Review: 'Venom: Let There Be Carnage' Pumps Up the Action, but Lacks Sting

by JC Alvarez

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday November 23, 2021

Carnage from Columbia Pictures' 'Venom: Let There Be Carnage'
Carnage from Columbia Pictures' 'Venom: Let There Be Carnage'  (Source:Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

It's an unfortunate existence for Eddie Brock: The scandalous news hound, played by Tom Hardy, returns as Marvel Comic's most lethal protector in "Venom: Let There Be Carnage."

For the uninitiated into the backstory of this macabre menace: Venom is an alien symbiote who has crash landed on Earth and must feed in order to sate its wild appetite, but it cannot survive without first finding a host — and those don't last very long! When Venom crosses paths with Brock, the pair find themselves in a unique situation: Eddie is able to maintain some control and reign Venom in, while also taking advantage of many of Venom's unique abilities.

Together the pair were able to stave off an alien invasion and prevent a symbiote outbreak that would have decimated the planet. Eddie and Venom were heroes, but not even Anne (Michelle Williams) could make heads or tails of Eddie's predicament, especially his reckless tendencies. So Anne left Eddie (and Venom) for Dr. Dan (Reid Scott), but remains close to the pair.

When we reconnect with the duo in "Venom: Let There Be Carnage," Eddie is diligently reestablishing himself as a sensational news writer. He gets the offer of a lifetime when convicted serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) requests an interview with Brock.

Fans will remember that at the conclusion of the first film, the post-credit stinger introduced Harrelson as the incarcerated Cletus Kasady, whom comic book readers know all too well becomes the host for the most terrifying symbiote known to the planet... Carnage!

Eddie isn't entirely sure what he might be getting himself into, but is pushed by Detective Mulligan (Stephen Graham) to meet with Cletus in prison and pick the murderer's brain for any information that might lead to solving the case of Kasady's killing spree. Eddie doesn't know what to make of the interview, which ignites an engaging relationship between the pair. Harrelson dives in with relish, deliciously playing the psychopath, who is desperately attempting to get a message out to his paramour, Shriek (Naomie Harris), a woman with an ear-splitting ability to yell like a banshee. Shriek is being held in a maximum security prison.

Feeling that he may have been taken advantage of, Eddie misses the obvious clues in Kasady's cell — but not Venom, who deciphers the killer's scribbles and locates his nest of victims. With Kasady's case solved, the killer is fast tracked and his execution is imminent. Kasady makes a final request to tease Eddie, and ends up getting the best of his symbiote alter-ego, who can't control itself. Kasady takes a bite out of Eddie (big mistake), and it isn't long before the bit of symbiote that's running through Kasady makes its presence known and releases Carnage (literally) on the world! For the rest of the film's one-hour and thirty minute run, it's a brawling beatdown between the two alien forces.

The film is directed by expert motion capture actor Andy Serkis (the artist behind Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" movies), so it's not a surprise that the film's mostly-CGI animated twists and turns move expertly inside the frame. Venom and Hardy appear much closer in proximity than they did in the first film, which is very much what makes this move so seamlessly from one step to the other.

Narratively, there isn't anything happening here that is particularly interesting. The actors are all serviceable, and the addition of Harrelson and Harris as our "big bads" increase the threat level, but the real star of the movie is the battle set pieces, which is what the audience will come to see. "Venom" sticks to its PG-13 rating, so the violence is present, but palatable.

There are moments of backstory that are playfully executed and interesting to grab onto, but unfortunately if the "hero" isn't present, there really isn't a journey to follow. Eddie Brock is not the most likable fellow, lives in deplorable style, and looks like he smells bad — by comparison, Venom is far more appealing, especially once you get past the ooze and goo of him.

"Venom: Let There Be Carnage" isn't as dense or engaging as any of the other Marvel movies, and, because it is released on Sony, runs parallel to the regular studio releases (which means it may, or may not be, part of the MCU). But don't get up and leave the theater right away as the end credits roll — you won't want to miss the stinger. There will undoubtedly be a third installment of "Venom" coming our way, but unless they are able to pull a rabbit from deep inside the symbiote's maw, it will likely not get any better than this. If you're looking for something loud with explosions and a body count, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" has got that down, and then some.


Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".