By Lee Romero
CARNAGE shines light on pros-n-cons of an alter ego!
With a successful first swing at bat and now a sequel on deck, Venom is yet another Marvel Comics, silver screen antihero-gone-good. While not as cynically charismatic, witty, or humorous as Deadpool, there’s an enjoyable, dark, ruggedness to Venom that’s granted him “cinematic clout” – and that’s part of the fun!
Whether you love the first flick or not, most folks I know watched for one reason: Tom Hardy! As one of Hollywood’s most appealing actors, he’s the lifeline of this new franchise. Would it have worked with anyone else? Who knows! The first attempt at Venom in Spider-Man 3 (’07) played by Topher Grace was a complete flatline. Much excitement for the character as news broke prior to the release, but… only to have its alien symbiotic goo drip through the cracks of an overly ambitious film.
Now, modern-day-movie Venom…? Although I’d love to see more of what I used to read as a kid, but I’m OK with what’s been presented. Kinda silly but solidifies his ground. He’s already made his mark — and I, for one, am enjoying all its formulaic crime-fighting, bad jokes, and nonstop wide shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. (Hey, comic book characters aren’t only from NYC!)
In 2018, the first flick gave us a convoluted origin story, with Riz Ahmed as Venom’s antagonist. It was decent and set the pace with an additional post credit scene introducing Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) pretty much fantasizing about a world full of carnage. Fast forward to 2021, now that carnage embraced by Cletus Kasady has come to fruition, as Eddie Brock (Hardy) finds himself entangled in a triangle web of relationship struggles between the alien symbiote and ex-girlfriend, Anne (Michelle Williams), while also trying to maintain some balance as an investigative reporter. But of course, all goes to Hell in a handbasket once Carnage ensues.
The best thing about this sequel is it gives you exactly what it promotes. It doesn’t waste any time and gets right into it, with an eerie soundtrack and set-up at a mental institution that lays the building blocks for LET THERE BE CARNARGE. Character development is rushed, but informs you who’s who, what’s what, and a method to a madness. One that links Kasady to Shriek (Naomi Harris). But as twists and turns hit, I think like most villains… there’s a level of sympathy you work up; however, spitefulness always points in the wrong direction.
Parallel to this we have Brock/Venom and Anne in a triangle of complexities that causes a bit of negligence on what’s simmering from afar. In short, soap opera drama. All I’s are dotted, T’s are crossed, but it doesn’t fall short from effecting Carnage’s appearance. Like all other formulaic comic book stories, there’s questioning, doubt, confusion, and courage to take on destruction that’s always on a massive scale.
Silly, loud, and violent, but entertaining, nonetheless! While both Venom and Carnage come off a bit more menacing in the comics, I enjoyed their tango. Thankfully, Carnage’s blood red outfit stood out; otherwise, it would have been a bit difficult to tell who’s who during their throwdown. Honestly, that’s pretty much the payoff in this flick. Therefore, I conclude, detach your brain and let this story take you away. Don’t resist. The script is a bit of a slow burn at first as it seesaws between characters, but it’s charming to see Harrelson play a villain. I mean, this guy has it-factor that engages and gives life to any character he’s playing. Is Kasady/Carnage his best? No, but fun, in a “Ok, whatever” kinda way. The same can be said for supporters, as well as a scruffy Tom Hardy just going with the motions. At a run a bit over an hour, LET THERE BE CARNAGE will have a split reaction. If you enjoyed or disliked the first, you’ll enjoy or dislike this one, too. Not sure how this franchise will serve in any tie-ins, but if you stick around for its post-credit scene, you’ll see where it’s going. Love it or hate it, Venom – as a franchise – is here to stay.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi / Rated: PG-13 / Run Time: 1:37
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Woody Harrelson
Directed by Andy Serkis