Venom: Let There Be Carnage Movie Review
Reviewed By: Katy Whitton on 30 October, 2021
Genre: Superhero, Sci-Fi, Action
UK Release Date: 15-10-2021
Studio: Sony Entertainment, Marvel Entertainment, Pascal Pictures
This review is part of the Spooky Season Film Review Series – read all the reviews here
I know, I know, Venom: Let There Be Carnage isn’t a horror film as such, but do you know what? It’s not a superhero movie either. I’m going to put this film into the “Spooky Season” section as it’s what would have been termed a “creature feature” back in the day, in that it’s heavy on the creature and not heavy on the story. I don’t know where this story fits – certainly not in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but not in the horror genre either.
In fact, I don’t know where it should be placed – and I don’t think that director Andy Serkis knows either.
I try to identify something positive in every film I watch/review but there’s just something about this film that leaves me struggling to find even the smallest crumb of redemption. Looking at some of the rather questionable editing choice, I’m leaning towards Serkis’ film receiving the Snyder treatment and being hacked around by studio execs after his final edit in order to get the film down to a PG-13 rating therefore making it accessible to a wider audience – they certainly didn’t do it to get the run time down as the film is only just over an hour and a half long!
Okay, enough of my moaning, let’s get into the review.
The first third of the film (actually it’s more like 40%) is set around journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and the alien symbiote he hosts – the titular Venom. The relationship isn’t an easy one and while both try their best, it’s not easy for Brock to share his body with an alien that really, really wants to eat brains and for Venom to inhabit Brock who is, to be putting it mildly, a big loser.
Their relationship issues are fun at first, but there is no reason why it needs to be over a third of the film’s run time. Sure, we get some back story on evil serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) who has decided he will only tell his story to Brock as (for a reason that while it’s explained, doesn’t make sense) he feels that they’re kindred spirits, but the majority of this time is Venom wrecking the apartment and Brock being a whiny bitch.
With Venom’s help, Brock solves the mystery of where Kasady hid all of his victims which leads the mass murderer to be put back on the list for execution. He’s obviously a bit annoyed by this and during one of Brock’s visits they get into a fight leading to Kasady biting Brock, drawing blood. This unwittingly exposes Kasady to the alien DNA in Brock’s blood and he’s infected with it, eventually being taken over by his own symbiote, Carnage.
In the first film in this series, Venom, a great deal of time is spent setting up Brock getting used to Venom being in him and how they can work together but Kasady? No need! He and Carnage seem to just magically figure everything out in about 30 seconds and Carnage helps Kasady to escape jail and go on a rampage across the city.
When the story finally gets going it’s an action-packed affair. The problem is, as with pretty much every action movie I can think of (except Avengers Assemble? Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any), the main action sequences take place at night, or in a dimly lit church so it’s really difficult to see what’s going on.
This is unfortunate as I think some of these scenes would have been quite fun to watch if you could actually make out what was happening.
Alongside Brock and Kasady we of course have to have love interests, don’t we because… male leads, I guess?
Michelle Williams returns as Anne, Brock’s ex-fiancé, and is criminally under used and is literally there to provide motivation for Brock’s character to go and fight Kasady. I expect she earned a nice fat pay check so good for her, I guess?
The film also stars the excellent Naomie Harris as Kasady’s girlfriend Frances, and once more I have a some issues with this: Firstly she is again massively underused and unsurprisingly just serves as motivation for a male character.
Secondly, she has superpowers! She’s able to scream at a high pitch which can knock out and even kill people she directs it at – I mean, she knocks a helicopter out of the sky at one point! So, we get to see a female superhero in action? Of course not! This film is a misogynistic pile of poop that not even Venom would eat – Carnage literally tells Frances/Shriek to keep her mouth shut at one point. So, so progressive and super-annoying given the writer is a woman and could have really played on the “women should be seen and not heard” trope.
Thirdly, Harris 15 years younger that Woody Harrelson and while they try to put a really dodgy wig on his bonce to make him look younger (and fail miserably by the way), the age gap just didn’t work for me knowing that they were supposed to be kids of a very similar age growing up in a home for wayward children together.
While there’s nothing spectacular with the directing, it ticks all the boxes which is what you’d expect from a film like this, there is nothing to set it apart from other films based on comic book characters. It’s only Serkis third big budget release so I guess he’s still finding his feet and his style does show promise (if only it benefitted from better lighting).
Speaking of lighting, I think the reason it’s so dark is that some of the CGI looked a bit questionable which is odd given the budget of $110 million.
As I mentioned previously, there are some very, very odd cuts – you can almost see that either the studio or the MPAA were like “Ooooh, no! You can’t show a head actually being eaten. Here cut to this random disjointed shot that makes no sense instead”.
I do wonder whether part of the problem lies in the ownership of the Venom intellectual property. As with Spider-man previously, Venom is owned by Sony Pictures and, while they have a continuing deal with Marvel (and by extension Marvel’s owners, Disney) it seems that they have differing views of what these characters are, especially if they want to bring them into the main Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I only hope that Disney’s acquisition of Fox doesn’t cause similar issues for Deadpool when a long-awaited third instalment (hopefully) comes out.
While Venom: Let There Be Carnage isn’t a “bad” film, it’s not great either. It could have stood to be a bit longer with more of Kasady’s backstory – especially why he was so drawn to Brock in the first place, a bit more screen time for the female characters would have been nice too. It could have also done with a lot let bromance and “marital” strife between Brock and Venom.
The story didn’t really advance Brock or Venom along too much, but Brock is now accepting he is a reluctant hero (although he refuses to wear a cape much to Venom’s annoyance) so it’s going to be interesting to see what they do with the characters and how they would fit into the definitely PG-13 universe of The Avengers, Eternals et al.
If you like Marvel then obviously, give this film a look just be prepared to be a little underwhelmed – especially when you consider the reception that Shang-Chi And The Legend of the Ten Rings received.
Watch this film if you have a spare hour-and-a-half and are quite happy to literally watch a woman be told to shut up.
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