Venom: Let There Be Carnage Review


Promotional Material for “Venom: Let There be Carnage”

“Venom 2: Let There Be Carnage” Review: A Cheesy Sequel with a touch of Marvel Magic

Note: The first half of this review is an overview of “Venom (2018)” for context and a brief spoiler-free review and recommendation to watch. The second half will spoil the entirety of Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Watch for the spoiler warning indicating the start of the spoiler’s section if you don’t want the ending ruined for you.

“Venom” was a joint Sony-Marvel production that came out on my birthday, October 5th, back in 2018. Ruben Fleischer’s thrillride followed the story of down-on-his-luck reporter Eddie Brock as he investigates the alien experiments run by corporate prince Carlton Drake and his Life Foundation. In the process, Eddie discovers an alien symbiote named Venom. The two slowly bond over the course of the film and by the end become one in the same. An evident piece of influence from Marvel’s side of production was the inclusion of a post-credit scene showing Eddie and Venom arriving at San Quentin penitentiary to interview notorious serial killer and the main villain of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Cletus Kasady.

The film was released and immediately caused a massive culture war of sorts between critics and casual audiences, with many critics rating the film as one of, if not, the worst blockbuster film of 2018 and audiences raving about the buddy-cop dynamic between Eddie and Venom, whilst rating it as a film rivaling the summer’s event film, Avengers: Infinity War. The film garnered a 26% from critics and a whopping 91% from audiences during its run through theaters on Rotten Tomatoes, although as of October 2021 the film sits at a 30% from critics and an 81% from audiences. The divisiveness the film brought caused the studio to reconsider their approach to a sequel, ultimately getting rid of Fleischer and replacing him with longtime Hollywood-veteran and fan-favorite Andy Serkis to helm the now-released sequel. Its original release date of October 2nd, 2020 was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its following June 25th, 2021 release date was again scrapped from ongoing COVID issues.

Carnage from Columbia Pictures’ VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE. (Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

Now that the scene is set, it’s time we talk about the actual movie. Keep in mind that this section does not contain spoilers for those of you that wish to see the movie with fresh eyes. That being said, I want to state off the bat that I would recommend this movie to anyone who just wants 90 action-packed minutes of pure comic cheese. It’s an adrenaline rush filled with many of the same aspects that made “Venom (2018)” great. Unfortunately, some of the pacing issues from the first film are present here, and the editing is a little shaky when the movie tries to cut between different subplots, unfortunately leading to many scenes feeling rushed or underdeveloped. The glaring issue many talk about that I agree with is the lack of real violence. Now of course, there’s plenty of awesome action scenes with Venom and Carnage, but the lack of, well, carnage hurts the film more than it helps.
I understand the desire to keep the film PG-13 to reach the widest audience possible, but the character of Cletus Kasady/Carnage can’t be done real justice without the allowance of an R-rating. For those who need some extra context, Cletus Kasady/Carnage is a Marvel comics Spider-Man villain first appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #359 in February of 1992. Cletus is a serial killer who inherits a symbiote and infects it with his depraved mind, becoming the murder-machine now known as Carnage. Carnage as a character is a terrifying being who kills without remorse and will never stop unless detained by Spider-Man or Venom. A proper representation of Carnage must allow him to enact his brutal methods of death and destruction without a filter, and the lack of a R-rating hurts his character. However, Andy Serkis found a very clever way to make up for the lack of violence to the point where the line of violence is towed just enough to create the aura of horror around Carnage, particularly the scene where he breaks out of prison and decimates the prison guards. The extra character development and the addition of an actual backstory for Cletus really helps the audience understand the character at a depth few comics have been able to portray, although it would’ve helped if he could’ve been the psychotic monster that plays as an antithesis to the more roguish anti-hero aura brought by Venom.

“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is a fall film thrillride that just about anybody can enjoy if you can bear some shaky editing, pacing problems, and cliche romance plots. This film, unlike its predecessor, takes itself far less seriously and embraces the cheesy side of comic book films and it helps the movie in the long run.

See it now, wait a while, or never watch?: See it now (with friends)

Warning: This is the start of the spoilers section. Do not continue if you wish to experience Venom: Let There Be Carnage with fresh eyes.

