Review: 'Venom: Let There Be Carnage' all bark and no bite

Film Review - Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Posted at 7:52 PM, Sep 30, 2021

Tom Santilli is a professional film critic, TV personality, host and the Executive Producer of Movie Show Plus.

Of the many Marvel properties that have been translated into movies, Venom has by far been the worst adaptation. His cool look jumps off of the page, but on screen - when added with his ridiculous voice - Venom has thus far been a mess. He's neither funny nor scary, and he's one of the least compelling comic book characters going.

Suffice it to say, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is a catastrophe from head-to-toe...it's a tonal nightmare featuring characters with very little depth and given very little to do. The first "Venom" film was a success (the comic book character, created by Todd McFarlane and David Michelinie, is among the most popular of all the Marvel characters since first appearing in 1988), which means that this sequel was inevitable, but "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to "superhero" movies, let alone Marvel films.

Grade: D

Of course, the character of Venom on-screen has thus far been owned by Sony, but this film was made in association with Marvel Studios. He's a foil for Spider-Man in the comics, but hasn't been given any connection to the famous web-slinger just yet on film. Because of the recent cross-overs, where Sony has agreed to allow Tom Holland's Spidey to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it is only a matter of time until Venom crosses paths with the other MCU characters we've come to know and love in recent years.

And that's too bad. Venom - an alien symbiote who lives like a parasite on its human host - is simply annoying. Perhaps if he was written better, or if they could decide how to utilize him, things would improve but thus far it's clear they don't know what to do with him. The CG mastermind Andy Serkis was brought in to direct this sequel due to the massive amounts of CG required in "Let There Be Carnage," but he too fumbles the ball.

As the story goes, journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy)is Venom's host body, and the two have decided to live as one. Venom is unhappy because Eddie isn't allowing him to devour any humans, but he begrudgingly goes along with his master. Eddie is brought in to interview the serial killer, Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), but when their interaction goes wrong, a part of Venom makes its way onto Cletus and morphs into Carnage, which is basically a red and much more violent version of Venom. How this happens, or why Carnage is so powerful is never explained (Michelle Williams returns in a throw-away role as Eddie's ex-love interest, while the usually great Stephen Graham is neutered playing a hearing-impaired detective).

Cletus intends to use his freedom to break out his old lover, Frances (Naomie Harris), from a mental institution, and Carnage goes along with it...because, why not? Frances has the ability to bellow out powerful screams, which is why she suddenly starts being referred to as Shriek. Shriek and Carnage team up to take down Venom, because that's what the villains are supposed to do in a story this incredibly lame.

The film suffers because it never knows what it wants to be. It's not funny or self-aware enough to land in the "Deadpool" zone, and the characters are just not as inherently interesting as, say, "Guardians of the Galaxy." It also doesn't allow itself to ever get too serious, gory or scary...this is a PG-13 vehicle after all. Character motivations are never clearly explained, and they all just go through the motions in what amounts to a paint-by-numbers approach to comic book films. They clearly think that that's enough these days, and they may be right.

"Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is the only film of its kind, where when the "mind-blowing" mid-end-credits scene rolls around, I actually groaned in disgust that this character might be seen again. Hopefully they call the next chapter "Venom: Let This Be The End." The end can't come soon enough for this hopelessly uninteresting corner of the MCU.

Grade: D

Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller.
Run Time: 1 hour 23 minutes.
Rated PG-13.

Starring: Tom Hardy, Naomie Harris, Michelle Williams, Woody Harrelson, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham.

Directed by Andy Serkis ("Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle," "Breathe").

"Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is in theaters on Friday, October 1st, 2021.