Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)
Directed by Andy Serkis
Starring Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams & Naomie Harris
By Tim Basaraba
Marvel’s first Venom film was directed by Ruben Fleischer, the comedy/action virtuoso behind Zombieland and its sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap, and the mixture of his direction and Tom Hardy’s over-the-top approach made it a box office smash in 2018. So why wasn’t Fleischer back as the director for the sequel, Venom: Let There Be Carnage? I am not sure, but the film was clearly in great hands with Andy Serkis (Breath, 2017).
The British actor, producer and director brings to life the “creature feature” vibe that the original Venom hinted at but never fully realized. That’s not surprising, given an ability to portray the “misunderstood creature” persona is at the core of Serkis’ most famous performances as an actor – in the Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes trilogies – as well as his directorial turn with Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2008). Clearly his credentials for conveying the monster within… and the carnage throughout… are impeccable.
Let There Be Carnage relies less on San Francisco for its setting than the original, opting for locations that recall true gothic horror, which I can only assume is a homage to the monster films of old made famous mostly by Universal pictures. The other key element to the film’s plot and visual storytelling is an homage to Natural Born Killers (1994), with the built in irony of Woody Harrelson being the killer in both. Each of these roles also have a “ride along” for their murder spree and this time that partner in crime is played with bravado and mystery by Naomie Harris. Her performance here screams “give me more screentime!”
Tom Hardy picks up where he left off (obviously), again playing the title character with joy and abandon. Watching one of the best actors in the world have fun being goofy on screen in Venom was a big reason it was so enjoyable and it’s clear he delighted in playing the role a second time.
Plot-wise, the serial killer/reporter set up at the end of Venom is partially realized in the first act of Let There Be Carnage, but Cletus Kasady isn’t really a serial killer is he? No, he isn’t smart enough. He’s just a spree killer with bloodlust and carnage on his mind. Much like the first film, the cops get the brunt of the assaults and the viewer gets as much carnage ad bloodlust as possilbe for a PG-13 film.
This film’s final act is markedly better than it’s predeccesor, both visually and with the pay off. The dark, nighttime background that hid the impressive CGI in the original is gone. Let There Be Carnage gives us full view of the symbiotic sweetness that is a Venom/Carnage showdown.
If the first Venom is a solid B and Andy Serkis’ first big budget film Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle was also a B then this fast paced follow up is a B+. And pease stick around for Marvel’s customary mid-credit tease. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.