I am going to cut to the chase on this one. I am not in anyway a fan of the first Venom film. That film infuriated me in so many ways. I walked out hating it and hating the powers that be that made this film a reality. I also walked out feeling like I was taking crazy pills because much of the crowd seemed to enjoy it. I don’t know why they did. It is by most reasonable and logical measures a poorly made, silly mess of a film. One that bastardizes it’s beloved source material for a couple of cheap laughs and a quick buck. One that further cemented the fact that if not for the licensing rights Sony holds onto with an iron grasp, that they have no business making Spider-Man films when Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach are the first names that show up on the producers list. Still, despite my burning hatred, the film made an upsetting amount of money. Thus guaranteeing a sequel and a showdown with Carnage, Venom’s one true nemesis not named Spider-Man. Sigh…
I could probably write a dissertation on all the reasons the first film was so offensive to me. But this is a review for it’s ridiculously titled sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage (was Maximum Carnage too silly for them? impossible) I grew up obsessed with Venom, the character has his ups and downs in the Marvel Comics that brought him to life, and he was done a disservice in 2007’s Spider-Man 3. But everyone still loves Venom, how could you not, when presented properly he is a great character and has a great design. I really don’t want to spend more time on this review than this new film deserves, I didn’t expect it to be worse than the first, and in some ways it is as it doubles down on every single thing I hated about the first. If there is one positive thing about the film is that it is funnier than the previous one but one thing I never wanted was a Venom movie that focuses so heavily on embarrassing and goofy slapstick comedy coming from what should be one of Spider-Man’s most dangerous and menacing villains. But I did laugh a couple times so I guess at least it had that going for it.
One of the main reasons I (and so many others) resent these Venom films is because Sony has no clue what to do with these characters and they continue to make bad Spider-Man related film after bad Spider-Man related film. If you want to do a tally they have made 2 good ones in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 1 & Spider-Man 2. I will forever refuse to give them credit for Into The Spider-Verse because that one is ALL Lord and Miller’s doing. But, when it comes to meddling, no one seems to do it better than Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach, I will leave Amy Pascal alone for now because at least she seems to try to foster some good will at times. From 2005 to 2021. Sony and Avi and Matt on their own have made exactly ZERO good Spider-Man related films. ZERO! They are lucky they had Marvel Studios and the steadying power of Kevin Feige and Co to bail them out of their embarrassments. So instead of fully realizing the opportunity of that partnership, they double down and trying to destroy their golden goose by greenlighting poorly conceived spinoffs that featured no input from the braintrust of Marvel Studios, resulting in the mid 2000’s feel of the first Venom film. In doing so Sony also hindered some of the future story telling possibilities that Marvel Studios could have excelled with. Cause nobody in the galaxy can tell me a Marvel Studios Venom film would not have been an upgrade over what we got from Sony on their own. Soooo now that I have vented let me get back to my review of this new Venom film.
From the opening scene I knew I was in for what amounted to an extremely long 90 minutes. As I said before Andy Serkis, Tom Hardy and Co have doubled down on all the cringe inducing elements that made the first film such a eye rolling affair. Tom Hardy continues to have his version of Eddie Brock act like a complete weirdo, I get that he is clearly having some fun with the role, but as a supposed fan of the character, I am not sure what his thought process is behind it. Venom himself is entertaining but too often reduced to a punchline. He DOES have a handful of laugh out loud lines, but overall it’s just again, a disservice to the character. The cgi that brought him to life pretty convincingly in the first one has taken a step back here as well. The bickering dynamic of Eddie and Venom can only carry so much of the film though, and the main event this time around is Woody Harrelson and his portrayal Cletus Kasady the host of other fan favorite symbiote Carnage.
I, as most people do, love Woody Harrelson, and I could see in an alternate universe where he could play a good version of Cletus Kasady. But we don’t live in that universe, we live in the universe where he decided to play the character in the most annoying way possible. A clichéd version of a serial killer who speaks in parables and quotes and is just a painful to listen to him drag out his scenes. Cletus Kasady is supposed to be a wild maniac who kills with no second thought, here we get some two bit backwoods Hannibal Lecter impersonation and I forgive Woody because I know what a great talent he is. But man was this was not the way to go. I also don’t even want to get into the love story surrounding his character and Shriek who has ZERO reason to be in this film. The less I say about their corny romance the better. Carnage himself is rendered in 2007 level CGI and is not as exciting as he should be thanks to the first film basically already giving us a version of a weaponized symbiote. There are a few cool scenes involving him, one of which Sony inexplicably released IN FULL yesterday because OF COURSE SONY WOULD DO THAT. Sony may have the worst marketing department there is when it comes to spoiling there films. If you do happen to watch that scene, you will see one of the dumbest things imaginable happen and one that makes no sense for the character of Carnage to even do, but hey who cares at this point right? I really don’t have anything good to say about this film besides a few laughs and a scene where Venom goes to a rave, which is absolutely as stupid as it sounds and still probably the only enjoyable scene in this entire mess. Andy Serkis did NOT do a good job here and I don’t know what to blame him for exactly because we all know these are films by committee and has Arad and Tolmach’s and yes Pascal’s dirty fingerprints all over it. I know people will watch the film and those who don’t actually care about the characters or the horrific ramifications of yet another successful Sony dumpster fire will probably enjoy it as mindless dumb entertainment. But that right there is the problem, this should and could be so much more in the hands of competent filmmakers. Instead it’s in the hands of hired goons and money men who could care less to the quality of what they put out as they bleed this license dry.
A lot is said about Marvel Cinematic Universe fans and their hatred of Sony’s handling of the Spider-Man characters. But there is good reason for MCU fans (and just fans of quality films) to despise Sony and the head honcho’s over there. Venom Let There Be Carnage is a sterling example of why they are right to hate them. It showcases their lack of understanding of the source material and WHY it has endured for decades upon decades. It illustrates their lack of self awareness and how this pails in comparison to the quality of other comic book films out there. It finally just shows how Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach just don’t give a fuck. Because if anyone with some common sense sat in a meeting on this film and didn’t stand up and say “hey guys this actually sucks, it’s really bad, cant we make a good movie this time?” Then they deserve all this hate. It takes A LOT for a film to make me this angry and exhausted, but this film achieved that so I am taking pleasure in airing it out. Should have been called Venom: Let Their Be Garbage…because that is all Sony will continue to put out on their own. Here’s looking at you Morbius.