their comic book characters. Venom was going to the screen unconnected from Spider-Man and his influence in his creation. To the surprise of many, Venom became a big hit; largely anchored by an intensely committed performance by Tom Hardy as both Eddie Brock and the entity that becomes bonded to him; an alien symbiote runt with a chip on his shoulder called Venom. Much the way that Ryan Reynolds has made Deadpool and himself interchangeable, Hardy did the same with Venom; creating a movie that works because of how far he took his devotion to play opposite himself in an almost Three Stooges sort of way. Now, Hardy is back with Venom: Let There Be Carnage, playing off a post-credits scene in the original promising an appearance by Venom’s fearsome nemesis Carnage as embodied by Woody Harrellson. Andy Serkis, whose skill in shooting effects-heavy films like the Lord of the Rings and Planet of The Apes franchises from both sides of the camera, joins the film as a director because of that skillset and complement what made the first film so successful. Venom Let There Be Carnage’s CGI fueled big-screen vision benefits as a result but does it work as well as it should. The spectacle of seeing these two popular characters fight is the draw, and it delivers on that end. But the film has issues that fanboy fuel can’t easily overcome.

VENOM LET THERE BE CARNAGE follows up from the post-credits scene of 2018 original, where Eddie has been meeting with Cletus Kassady (Woody Harrelson), a convicted serial killer on death row at San Quentin. Kasady teases Brock with info to more of his unsolved crimes if he’ll print a message in The Daily Bugle to an unknown audience, much in the spirit of The Zodiac Killer in the 1960s. Unbeknownst to Brock, the message is a cry to find his former paramour, Shriek (Naomie Harris), a girl with whom he loved when they were incarcerated at Ravencroft Asylum. But, lest Kassady not delivers, the Venom symbiote is able to decipher clues in Kassady’s cell and figures out where the victims are and relays the info to Brock, which makes him a big media celebrity and hero, which further irritates the symbiote. The symbiote wants Eddie to become a hero full time, a “lethal protector” who saves people and eats criminals. Brock refuses and the two continue to bicker, which in a weak moment when visiting Kasady prior to his execution, leads the symbiote to attack Kasady. Kasady bites Brock and attempts to suck his blood, but instead, takes some of the symbiotes to himself, which bonds with him and allows him to escape. He becomes Carnage, a raging T-100-esque upgrade of the Venom symbiote who wants to destroy his “father.” Kassady agrees, but only if Carnage allows him to seek out Shriek and get revenge on Brock. And thus, the stage is set for a war of the symbiotes.

In many ways, VENOM LET THERE BE CARNAGE is something like GODZILLA VS. KONG, in that the draw of both films is to see an elaborate fight scene, but the film keeps putting up barriers to delivering us that satisfaction as viewers. Harrelson’s storyline is a lot of revisiting his greatest hits from Natural Born Killers. Naomie Harris stars as Shriek, a mutant with sonic powers, which instantly puts her at odds with the symbiotes, who are susceptible to both fire and sonic attacks as Spider-Man 3 would remind us. Which it doesn’t have to, since the climax of the film is very similar to that of Spider-Man 3. We have a revisit of the storyline from the first film of the combative relationship between Eddie and his ex Anne (Michelle Williams). Williams and Hardy have great chemistry and it is to the film’s credit that they do find a good use for that, not unlike the Marvel Ant Man films to try and ground the movie from its more fantastical elements with Carnage. The larger whiff is the connection between Stephen Graham’s Mulligan and Harris’ Shriek. It shrifts both actors and Harris is largely wasted in the film, while Graham is being set up as another future villain.

The ultimate draw here is, does the Venom vs Carnage fight deliver? It does, although it delivers sometimes in the way a cutscene in a Batman Arkham game might. The stylized nature of the film and comic book violence both make that all but inevitable, but if you’ve been wanting to see this battle on the big screen it is here, even though the ending is probably a little too final for most fans’ sake. That being said, the film promises an even bigger confrontation in a future film that makes the whole film largely a preamble for a movie you want to be seeing a few years from now. When The Wolverine delivered a great movie in 2013, the film’s post-scene largely negated what we just saw. VENOM LET THERE BE CARNAGE kind of pulls the same card and it’s sort of a bummer, although, given Sony’s ambition with its universe of Marvel characters, it’s what they really want.

Ultimately, VENOM LET THERE BE CARNAGE is a fun kaiju smash-em-up pitting 2 of Marvel’s symbiote monsters against each other. If that’s all you want, you’ll get that and a promise of a bigger smash them up down the line. Hardy delivers in doing more of what he did in Venom and it keeps the same level of humor and horror from that movie. But, other than that, it doesn’t offer much new in terms of growing the current franchise.