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Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) Review

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Venom Let There Be Carnage

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom
Michelle Williams as Anne Weying
Naomie Harris as Frances Barrison/Shriek
Reid Scott as Dan Lewis
Stephen Graham as Patrick Mulligan
Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady/Carnage
Director: Andy Serkis

Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is still struggling to coexist with the shape-shifting extraterrestrial Venom. When deranged serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) also becomes host to an alien symbiote, Brock and Venom must put aside their differences to stop his reign of terror.

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After waiting for just under 2 months longer than most countries, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is finally here in cinemas. I’ve actually been very looking forward to it. I enjoyed the Venom movie released back in 2018, however it definitely had some issues, especially on my more recent rewatch. With the addition of actors like Woody Harrelson and Naomie Harris and Andy Serkis as the director, I was interested to see how it would turn out. I was at least hoping that it would learn its lessons from the previous film and work to its strengths, and I’m happy to say that it does.

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The story isn’t anything special, its surface level and simplistic but its functional. Had it been more complicated it might’ve ended up being a detriment to the rest of the film.  One element of the first Venom that could’ve been improved on is the tone. A big surprise is that it had a lot of campy elements which were some of the stronger stuff, unfortunately it felt like it couldn’t decide whether to be campy or to be serious, and jumps between the two. Venom: Let There Be Carnage fixes this issue. It doesn’t take itself seriously, its darkly comic and silly and it knows what it is. I was thoroughly enjoying the movie from beginning to end. Another strong element of the first film was the dynamic between Eddie Brock and Venom, which was entertaining but felt rushed. This again is utilised to its fullest potential in the sequel, in fact Let There Be Carnage is essentially a romantic comedy between the two. The relationship between them is handled with confidence, each of them felt like individual beings with a connection, and it felt believable. In the movie they have relationship issues and friction between them, with Eddie wanting to have a normal life, while Venom wanting to be the hero along with eating people. Its strangely wholesome and heartfelt at times, I could watch 10 movies of just Eddie and Venom interacting. Another way it noticeably improves is in the runtime considerably less than Venom’s 1 hours 50 minute runtime, instead at under 100 minutes in length. As I said, it’s a pretty tight plot, there’s not an ounce of fat and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. All I’ll say about the mid-credits scenes is that its worth sticking around for.

Venom in Columbia Pictures' VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE.

Tom Hardy is back as Eddie Brock/Venom and is wonderfully bonkers and fun to watch. These movies wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining without Hardy’s commitment to the role. Eddie and Venom are likable and fun to watch, especially when they are interacting with each other. A disappointing area with the first Venom was the villain, but it improves on it here with Carnage, one of Spider-Man/Venom’s most famous villains in the comics. Woody Harrelson plays Cletus Kasady, a serial killer who acquires a symbiote from Venom and is even more dangerous than Venom. While Kassidy is not much more complex than Carlton Drake in the first Venom, Harrelson’s gleefully maniacal performance makes him fun to watch and a highlight of the sequel. Naomie Harris is also here as a villain named Shriek. Like everyone else in the movie, Harris knows what kind of film she’s in, and hams it up effectively. To a degree she was underused, but she was entertaining in her screentime. Stephen Graham is in this movie as a detective investigating Cletus Kasady, while it’s a stock detective part, Graham is quite good in his part. Michelle Williams is back from the first movie as Eddie’s ex-fiancée Anne, it’s a thankless role and she’s probably given the worst material out of anyone in the movie but she plays it well.

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Andy Serkis is here as a director and that had me very interested. I like him as an actor and I liked his previously directed movie Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, but its his understanding and experience with CG characters which had me most interested in him directing. He put that to great use, and on a technical level its also better than the first movie. The cinematography is from Robert Richardson of all people, and this movie certainly looked really good, a cool aesthetic with great lighting and colour grading. There’s particularly a scene in a cathedral which caught me off guard. The CGI was a lot better compared to the first movie, it could still be a mess at times but its more comprehendible here. Venom looks good as always but the highlight with the effects is when it comes to Carnage. First of all the design while somewhat similar to Venom is different beyond being a different colour. He’s shown to be distinctly different in terms of powers and is shown to be a real threat, and the film conveys that greatly. The moment when you see Carnage on screen for the first time, it was a great introduction. The action scenes are enjoyable and are easier to comprehend. While you don’t see Venom and Carnage fight for much of the film, when they do it was satisfying and enjoyable to watch, certainly helping that this time they are identifiable and you can see what is going on with them. I was hesitant with the movie having a PG-13/M rating considering how violent Carnage is in the comics (he is a serial killer after all). However Serkis pulls it off quite well, it definitely borders on the R rating but does just enough.

