'Venom: Let There Be Carnage' Is Somehow Even Worse Than the First Movie

Directed by Andy Serkis

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

BY Alex HudsonPublished Sep 30, 2021

Despite being one of the most iconic comic book villains, Venom's live-action movie appearances have been terrible. He was one of the superfluous villains in 2007's overstuffed Spider-Man 3, while 2018's stand-alone film bizarrely turned the character into a one-man buddy comedy.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is an impressive achievement, in the sense that it somehow manages to be even worse than the films that preceded it. Tom Hardy once again stars as the titular antihero (a.k.a. Eddie Brock), and for some reason the actor was also permitted to cowrite the "story" — which gets scare quotes because calling this a story gives way too much credit to the paper-thin plot.

Woody Harrelson, who should be embarrassed to be taking part in this, plays Cletus Kasady, a serial killer whose motivations don't go any deeper than "he likes killing people." A news reporter tells us that Kasady's crimes are so heinous, the state has reintroduced the death penalty just for him, even though this film is set in California, where the death penalty is legal. For reasons that are never explained, the soon-to-be-executed Cletus refuses to speak to anyone except Eddie Brock (who we're expected to believe is a journalist). Cletus bites Brock, gets infected by alien goo and turns into Carnage, who is the same character as Venom except red.

The entire "plot" consists of Cletus escaping from prison and trying to marry his girlfriend Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris) and then Venom stopping them, which explains why the whole thing clocks in at under an hour and a half. (Wikipedia says 97 minutes, but I swear I was out in the theatre lobby within 85 minutes, having spared myself the indignity of staying for the post-credits sequence.) That's taking into account the very long final fight scene, which consists of two near-invincible balls of CGI slime wiggling around for what feels like an eternity. The fight is like watching a screensaver bounce around the screen. It's directed by Lord of the Rings actor Andy Serkis, who I suspect performed his on-set duties while in character as Gollum.

Tom Hardy's god-awful performance has all the wit and timing of community improv theatre, as he jabbers back and forth with a voice in his head that sounds like Cookie Monster or possibly a pitch-dropped Yoda. At one point they yell "you suck!" at each other, which gives a sense of the quality of dialogue we're dealing with here. Poor Michelle Williams really gives it the old college try as Eddie's ex Anne, and she's the only one who doesn't seem to have gotten the memo that this is pure trash so don't bother trying.

Let There Be Carnage might be charming if its budget weren't nine figures. For about one-millionth of the price, it would be a loveably awful student film that a teacher would give the lowest possible passing grade out of pity, because at least they showed up to class and completed the assignment. As it is, it's a waste of time, talent and money.

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