Some Brief Thoughts on VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE

In 1988, Venom appeared for the first time in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man. A monstrous version of Spider-Man, a warped version of his alien costume, Venom was a visually arresting villain, captivating audiences and forever changing the four-color adventures of Peter Parker.

In 1992, Carnage appeared for the first time in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man. A monstrous version of Venom, a warped version of the symbiote, swapping mass and size for sinew and violence, Carnage was a visually arresting villain, but ultimately felt flat compared to the original Venom, as sort of an edgy try-hard attempt to make lightning strike twice.

In 2018, Venom hit theaters. Surprising audiences by somehow not only eschewing it’s source character in Spider-Man, but acting as a surreal bromance and showcase for the overacting skills of Tom Hardy, the film greatly punched above its weight.

Now, in 2021, Carnage appears on screen for the first time in the sequel, Venom: Let there Be Carnage. A monstrous version of the CG symbiote created for the 2018 film, the bulk and rage have been swapped with tendrils and gore. Sure, he’s a visually arresting villain, but even with Woody Harrelson in the role, the character falls flat versus the pure insanity of Tom Hardy’s Venom, making you wish they just focused the 97 minute run of the film on Hardy riffing with himself.

No, Venom: Let There Be Carnage isn’t a “bad” movie, per se, but it lacks the lightbulb moment of seeing Tom Hardy absolutely lose himself in the first film. And given how strong his performance remains in the sequel (he even created the story for this edition!), it’s a shame that the other elements of the movie don’t live up to the strong work (read: insane, silly overacting) at the core of the movie.

What does it say that I’m less intrigued by the first cinematic version of Carnage than the continued relationship between Venom and local convenience store owner Mrs. Chen? Sure, the visuals remain strong, and some unique choices are made with Andy Serkis in the director’s chair (the cartoon illustrating the childhood of Cletus Kassidy is clever), but honestly, every time Tom Hardy and Venom weren’t on the screen, I found myself, Poochie-style asking, “Where’s Venom?”

Overall, your enjoyment of Venom: Let There Be Carnage will be varied depending on your thoughts on the first film.

Did you love Tom Hardy jumping into a lobster tank last time? Great! You’re gonna have a blast.

Did you want to see Carnage on film for the first time? Well, he’s there, but honestly, who can care when the other, bigger alien is chewing up scenery around him?

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is in theaters now and available on VOD.