Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a mismanaged mess of a sequel that makes good use of Woody Harrelson and Tom Hardy but fails as both a story and a popcorn movie. It's a boozy cocktail of clumsy humor, missed opportunities, and poorly shot action that is very flavour-forward but leaves a weak impression on the backend. Andy Serkis assumes directing duties this go-round, and while there's some forward thrust behind the film's creative choices, Serkis and screenwriter Kelly Marcel do little to make this sequel worthwhile. The result is a comics-inspired snoozefest that's as stodgy and forgettable as its predecessor.
Predictably, Hardy and Harrelson are the highlights here. Hardy's dialed-up loneliness helps transform Eddie Brock from a sloppy bachelor into a character for whom we want to root. Harrelson's Cletus Kasady is every bit as cooky and violent as his comic counterpart, and Let There Be Carnage benefits greatly from his wacky theatrics. But even with a strong pair of leads, so much of what Let There Be Carnage strives to achieve just doesn't happen.
Let There Be Carnage undercuts its cleverness by robbing its characters of payoffs it promised from the get-go. Eddie attempts to apologise to his Venom-possessed ex-fiancé, feigning remorse about what he did and didn't say. For a moment, the exchange feels like a brilliant set-up for him to apologise to both Venom and Anne, both of whom he had driven away. Unfortunately, it very quickly becomes apparent that the apology was meant to coax chuckles rather than dabble in sincerity.
The sequel's one saving grace (besides Hardy and Harrelson) is its runtime. Serkis busts out all the camp he can, but he also honors the limits of the movie's appeal by keeping its length at a tolerable 90 minutes. We certainly appreciated the self-awareness.
Let There Be Carnage is more of the same. For some, that's great news. For others, it's a resounding “No thanks.”