The sequel to Venom proves that brevity is the soul of wit. Venom: Let There Be Carnage takes an astonishingly concise 97 minutes to deliver the package of zany humour, visual effects-laden action and mandatory destruction that propelled the 2018 production to blockbuster status.
Although Andy Serkis takes over directorial duties, there is a pleasing consistency between both films. Tom Hardy returns as Eddie Brock, the muckraking journalist who became the reluctant host of the garrulous and always ravenous alien symbiote Venom in the first movie. In the sequel, the unlikely couple are in the midst of what can be best described as a bad marriage – Eddie wants out, while Venom won’t let go.
The carnage of the title is the deranged serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), who demands an audience with Eddie for reasons that remain unknown. Cletus too becomes a host of a symbiote, this time crimson in colour and far less principled than Venom.
Kelly Marcel’s lean screenplay rehashes a couple of ideas from the first movie as well as extends some of the character arcs. A brief separation from Venom forces Eddie to realise that he is better off with the hoarse-voiced creature inside his body and head. Eddie’s former girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams) is finally set to marry her doctor boyfriend Dan (Reid Scott), forcing Eddie (and Venom) to contemplate moving on.
Anne still has her cat Mr Belvedere, but like in the original movie, we barely get a glimpse of the furball. Peggy Lu, playing the friendly grocery store owner who feeds Venom’s cravings for chicken and chocolate, is as unflappable as ever.
By way of motivation for Cletus’s rampage, he has a lover, Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris), also known as Shriek for her magical screaming powers. The thinly cast movie includes Stephen Graham as a police detective who recruits Brock to be this movie’s Clarice Starling and extract from Cletus his dark secrets.
Woody Harrelson is an enjoyable addition to the franchise, while Naomie Harris expends visible effort on making Frances/Scream count. But Let There Be Carnage belongs to Tom Hardy, who perfectly captures his character’s Id-versus-Ego duality and the irreverence and humour that make this adaptation of a Marvel comic lighter on the brain and more enjoyable as a result.
It isn’t destined to last: a mid-credits sequence suggests that Eddie/Venom have been inserted into another superhero universe. The crossovers between films that keeps the Marvel Cinematic Universe humming is inevitable. Perhaps the scrappy and pulpy thrills of the Venom films might make these billion-dollar projects remember when they used to be fun.
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