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As one of the review writers who loved 2018’s Venom, I was happy as symbiote in a perfect host to see it soar at the box office. The wait for a sequel has been longer than expected however, thanks to that tricky old thing called the real world, but finally Eddie Brock and his alien (don’t call me) parasite Venom (both played by Tom Hardy once more) are back, and they are facing their comic book arch nemesis Carnage. And y’know what, it’s the most fun you just might have at the movies this year!
The film is set shortly after the events of the first, as Eddie and Venom grow frustrated in living together (quite literally), with Eddie wanting some peace and relaxation, and Venom wanting freedom…and to dine on baddie’s heads over his strict chicken and chocolate diet (lucky swine). But, as serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) comes calling, his fascination with reporter Brock grows unhealthily into obsession, and inevitably carnage ensues in more ways than one.
Based on the “Maximum Carnage” comic book arc and the “Venom Saga” in the beloved (and one of my personal childhood favourites) 1994 Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Let There Be Carnage takes what its predecessor accomplished and goes further to deliver a short, non-stop, action-filled barmy blast that for me is 2021’s finest romantic comedy. Yes, seriously.
Director Andy Serkis wisely leans all the way in to the best aspects of the first film, in its central internal relationship, and even if that sacrifices the development of some side characters a bit, the film is so much of a high energy, high camp, highly entertaining romp from start to finish you barely notice nor care.
The gloriously colourful, volatile and rather homoerotic Venom/Eddie dynamic is an absolute joy and back in the first film when many of us thought, we’d pay to see a sequel where Hardy plays a bickering couple in one body, well Kelly Marcel’s screenplay gives us that and plenty more in a brisk 90 minutes.
Let There Be Carnage is a loud and proud movie, all embracing of its own identity and many parallels can be drawn from that fact. Let There Be Carnage knows what it is and wants to be, and just does it with the biggest smile and plenty of symbiote smackdowns too. To that point, as we already know, Venom’s fellow (and even more deranged) symbiote adversary Carnage makes his long-awaited cinematic debut here, and it pleases me to report that the film treats it and him just right.
Tom Hardy is, of course, unhinged and utterly brilliant all over again as Eddie/Venom (whose relationship beautifully and comically blossoms), while Harrelson is perfectly casted as Cletus/Carnage. Years ago people called him perfect for the part and all this time later that fact remains undeniable, as he offers a sympathetic edge to the largely manic Kasady but also an evil overcoat to the character in Carnage. As a result, we get a film dominating villain and antagonist relationship even more volatile than the (anti)hero’s. Kasady is also joined in crime by a fellow Natural Born Killer (if you will) in the excellent Naomie Harris as his superpower lover Frances Barrison (aka Shriek), who stands out among the supporting cast. There are also some other supporting players to notice, like Stephen Graham’s Patrick Mulligan, and Michelle Williams’ return as Anne, though the latter of the two gets slightly less to do than in the first film.
From its perfectly tone-setting Marco Beltrami score to Robert Richardson’s super cinematography (which not only allows for flights of fancy but comic book-esque settings and scenes to feel alive), this movie feels very much like a throwback to an earlier age of movie making. A brisker, barmier, blockbuster age, where far more rulebooks were thrown out, and the eccentric was embraced that little bit more.
I loved it. Venom: Let There Be Carnage was funny, lovably unusual and had a number of neat cameos, an important post-credits scene, not to mention an identity I really bonded with. A concentrated dose of fun, that sets up more to come.
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