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Saturday, October 2, 2021

Venom: Let There Be Carnage



Venom: Let There Be Carnage is what everyone dreaded the first Venom movie would be. Director Ruben Fleischer's Venom was an oddball entertainment with the bizarre relationship between Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and Venom (Tom Hardy) at its center. In contrast, Andy Serkis directs Venom: Let There Be Carnage and strips away the connective tissue that made the original Venom a movie, leaving only the guts (but no blood, because Let There Be Carnage is PG-13). Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the equivalent of three Saturday morning cartoons smashed together with a threadbare plot (credited to Tom Hardy and Kelly Marcell) that was probably scribbled on a cocktail napkin during an all-night bender. And yet, despite my loathing this cacophonous misery, Carnage literally says, "Let there be Carnage!" in the movie, and saying the title of the movie in spoken dialogue nets the film an automatic four stars from me.

As set up by Venom's ending, Let There Be Carnage is about a serial killer named Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson, who has nothing to play and plays that nothing right off a cliff). Cletus is holed up on death row in San Quentin but he bites reporter Eddie Brock and swallows some of the Venom symbiote. The result is Cletus is transformed into his own, even grosser, more prehensile tail-y, space monster named Carnage. Cletus/Carnage murder their way out of the clink and head straight for San Francisco to reunite with Cletus' childhood love, Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris). Barrison is also a superpowered freak who can emit sonic screams and she's been locked up her whole life. However, Carnage, Venom, and all of these goopy symbiotes only have two fatal vulnerabilities: fire and really loud noises. So naturally, Carnage isn't too happy that Cletus' missus can kill him if she opens her yap. Three's definitely a crowd there. But the bottom line is Carnage sucks; he's a hideous, terrible, eyesore who's somehow both barely in the movie yet in too much of the movie.

Meanwhile, Eddie, who was a loser in the first movie, is having a career renaissance where he's now the most important and respected reporter in San Francisco, despite still being a swarthy, twitchy weirdo who is clearly hiding a psychotic pile of murderous ooze beneath his skin. Venom is bored of being with Eddie and how controlling his human host is. Eddie won't let Venom eat human brains and he keeps shooting down Venom wanting to call their dynamic duo the "Lethal Protectors." It's not easy being in a symbiotic/romantic relationship with a symbiote and, just like in any rom com, Eddie and Venom break up and go their separate ways for a while. Unfortunately, Eddie has no heterosexual outlet with a human female to turn to because his ex-fiancee, Ann Weying (Michelle Williams), is now engaged to Doctor Dan Lewis (Reid Scott), who, strangely, turns out to be the most heroic person in the movie. For his part, Venom has a scene where he hits a rave and has a fantabulous emancipation of Venom - or he tries to, anyway, but Venom soon realizes he literally can't live without Eddie.

What passes for a plot in Venom: Let There Be Carnage is summed up thusly: Cletus wants to kill Eddie/Venom, marry Frances (who also got a codename, Shriek), and then kill Ann, Detective Mulligan (Stephen Graham), the cop who shot Frances years ago but didn't know she survived, Dan, and the priest who was going to marry him and Frances, not necessarily in that order. The movie culminates in a church, not unlike Spider-Man 3, where the ringing of a giant bell helps kill Carnage, just like how Venom (Topher Grace) was defeated in Sam Raimi's unloved threequel. To get to the church on time (record time, almost, since the movie is only 90 minutes long), Venom: Let There Be Carnage packs a lot of nonsense into its short runtime, and it rockets through scenes that barely even qualify as scenes. But that's okay, I guess, since this thing barely qualifies as a movie. Every scene with Michelle Williams, who is barely in the movie, mind you, is made more baffling when one remembers she's been Academy Award-nominated four times.

So why sit through and endure Venom: Let There Be Carnage at all? Well, the Sony Spider-Man Universe is in a symbiotic relationship of its own with Marvel Studios and they finally pulled the trigger on bringing the universes together. In Venom: Let There Be Carnage's headscratcher of a mid-credits scene, Eddie and Venom are in bed together on a beach vacation when Venom randomly starts waxing philosophical of all of the crazy things he's seen traveling through 80,000 lightyears of space. Venom decides to show Eddie some of what he's seen but somehow, they end up transported into a hotel room in the Marvel Cinematic Universe right at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home. Specifically, the moment when the MCU's J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons) publicly reveals Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is Spider-Man. How did that happen? How does any of this work? Who cares. At least the mid-credits scene clocks in as the only memorable thing in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, though it's not as standout a moment as when Tom Hardy crawls into a lobster tank and starts eating crustaceans in the first Venom.