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VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE gets 6.5/10 Two symbiotes, one Brock.


Directed by Andy Serkis

Starring Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Naomie Harris, Michelle Williams

6.5/10

A forced three year hiatus since 2018’s Venom seems like an unlikely blessing for Let There Be Carnage, given the cinematic landscape of that time being overpopulated with mass produced Superhero films falling off the conveyor belt at alarming speed. Just as Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe is building up momentum again after COVID delays, and the MCU taking root in several streaming TV series, Andy Serkis’ (or should I say Sony’s) Venom: Let There Be Carnage is finally landing in Australian cinemas. And finally it feels like an agreeable break between visits for the Lethal Protector.

Woody Harrelson’s Cletus Kasady, seen in Venom’s obligatory post credit scene, is given a brief and slightly undercooked prologue backstory, showing his pre-pubescent love Frances (later revealed as mutant Shriek) being abruptly torn from him at a home for Unwanted Children, to be whisked away to be held captive in the infamous Ravencroft Institute (very briefly established cinematically in Sony’s earlier The Amazing Spider-Man 2).

Flash forward to present day, and Alien Symbiote host and struggling Daily Bugle Reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is being courted by now famous serial killer Kasady for an interview whilst on death row. This is all part of a plot to publicly signal his estranged love, Shriek (Naomie Harris) but culminates in Kletus absorbing some of Brock’s Alien Symbiote through consuming his blood.

If you can’t already tell, this film embraces more of the silliness of its predecessor, which is both a source of joy, and clunkiness. Harrelson and Harris never fully convey a sense of dangerous malice or menace, and seem to reach a more playful tone seen less successfully in the villains of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, or more damningly Batman & Robin.

The film is fun enough that it can get away with these missteps, and the core source of fun lies in Tom Hardy’s Odd Couple act with himself as Brock and Venom. Among the litany of loud CG spectacle and silliness, is a fun and relatable human story going on. Having joined together in the last film, Eddie Brock and Venom are literally stuck with one another like poorly matched housemates, and their clearly defined desires and problems are fertile for amusing and heightened explorations of what it’s like to live with someone who gets on your nerves.

The enthusiastic performance of Tom Hardy really shoulders a lot of the weight of this swiftly paced and short run-time sequel. His unblinking and committed wacky double act is the highlight of the film, and really the biggest reason to keep going with this franchise other than to inevitably attach itself parasitically to the latest Spider-Man films which are currently flourishing over at Disney in the MCU.

The film does not overstay its welcome, but that being said, it seems obvious at times that the film was edited down within an inch of its life in order to make it so. It could have potentially benefitted from a little more room to breathe, as parts of the film leading into the climax definitely feel a shade rushed.

Still, there is fun to be had if you can get past all of this, and it’s always good seeing Venom in this current incarnation, when the disappointing memory of Spider-Man 3 lingers.

JOHN HOLDCROFT

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