Venom: Let There Be Carnage Review: A Marvel villain matchup worth seeing
*This Review Contains Some Spoilers*
When Sony released Venom back in 2018, it was a huge milestone on multiple fronts. They created a film that was a major success because of fan support since critics panned it from the start and showed that their idea of creating a cinematic Spider-Man Universe wasn’t so far-fetched. Venom proved that you don’t need Spider-Man to have a hit and made the case for Mobius and Kraven the Hunter to be possible successes. It showed the possibility of there being another success Marvel universe outside of the MCU and many were even more excited for the sequel that would pit two fan-favorite characters head-to-head.
No, it’s not Spider-Man versus Venom, but it’s next best thing – possibly even better. Aside from Venom facing off against the heroic web-slinger, fans have been eagerly awaiting the moment they get to see Venom and his symbiote frenemy Carnage collide. Carnage is easily a fan-favorite villain in Spider-Man’s rouges gallery and one that many have wanted to see brought to life on the big screen for a long time. So, when Woody Harrelson was teased in Venom’s post-credit scene to be playing Cletus Kassidy, it was only a matter of time before dreams of Carnage and Venom facing off would become reality and with Venom: Let There Be Carnage it comes to life in a mostly fun, action-packed symbiote slugfest.
Let There Be Carnage catches up with Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and Venom (voiced by Hardy) as they go through a power struggle and relationship woes with Brock wanting to restart his career by interviewing serial killer Cletus Kassidy before he’s executed, and Venom just wants to eat people. The Venom/Eddie dynamic was one of the big highlights of the first film and it continues to be a blast here. Their bickering and battle for power within Eddie’s body is always fun to watch and leads to some really awesome moments. There are great times where Venom is shown to be the brains that Eddie needs to find clues and it’s kind of cool to see Venom take control of Eddie’s body like a puppet. Visually, Venom is shown in really awesome ways with him being able to talk to Eddie directly by projecting a little spawn of his head and the way he throws Eddie around in a fight they have is hilarious.
It’s also interesting to their spats spills out into real-life. In the first film, Eddie was very secretive about Venom, and we didn’t get to see what their relationship was like in an everyday environment. Here though, their conversations carry out in the middle of the day and it’s always fun to see people give Eddie glares and see him as weird as he looks like he’s talking to himself. It continues to make Eddie not the typical hero character and certainly more relatable in how he’s seen as weirdo and kind of accepts it. Hardy’s crazy and wildly committed performance was pure joyride in the first film and it’s great to see that continue here and come with some delightful charm only Hardy could bring. Anything these two do together always ends up being a good time, but it’s also interesting that we actually get a lot of time with them apart.
After these two split from a big fight, we actually get to see them on their own which has its ups and downs. Eddie discovering that he’s kind of powerless without Venom has its moments, but ultimately doesn’t feel that special. Venom’s solo outing is more eventful, but sometimes for the wrong reasons. It’s pretty funny to see him just suck the life out of people as he tries to assimilate with them and he’s really just a big kid walking around. The way he vents about his emotions is both funny and touching and this film really explores the bond between Eddie and Venom. There’s even kind of romantic backing to it and it gives their dynamic more impact and depth. It’s definitely weird to see Venom hang out at a rave and I wish Anne (Michelle Williams) was more than just a plot device for Venom and Eddie’s relationship – although the scene with her talking to a Venom possessed Mrs. Chen (Peggy Lu) was amazing.
The real star of Let There Be Carnage is in the name as the film is simply a purely energized adventure of villainy as Harrelson is a total knockout as Cletus Kassidy. Every second he’s on-screen Harrelson makes Kassidy’s crazed killer mindset a constant delight to see, and he really drives the story in a way that makes this sequel a fast-paced downward spiral. At first, the short runtime seemed a little worrisome, but the film makes good use of it in letting Kassidy run wild. Once Cletus’ backstory unfolds in a nicely animated sequence and his bite on Eddie hand allows Carnage to be born from his blood, you basically get to watch Cletus run amuck and it’s a lot of fun. Add in Naomie Harris as Shriek, a high-pitched horror that’s Cletus’ forbidden love, to the mix and watching these two go nuts is worth the price of admission alone.
Now, although Harrison and Harris are a blast, their depictions and uses definitely leave me mixed. Harris’ performance as Shriek is good, but the movie totally undervalues her. Shriek could be an awesome character, but she doesn’t do enough to break out of her mold as a love interest and ends up getting an underwhelming conclusion. Carnage is also a bit of mixed bag since the film does a great job designing the character but doesn’t push the envelope enough to live up to the character’s legacy. The transformation and overall design of Carnage is perfect and evokes the perfect kind of horror vibes that Carnage is known for. Kassidy transforming into Carnage is body horror at its finest and overall look of Carnage is ripped right from the comics and matches the mean-spirited nature of the character.
However, that mean-spiritedness is really only evoked at face value, since his kills and action feel incredibly tame for who Carnage is. With there being no blood or creative kill ideas, Carnage doesn’t really feel like he’s a powerfully vicious serial killer and it’s a shame that one of the most iconic elements of Carnage, being his nastiness towards anyone in his path, doesn’t come through in this depiction. It honestly makes the overall action kind of dull as the fight sequences feel repetitive and uninspired. Also, Carnage’s voice is a little generic. Carnage has always been the antithesis of Venom and his voice should reflect that by being more snarling and higher pitched to match his volatile behavior, but that’s not the case here.
Carnage isn’t really allowed to be at his max and that can be very disappointing, but thankfully that’s not the case with his big bout against Venom. The finale fight between Venom and Carnage is a cinematic delight with the high level of brutality and strong visuals making for a can’t miss fight to the finish that’ll please any fan. The results though leave a lot to be determined and doesn’t exactly have the most satisfying end. It’s a shame to see Cletus Kassidy go down for good given how much fans love him and how great he is here, and it leaves a lot of unanswered questions about where things go next. There’s definitely a direction with a post-credit scene showing Eddie and Venom being transported to the MCU so that Spidey vs. Venom fantasy can become a reality and the possibility of Toxin becoming real because of what happens with Mulligan (Stephen Graham), but it doesn’t soften the blow of losing Carnage like this.
Let There Be Carnage can be limited in how it struggles to let Carnage be Carnage and its plot and characters can be a tad too thin, but it still manages to be a total blast with a pedal to the metal story that brings a long-awaited Marvel matchup to life.