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Venom: Let There Be Carnage was much better than I was expecting. It learns the lessons from the first film and made the follow up way better. It leans into the campiness and is enjoyable for that, it has a stronger focus on the Eddie/Venom dynamic, and its visually stunning and the action is enjoyable. I’m looking forward to Venom’s next on screen appearance, whenever that will be.

Venom (2018) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom
Michelle Williams as Anne Weying
Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake/Riot
Scott Haze as Roland Treece
Reid Scott as Dr. Dan Lewis
Jenny Slate as Dr. Dora Skirth
Director: Ruben Fleischer

Journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is trying to take down Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake’s experiments, Eddie’s body merges with the alien Venom — leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.

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Venom was on my most anticipated movies of 2018 list. A Venom movie has been in development ever since Spider-Man 3, and they eventually got it made by Zombieland and Gangster Squad director Ruben Fleischer. With the involvement of Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed, I was intrigued by a solo villain movie that’s more darker and different than most comic book movies nowadays. With that said, there were some reservations about it. This Venom movie doesn’t feature Spider-Man at all (something which is hard to picture considering Spider-Man is instrumental in his origin in the comics) and knowing how Sony botched some of their Spider-Man movies, you can see why people would be nervous about what they would do with this movie. Sony also are building their own Spider-Man cinematic universe (without Spider-Man) not connected to the MCU, and while that sounds interesting, it sounds rather peculiar and very familiar of Sony trying to build up the Sinister Six before they canned it. Nonetheless, I was sure that Venom would be a very entertaining movie, and I was actually somewhat right. Venom isn’t a very good movie, it’s very messy, the writing is flawed, it feels dated and all around there are a ton of problems. However, it is at the same time unbelievably entertaining, crazy and hilarious and I had such a fun time with it.

The first act of Venom is necessary but its quite slow, drawn out and is not very interesting. It doesn’t seem like it would be that much of a problem, but it is one of the worst parts of the movie because it’s not entertaining like the rest of the movie is. Not to mention despite how dull it feels, it feels really rushed and even the editing is really choppy, like they knew it was not as interesting or fun as the rest of the movie but wanted to keep the essentials of the scene so edited them down to the bare minimum. Venom picks up a little after a random 6 month time jump (which it really didn’t need) and especially once Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock comes in contact with Venom, just before (or at) the second act. Just so you know, it takes about an hour into the movie before we see Eddie Brock in full Venom beast mode. I think one of the biggest disappointments of Venom is the fact that the plot as whole is very generic and familiar. What’s in the trailers is pretty much what’s in the movie (in fact in typical Sony fashion they actually showed a little too much). Honestly I think plotwise there’s not really anything to spoil. With that said, what could actually be spoiled is some of the insane moments, particularly the things that Eddie does in the movie (I’ll get a little more into that aspect when I talk about Tom Hardy). The second act is really good and is full of insane Tom Hardy/Venom moments that are endlessly entertaining. One of the best (if not the best) part of Venom is the dynamic between Eddie and Venom, which is done almost perfectly. It’s hilarious and entertaining watching these two interact with each other and from what I can tell it is straight out of the comics. The third act however feels rather abrupt and loses a lot of the energy from the second act, it becomes a pretty standard comic book movie at this point. Also, throughout the whole movie its been building up this character of Riot and while at certain points he’s great, in the third act he doesn’t feel like that much of a threat in the end. Really, it’s the second act that works the best. Venom is an hour and 50 minutes long which is a little short, I kind of wished we got a longer movie (and by that I mean a longer second act with more of that kind of content). In terms of other problems in general, the dialogue can be weak, even terrible at times, and the film in terms of writing can feel very dated, in fact the writing on the whole wasn’t that good. It actually had 3 screenwriters who did the script, which probably explains one of the biggest problems of the movie: Venom wants to be so much, a buddy comedy between Eddie and Venom, a cheesy creature feature, a body horror movie, a really dark comic book movie and it all tries to do all of that and more at the same time and it doesn’t quite work. It tries to do multiple things at once (with only some of them succeeding) and it would’ve worked a lot better if it just settled on one type of movie. The movie actually worked fine enough without Spider-Man, when it comes to the long list of problems that Venom has, the lack of Spider-Man is pretty low down on it. Venom has two credits scenes, one setting up for a sequel, and the other is another Sony Spider-Man related movie. With the first of the two, I like the implications of it but some aspects of it came across as a little goofy and hard to take seriously. Both I think are worth staying around for.

