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‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ is the best superhero sequel of 2006

‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ is the best superhero sequel of 2006

‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ is the best superhero sequel of 2006
October 12
16:57 2021

“Responsibility is for the mediocre.”

Three years ago, Sony unleashed “Venom” upon skeptical moviegoers to massive box office success. While critics mostly dunked the original for inconsistent tone, dodgy special effects and a very self-serious plot, general audiences had the complete opposite reaction. Many loved it for some of the reasons its detractors detested it: the hilarious and often homoerotic dynamic between Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock and Venom. Its self-serious tone gives way to glorious camp and a style different enough to stand out from other comic book movies to an $800 million-plus payoff. 

That success has led to new director Andy Serkis (yes, Gollum) spawning “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.” Introducing Woody Harrelson as Venom’s iconic nemesis, Eddie Brock and Venom are both on the outs when serial killer Cletus Kassidy bonds with a defective symbiote and breaks out of prison during his intended execution to embark on a massive killing spree. 

With a shorter 97-minute runtime, this is one “fast, muscular” sequel as Serkis intended. “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” successfully expands on the original’s wacky tone, endearingly chaotic relationship between its meathead protagonists and a pair of fun villains driving the conflict. 

Among the leverage it holds over its predecessor is the acting, or rather the consistency. Hardy’s bizarre performances as both the comedically-burdened Eddie Brock and Venom was a highlight and he doubles down on his performance. While Eddie isn’t as physically active and his accent is more consistent than before, he isn’t lacking in the lovable and overburdened meathead department. 

It helps the antagonists he’s pitted against match the tone this time. As unintentionally funny as the original can be, Riz Ahmed’s Carlton Drake/Riot made for a paint-by-numbers villain. Here, Harrelson goes completely off the rails as Kassidy/Carnage and very much supports the anarchic tone. He has a ball riffing with his serial killer shtick and gleefully unnerves everyone he comes into contact with. The same goes for Naomi Harris, who plays his lover, Shriek. 

Behind the camera, Serkis shows a deft hand from his extensive background in portraying computer-generated imagery like Gollum and Ceaser. He shows his cred through how he stages the action: quick, efficient and kinetic. A couple of cuts go by too quickly but even then they fit the grungy, anarchic vibe he and his crew are aiming for. For a PG-13 rating, he ended making a pretty violent ride — while Venom bites off a human head here and there, Carnage and Shriek kill scores of people. It’s actually kind of shocking how much, well, carnage, this movie gets away with. 

Another thing: this is the best superhero sequel of 2006. The original is kind of a weird throwback to early 2000s superhero movies: dark aesthetics, metal in the soundtrack and self-serious to the point of unintentional camp. Both “Let There Be Carnage” and “Venom” are just as much the kin of Ben Affleck’s “Daredevil” and Halle Berry’s “Catwoman” as each other. Even the aesthetics are similar, shot mostly at night in low-level urban areas with the antihero bounding across rooftops and extreme motorcycle scenes with lots of CGI. If a sequel was ever made to either movie, it would probably look like “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” and be released in 2006. 

Now, comparatively, this one is far more self-aware, but personally? I loved this choice, and am a real big fan.

Deserving of both praise and some critique is the story and script. Hardy gets a story credit, while Kelly Marcel returns as the main scriptwriter. While “Let There Be Carnage” may have many equivalent scenes with the previous one, it’s at its heart a really fun break-up movie. There’s plenty of delicious Venom/Eddie relationship drama with the former even attending what amounts to a pride rave. This is probably as gay as a Marvel movie gets, which is simultaneously nice and sad. 

Is “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” a great movie? No, definitely not. Is it even really a good movie? Maybe not. However, it’s a fun popcorn flick and does what a good sequel should: build on the strength of its predecessor and tighten any weaknesses. Plus, at a breezy 97-minutes, it’s hard not to respect it for succinctly saying its piece then bowing out with aplomb. 

Will’s final rating: 3/5

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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