The Venom franchise continues to pose the question of if a film can successfully base a story around not a fully fleshed out hero, but instead, their primary foil. This concept presents the formidable challenge of taking a character that is normally successful when pitted against their adversary and seeing if things still click when that hero is removed from the equation. While this tactic proved successful in Joker, it is safe to say that was an exception, and not the rule. Venom: Let There Be Carnage continues with the creative pursuits of the first entry to similar results, which is another tonal mishmash that fails both as fan service and an objective cinematic experience.
The story, directed by Andy Serkis, continues where the first left off. Eddie Brock(Tom Hardy) is attempting to balance a life as a journalist attempting to make a comeback to relevance with that of a potential vigilante, thanks to his newly formed bond with the alien symbiote, Venom. Next up on his agenda, Brock is assigned to interview the infamous serial killer, Cletus Kassidy (Woody Harrelson).
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is an action comedy that suffers from a severe case of split personality. The film yearns to be dark and violent, while at the same time a goofy buddy cop action romp, which culminates a dual failure in both regards. A rushed storyline, along with choppy editing, contribute to an ever-shifting tone to create an occasionally entertaining ride, yet one that never reaches the potential of its source material. The plot basically shifts Venom from a gruesome warrior into a comic relief side character. It feels as if the film was made with a R-Rated Director’s Cut in mind, but for the purposes of a theatrical release, the studio made alterations to allow for a PG-13 rating and the potential for more viewers. This decision is fine, but the least they could do is edit the scenes a tad better, so it didn’t just appear as if the studio cut away from shots right before the graphic scenes. Tom Hardy again goes all out in his Eddie Brock portrayal with committed physical acting, as well as a completely unnecessary voice. It is quite a choice by Hardy, distracting from the story much more than it adds to it. The film does possess some quality jokes and a fun Woody Harrelson performance, but in the end, it isn’t enough to salvage this misbegotten project.
Furthermore, as a piece of fan service, the film proves to be even more disappointing. This representation of the character is unrecognizable from the source material he is based on. Spider-Man is central to the Venom mythos, serving as a central facet of Venom’s backstory, as well as the greatest motivation behind his actions. To set the story in a world without Spider-Man and establish the Venom character as the protagonist of his own story is a nearly impossible task. Overall, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a frustrating experience. The film possesses glimmers about what could be possible with this cool character at its disposal, but attempts to venture in too many different directions and results in a failure on all fronts. I give it 2 out of 5 Stars and recommend it only to those who loved the first installment, as all this one did was double down on that formula.