Tom Hardy is one of the best actors working today, putting everything into every one of his performances, and his performance as Eddie Brock/Venom is no exception here. This is a less villainous take on Eddie Brock (let’s just say that Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock in Spider-Man 3 was much more villainous than Hardy’s version), this version of Brock is much more likable and while it is a departure from the comics, it does actually work well for this movie (especially when he’s contrasted against the Venom symbiote). There is no other way of putting it, Tom Hardy is the reason that this movie works. A lot of his performance is very comedic and most of the insane things that happen in this movie involves him, and Hardy absolutely commits to these scenes. For example, without revealing anything there’s a scene that takes place in a restaurant involving Tom Hardy and it’s probably one of the most hilarious scenes of 2018. Even for all the other good aspects that this movie has, this movie would not work without Hardy, he’s the glue that is holding everything in this movie together. He is great at the comedy but also sells the emotional moments that his character has, when he’s scared finding out that he’s having all these powers and finding himself doing weird things, it is really believable. He really does seem like someone who is forced to share a body and mind with another alien being. Earlier I mentioned about how the Eddie and Venom interactions are some of the best parts of the movie and Hardy really helped to sell that aspect (it helped that he actually voiced Venom as well). The rest of the cast are decent enough but don’t reach Hardy’s level (not necessarily their fault however). I think the problem is that there’s almost a disconnect between Hardy and the rest of the cast. Hardy seems to know that he’s in a cheesy and comedic comic book movie, whereas the rest of the cast play everything very seriously, and whenever Hardy isn’t on screen, things fall a little flat. Michelle Williams does play the ex girlfriend character to Hardy and while she does get some things to do than most characters that fit within this type, most of the time she isn’t really used to her fullest potential. Williams does elevate her performance slightly however. The chemistry between Hardy and Williams is a little hit or miss sometimes but it works okay enough. Riz Ahmed plays Carlton Drake, the villain of the movie and he is a little cartoonish, having these long speeches about humanity and how symbiotes combined with them are the higher life forms and other things like that. He isn’t a very memorable villain and is pretty generic but Ahmed does play up the silliness of the role well and ultimately still gives a pretty good performance.

Ruben Fleischer directed Venom and it is a bit over the place with some aspects being good, and some other aspects not being quite as good. The CGI on the whole is a mixed bag. The CGI on Venom actually looks pretty great and impressive. When it came to other parts though, especially in the climax, it could looked look a little cheap at times. Almost all of the action scenes are pretty good, especially when Venom is involved, they really made him such a hugely powerful figure. The last action scene however wasn’t that good, as it was a little hard to see what’s going on. As for whether Venom needed an R rating, it worked fine without it, they still do well enough with the PG-13 and push it as much as they can, managing to still have some dark and scary imagery at times and even featuring Venom eating people. However, an R probably would’ve allowed them more freedom with the things that they could show and would’ve made it a little more entertaining as well. I think there may have been some heavy edits and cuts to the movie, and you can feel it a little in the first act, for example there’s a scene between Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams and the sudden cuts and the lack of continuity is really obvious. Most of the time its fine but you can really notice it sometimes. I also have mixed feelings about the look of the overall movie. At times it can look great but at other times it can look really dated, like it should’ve come out in the early to mid 2000s.

Venom is an odd movie to say the least and one of the most unexpectedly entertaining movies in recent years. No it’s not really that good, it has a ton of problems, but it has a lot of entertaining aspects, the highlights being Tom Hardy’s performance and his dynamic with Venom. With the potential that a sequel would have, I really want to see the teased sequel. Hopefully this sequel will be R rated (which would probably be wise considering the implications of the credits scene), focuses up on what kind of movie it actually wants to be and is just overall much better than this first movie. Honestly, I can’t tell whether or not you’d like this movie, you will just have to take into account all of what I’ve said about this movie and decide for yourself if this is something that you feel like you would enjoy.