To the everyday viewer, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” looks like just another superhero film. It’s the second installment of the Venom film series and centers around Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy, “Mad Max: Fury Road”), an investigative journalist who hosts a parasitic alien symbiote named Venom. Eddie gains powers as a result of hosting Venom, and together they become an anti-hero. This film follows their endeavor to defeat Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson, “The Hunger Games”), a serial killer who obtains a stronger symbiote named Carnage. While the plot remains rather unremarkable within the world of superheroes, the film itself is notable as the launching pad for Sony’s Spider-Man Universe — the compromise that Marvel and Sony achieved following their dispute over Spider-Man in August 2019.
Essentially, the two media giants agreed to share the film rights to Spider-Man. The popular superhero will continue as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe while also playing an essential role in the SSU, which is set to feature other Marvel Comics characters that Sony possesses film rights for. The end credits scene in “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” clearly references the highly anticipated “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and paves the way for the Venom and Spider-Man worlds to collide, establishing the SSU. So far Sony has announced two more films for the SSU — “Morbius” and “Kraven the Hunter” — which are set to release in 2022 and 2023, respectively. The Venom franchise essentially serves as the SSU’s debut, not unlike the Iron Man series’ role in the MCU.
However, while “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” attracts a lot of attention due to its significance in the SSU, the film has a lot of issues. About 40% into the 1 hour 37-minute runtime, the audience already knows exactly how the story will end — and at that point, you start wondering why you’re watching it in the first place. The dialogue is cringe-worthy and there isn’t much development from the first film. “Venom” ended with Eddie and Venom as anti-hero vigilantes, and “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” ends with Eddie and Venom as … anti-hero vigilantes on the run. There’s not a whole lot of progression. The audience never gets any deeper themes or character development.
As a cherry on top, Cletus Kasady is a confusing, inconsistent character. Kasady is initially established as an insane cold-blooded killer who senselessly murdered innocent people, including his own mother and grandmother. But later on in the film, Kasady recoils at the prospect of killing Eddie’s loved ones, because he knows what it’s like to be in love and such an act would be “going too far.” How can someone who kills people for fun suddenly become so concerned? It’s bizarre that the audience is made to sympathize with a serial killer’s tragic upbringing and tortured love story.
That being said, the film isn’t all bad. Actually, it’s quite funny. Venom and Eddie’s banter is incredibly believable, striking that perfect balance between affection and genuine annoyance that only the best of friends can pull off. The humor in their interactions is off-beat and refreshing, and it definitely brings something new to the table. Their relationship is the hidden gem of this film. There’s a period of time where Venom and Eddie angrily part ways and both are free to pursue the life they were previously restrained from — Eddie could finally enjoy some peace and quiet, and Venom could walk out into the open without having to hide all the time. But Eddie misses his symbiote friend, and there’s a moment where, after a crowd cheers for him at a party, Venom goes alone into a quiet corner, looks around and simply says, “I wish Eddie was here to see that.” After a while, they both realize that they’d rather endure the nuisance of the other’s presence than be apart. Their sweet relationship is what powers the film, and the “love conquers all” sentiment comes across as more wholesome than cheesy.
In and of itself, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is yet another unremarkable non-Marvel superhero film — but if you’re a superhero junkie who wants to watch the birth of the SSU, then Venom, Eddie and the fresh humor of their relationship will keep you laughing through this otherwise lackluster production.
Daily Arts Contributor Pauline J. Kim can be reached at email@example.com.