Venom: Let There Be Carnage suffers from the same split personality that bedevils the lead characters. It's a riotous CGI spectacle with superb action scenes and wicked humor. But the plot is razor thin and basic. It feels like director Andy Serkis is racing to kick you out of the theater. The film whizzes by quickly in ninety minutes. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the rare case of too much killer and not enough filler.
Life for Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) has taken a downturn. Anne (Michelle Williams) has fully committed to the boorish Dan (Reid Scott). His career as a reporter is in shambles. And he's got an annoying alien symbiote literally chomping at the bit for brains. On the flipside, Venom thinks Eddie's holding them back. It doesn't understand why they can't kill bad guys and munch on their craniums. Eddie views Venom as a curse. While Venom believes it's the best thing that ever happened to a gigantic loser and buzzkill.
Meanwhile on San Quentin prison's death row, maniacal serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) offers Eddie Brock the scoop of a lifetime. Eddie's story does not sit well with the murderer. He also pines away for a lost love (Naomie Harris) with an incredible power and equal thirst for violence. A foolish gamble by Venom gives Kasady access to a new alien symbiote. Which unlocks his evil potential and unleashes Carnage on San Francisco. Eddie and Venom must get over their differences to be the dark hero the city needs.
The bickering between humans, symbiotes, and each other provides a solid flow of laughs. Tom Hardy's pained expressions and outbursts while keeping Venom in check are hilarious. But an opportunity was lost to dig even deeper into their relationship. The film is scant on exposition. This puzzles me because there's a goldmine of possibilities with the symbiotes. Woody Harrelson, in full Natural Born Killers mode, hams up his interaction with Carnage as well. The hero and villain juxtapose each other successfully. There needed to be more of these scenes to add weight to the slight narrative.
Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes franchises) is arguably the greatest motion capture actor in Hollywood. His third turn as a feature film director is oddly not compelling. Serkis nails the blockbuster action with big-budget visual effects. But seemingly treats the plot like a nagging afterthought. I have to believe that the script was more robust. Venom: Let There Be Carnage needs a longer edit. The film has a bare bones quality that's strange and unexpected.
My gut reaction to this sequel boils down to pure entertainment value. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a superhero popcorn film and can be enjoyed as such. It doesn't have the grand storytelling of recent comic book adaptations. But has enough good bits to make the experience worthwhile. Stick around during the credits. There's a whopper development that'll leave fans stoked. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a production of Marvel Entertainment, Pascal Pictures, and Columbia Pictures. It will be released exclusively in theaters on October 1st from Sony Pictures.