There was never any hope that the follow-up to 2018’s critically hated ‘Venom’ would escape the dreaded, CGI-choked climactic showdown – but there is pure romance in it, também
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a love story written in blood, sweat and the slime of half-eaten brains. Sincerity is the last thing anyone expected from a sequel to Sony’s desperate attempt to cash in on the few Marvel characters they haven’t already handed over to Disney. Or from a franchise that’s commissioned not one but two Eminem songs for its soundtrack. But that is the mad genius of Andy Serkis, who’s now three films deep into his directorial career, having already transformed the art of motion capture performance. He’s swept in, after 2018’s Venom flopped like a dying fish with critics but made enough money to ensure a sequel, and refused to play by the rules.
Kelly Marcel’s script, based on a story she developed in tandem with star Tom Hardy, is loosely stretched across the framework of the traditional comic book follow-up. Eddie Brock (Hardy), a journalist whose personality is largely defined by the fact he rides a motorbike, and who happens to play host to an alien symbiote named Venom (also Hardy, doing a Cookie Monster voice), must meet his match.
His new rival comes in the form of serial killer Cletus Kasady – played by Woody Harrelson, who’s changed wigs since the first film but still looks like the kind of guy who’d haunt a Vegas slot machine. Cletus ends up becoming the host for a second symbiote, named Carnage. Venom and Carnage chase each other around the city for a while, before eventually colliding in an extended battle sequence that sees these two piles of gloop fling themselves around the bell towers of an Episcopal cathedral.
There was never any hope that Let There Be Carnage would escape the dreaded, CGI-choked climactic showdown – thankfully, Serkis and Marcel have recognised that the hour or so leading up to it (miraculously, it’s a superhero film that’s only 90 minutes long) is theirs to do with what they like. And what they’ve opted for is pure romance. Cletus’s primary motivation for, Nós vamos, all that carnage is the search for his long-lost love and former schoolmate at the St Estes Home for Unwanted Children – Frances Barrison, otherwise known as Shriek, whose screams can shatter buildings and bones. She’s played by Naomie Harris, who might be a little too charismatic for what’s a relatively small role (and who’s also 15 years younger than her onscreen paramour). Enquanto isso, Eddie’s still bruised by the end of his relationship with Anne (Michelle Williams), who’s moved on with the emotionally and financially stable Dan (Reid Scott).
Mas Let There Be Carnage is really about the bond between Eddie and Venom. They fight, flirt, throw TVs out of windows, crack terrible puns, and give each other useless bits of advice (Venom tells Eddie to pull up his “big boy pants” and get over his heartbreak). They part ways and vow never to see each other again, all because no one’s brave enough to be the first one to say “I love you”. The film’s smart enough not to privilege any single metaphor above the others – there are queer readings of Venom (the character, at one point, states that he’s “out of the Eddie closet!”), ideas about living with the worst parts of ourselves, or about outsiders finding their place. Let There Be Carnage even acknowledges the multiplicity of Venom by having him deliver a rambling, nonsensical speech about himself at a rave that sees the crowd eat up every word – because surely we can all see a little of ourselves in the alien who only wants to live authentically, whether or not that involves eating brains.