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Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: Oct. 1, 2021


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Movie Review - 'Venom: Let There Be Carnage'

by Adam Pavlacka on Oct. 1, 2021 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

Eddie Brock and the alien symbiote Venom must take on a new enemy, Carnage, the alter ego of serial killer Cletus Kasady.

Even if you haven't seen the trailers, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" promises plenty of action, just in its title. It delivers on that front, but surprisingly, that isn't the main draw. Instead, the real hook of "Let There Be Carnage" is the relationship between Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote. It's both an exploration of self and of learning to let go. It's unconventional, but then again, the current movie incarnation of Venom is exactly that.

In the comic storylines, authors often focused on more vicious interpretations of Venom's character. As a villain, that was expected. The Tom Hardy version is squarely in the antihero arena, with the violence channeled as either a biological need or an expression of rage because the symbiote was hurt, not physically, but emotionally.

After the events of the first film, Brock and Venom (both played brilliantly by Hardy) seem to have formed a time-sharing truce. They're still bonded, but Venom has to follow Brock's rules. It's not an equal relationship for either of them, and they're feeling the limits, especially Brock, who still hasn't gotten over being dumped by his fiancée. In a word, it's toxic.

Hardy deserves a lot of praise for how this plays out on-screen because he's voicing both characters, even though it doesn't feel that way. Each quip, insult, fight, and serious moment feels like an actual conversation happening in real time. It's a testament to Hardy's acting skills that he can sell the moment, making a lot of it feel improvisational rather than scripted. Even the juvenile humor works. Venom getting frustrated and repeatedly typing "dik" on a laptop while Brock was trying to write garnered a solid laugh.

Parallel to Brock and Venom is Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) and Carnage. Kasady is a serial killer who quickly becomes enthralled with Carnage's power. Like Brock and Venom, Kasady and Carnage also have an unequal relationship, but who's in charge of the latter isn't always clear. This is in part to the movie's runtime, which clocks in at 90 minutes. The compressed time means that there is little downtime in "Let There Be Carnage," but it also means that character development outside of Brock and Venom is just enough to move the story forward and nothing more.

One memorable sequence comes right after Brock and Venom have a break-up. Venom angrily storms off like a scorned teenager, while Brock sulks in his own self-pity. With a focus on the symbiote, we see Venom discover what he wants to be. It's a level of introspection that I didn't expect from a superhero movie, but it works. Venom talking about acceptance (at an underground rave, naturally) hits all the right notes for this character because most of us have been there at some point in our lives. That makes it all the more satisfying when Brock and Venom finally have a "come to Jesus" moment, make up and realize that each needs the other.

Visually, the climatic Carnage vs. Venom battle is an impressive CGI fest, but the close-in blocking makes a lot of it feel claustrophobic. Even though I saw the review screening in a theater, the final battle was less impressive than the showdown in the first film. Riot vs. Venom had a kinetic energy that Carnage vs. Venom lacks. This is Carnage, after all. He shouldn't be constrained.

In addition to the main characters, Peggy Lu returns as Mrs. Chen. Her role is small, but Lu stands out among the supporting cast, especially with how she relates to both Brock and Venom.

Comparing the two films, "Venom" is a slightly better action movie, but "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is a much better character study. While there's no single word to describe the relationship between a human and an alien symbiote, there is a strong theme of self-acceptance and redemption running through the movie. Both Brock and Venom have to reckon with their past decisions before they can move forward. Once they do, though, it's on.

Score: 7.5/10

"Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1 hour and 30 minutes. It is showing in standard theaters and in IMAX.

Editor's Note: There is a mid-credits sequence after the end of the movie that you won't want to miss.

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