Spoiler time! There’s a few things that I really wanted to mention here for those of you who have seen the movie or just want to hear what happens. First and foremost, Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Eddie Brock/Venom and Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of Cletus Kasady/Carnage were outstanding. Hardy really delivers his best performance as the character with more emotion and comedy than before while having him deal with the emotional gut punch of Anne, his love interest played by Michelle Williams, getting officially engaged to her new boyfriend Dan, played by Reid Scott. Venom’s character became the spotlight performance of the film with his evolution from a brooding loser to an incredibly brash and hilarious lethal protector. His argument with Eddie gives them time separated from each other (which Venom of course uses to go to an underground rave) and reflect on their mistakes and reunite to stop Cletus and Carnage (with a fun cameo from She-Venom). While the breakup between Eddie and Venom was very well done, it felt like a retread of their breakup in Venom (2018) and caused it to lose some of its impact.
Woody Harrelson is an incredible actor and one of my personal favorites from his roles in “No Country for Old Men” and “The Highwaymen”, and his role as Cletus Kasady/Carnage elevated him to a new level, showing us how dynamic of an actor he truly is. The story of Cletus Kasady in Marvel comics is very simple: a psychopath who murdered his family for fun and became a serial killer because he enjoyed killing. In this film, his character is far more fleshed out and, to a very specific extent, his situation garners some sympathy from the audience. He was born as a stillborn baby before the doctors had successfully revived him to his family’s dismay. Because he came out of the womb stillborn, his entire family abused him, beating him and keeping him malnourished before he snapped, shoving his grandma down the long staircase in his home and tossing a blow-dryer into his mother’s bath. When his father returned home, he beat Cletus to the brink of death before sending him away to the St. Estes Home for Unwanted Children. He lived there into his early 20s and met a woman named Francis Barrison, later known as Shriek, whom he fell in love with. After Francis was taken to the secretive Ravencroft institute, Cletus escaped and went on a massive killing spree, hence why he starts the movie in prison waiting for his death sentence. This is a massive improvement on the character of Cletus Kasady, and something well-deserved and long overdue for one of Marvel’s most sinister villains. While it doesn’t completely make up for the lack of actual carnage I mentioned above in the non-spoilers section, it does make Cletus a massive highlight of the film.

Venom and Carnage are accompanied in this film by another pair of classic yet obscure Marvel characters, one of which could join Venom in his next chapter. The first of the pair is the aforementioned Francis Barrison AKA Shreik. Francis is the longtime love interest of Carnage and first appeared in Spider-Man Unlimited #1 from May 1993 as a mutant with amplified vocal chords which she used to great effect as a tool of destruction. In the film, she does portray the psychotic lover of Cletus/Carnage well, but she felt underwhelming in the third act after getting so much screen time in the first two acts, though much credit is due towards Naomie Harris for working with what she had. Her death felt both needed to unleash the full might and madness of Carnage and pointless as death by a falling church bell, while ironic, feels incredibly lame compared to Carnage’s death. The less disappointing and more exciting half of the pair is Detective Patrick Mulligan, played by Stephen Graham, whose history with Shriek and Carnage leads him down a rabbit hole with Eddie as they try to take down the pair, though Mulligan is very suspect of Eddie throughout the movie, believing he is some sort of accomplice of Cletus. His hearing was heavily damaged when he helped transfer Shriek to Ravencroft, and their history leads to a semi-climactic fight where Shriek seems to have killed Mulligan by way of a nasty chain hanging. The last scene of the full film shows Mulligan surviving with a small portion of the Carnage symbiote saving him. For those unaware, Patrick Mulligan is the host of the symbiote known as Toxin, the son of Carnage and arguably the strongest symbiote in Marvel. Mulligan isn’t shown to transform into Toxin, though it’s heavily implied that it will happen in whatever the next chapter is for Venom.

So here’s the part everybody probably wants to talk about: yes, Venom is officially in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thanks to the failed spell from Dr. Strange in the “Spider-Man: No Way Home” trailer, as shown by the post-credits scene where Venom sees Tom Holland’s Spider-Man for the first time. The possibilities are immense now that the lethal protector is in the MCU. The biggest question, to me at least, is the status of Patrick Mulligan/Toxin. He now holds the last portion of the Carnage symbiote, and nothing is stated in the film about whether or not anybody else from the Sony Venomverse will cross over. I’m also very pumped for the idea that we could get Knull, God of the Symbiotes as a big-time villain in the MCU.

Final Rating: 82/100 (B-)

Eddie Brock/Venom Pacing (Especially in the second act)
Cletus Kasady
New Backstory for Carnage Lack of depth with Francis
Non-stop action Patrick Mulligan
Much improved subplots
Post-credits scene

Carnage Shaky editing in some scenes
Toxin feels like an afterthought