Of all the various comic book characters to get their own showcase during the superhero era, Venom has to be one of most unlikely.
The character first popped up as a villain in 2007’s Spider-Man 3 with Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom, but made little impact because of the quality of the film and Grace’s performance. Tom Hardy took over the role in 2018’s Venom, a poorly reviewed but hugely successful film that took in $856 million worldwide.
That box office — and an end credits teaser featuring Woody Harrelson — ensured there would be a sequel, which now arrives with the somewhat clunky title, Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
After unsuccessfully trying to purge the symbiote Venom from his system in the first film, Eddie Brock spends his days mostly trying to satisfy the never-ending hunger of Venom. He halfheartedly accepts an assignment to interview Cletus Cassidy (Harrelson), a murderer who’s set to be executed.
That visit proves disastrous, however, as an altercation allows Cletus to get a bit of Eddie’s blood, transforming him into Carnage. Cletus/Carnage proceeds to escape and go on a destruction spree, all while searching for his long-lost love, Frances/Shriek (Naomie Harris), who spent time with him in an institution. Naturally, only Eddie/Venom will be able to protect the city and those he loves, including former fiancée Anne (Michelle Williams), from the vicious pair.
Directed by Andy Serkis and written by Kelly Marcel, the film is an incoherent mess from beginning to end. It’s clear that Venom is supposed to be a funny character, with his insatiable appetite and inappropriate comments, but the way he’s presented is far from entertaining.
Much of this has to do with the god-awful CGI; perhaps having a being that’s constantly coming out of and surrounding the lead character was always going to be tough to present, but it’s still shocking just how bad it is.
Even worse than the imagery is the complete lack of an interesting story. Hardy has a story credit and serves as one of the producers for this film, so he was clearly invested in trying to make it good. But he, Marcel, and Serkis failed miserably, serving up a bland, confusing storyline and allowing Harrelson and Harris to overact shamelessly. Save for a couple of mildly humorous one-liners, the script does nothing to liven things up, either.
It’s strange that Hardy was chosen to play this role, as he doesn’t seem to have the energy that Eddie is supposed to have. Hardy has mostly been known for his intensity in films like Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Mad Max: Fury Road. Watching him try to be reserved, twitchy, and a little goofy is painful, as his natural demeanor is not a good fit for those traits.
As previously mentioned, Harrelson and Harris go way over the top in their respective roles, and even though they’re the villains of the film, their lack of restraint is galling. Williams — who, it should be noted, is a four-time Oscar nominee — is once again wildly out of place, and even she can’t save her nothing of a role.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is even worse than the dog of a film that was the original. I’d love to say that this is the last we’ll see of the character, but an end credits teaser strongly hints at a return very soon. Maybe that appearance will make him enjoyable, but I doubt it.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage opens in theaters on October 1.