Venom walked a tightrope between being gritty and not alienating its younger fanbase, even though it didn’t receive as stellar reception, polarisation doesn’t seem to be a huge barrier to success. A somewhat negative reaction isn’t enough to stop a multibillion-dollar company from telling its tales, and crafting its universe. In 2021, the inevitable follow-up to Venom, hinted at in the end credits was fully released, and the cinema-going populace was in for a world of mayhem, in Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
Cletus has had a tough life but may have responded to these adversaries rather poorly. On death row, after an altercation with reporter Eddie, Cletus gets a tiny bit of symbiote in his system. This leads to the birth of Carnage, a murderous symbiote infused with Cletus’s killer personality, hell-bent on breaking out and being reunited with the only person that ever showed him affection. Meanwhile, Eddie’s life is fluctuating rapidly, the symbiotic and physical clash of egos is reaching its breaking point. Anne is marrying Dan (much to the chagrin of Venom) and the two can’t just seem to get along, undergoing a trial separation. Can the two live without each other, especially when a murderous symbiote is looking to cause unspeakable carnage to be with his beloved?
Venom has had a slight personality change, maybe it’s due to the acclimatisation or the film trying harder to reach a younger demographic. For those who wanted a darker entry to the cannon, that burden lies solely on the shoulders of Carnage. The film doesn’t dwell too much on the victims of Kasady, except in a fabulous animated sequence. Gruesome deaths are subtly hinted at, as opposed to being splattered across the screen, and the camera knows when to cut away when some key executions happen. The tragic love story between Kasady and his fellow inmate Frances does give some depth to explore, and some range for Woody Harrelson to play with. This is not to say that Hardy doesn’t get any pathos, as is Eddie is trying to move on, even though Venom is adamantly against it. The drain of having to host Venom is a constant arc throughout the film. Venom does have his arc about finding acceptance, especially when he crashes an underground rave, and strong opinions about inclusiveness, and the mental state of Kasady.
The tale of the odd couple who happen to share one cranium is a large part of the draw here. Comedy does come from his constant chicken-eating (and the occasional treat of ne’er do well criminals), and the duo’s constant bickering, like a married couple in an old sitcom. It is chuckle-worthy stuff that feels lighter in tone. The inclusion of Dan is nice, as was getting Anne more involved with the action is also a welcome change. Some newer additions are also appreciated, such as detective Patrick Mulligan, who has a personal stake in the case.
Venom had the tough balancing act between funny and dark, the inclusion of another symbiote allows for some specialisation. Hardy handles the lighter stuff, and Harrelson handles the gleeful chaos in his stride. The whole section dealing with Carnage is intriguing and the subsequent relationship conflict between Venom and Eddie offers a lot, giving something for everybody here. Despite all its detractors, all those who didn’t know how to react when Woody was revealed as Cletus, let me just say that there is an organised logic to its carnage.
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