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Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Sony Pictures // PG-13 // October 1, 2021
List Price: Unknown
Venom is one of the few live-action Marvel characters to exist outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Most critics panned Sony's Venom, although audiences appeared to resonate with it. The movie brought in over $856 million at the global box office, making it the seventh-highest-grossing film of 2018. Sony's other Marvel character Spider-Man is considered to be one of the most popular superheroes in existence. The comic books directly link Spider-Man and Venom, so it makes sense that audiences are so taken with the antihero. Venom: Let There Be Carnage doubles down on what the original delivered.
The story opens with establishing the story of serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). He was locked up in the room next door to Frances Barrison (Naomie Harrison). They have fallen in love, but she gets transferred to a facility to contain superpowered prisoners. In the present day, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and Venom have adjusted to living with each other. They have established a status quo, which is all interrupted when Cletus reaches out to Eddie for the interview of a lifetime. He accepts the murderer's offer to get his first big break back into journalism. Countless lives are at risk when the serial killer gets access to a symbiote of his own.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage places heavy emphasis on the relationship between Eddie and Venom. They still have some of the same struggles from the first installment, but they're now exacerbated. Venom is starving for human flesh, but Eddie is doing all that he can to keep his hunger in check to save lives. Otherwise, the Eddie and Venom arc is very much a queer love story. This interaction is the best thing about Venom: Let There Be Carnage. There are a few funny exchanges and loads of solid physical comedy. The decision to double down on the Eddie and Venom relationship was a smart one.
Now, let's address the elephant in the room: a movie with Cletus Kasady and Carnage as the main antagonists is rated PG-13. Turning Venom into a PG-13 character was bad enough, but forcing Carnage into that as well is a downright disappointment. Venom: Let There Be Carnage hints at some of the darker places it could go, but it holds back to maintain its rating. However, if any younger crowds are curious to explore Carnage's comics, they'll be a bit surprised to find just how brutal they can get. Carnage doesn't get very much screen time, but the PG-13 rating can be felt in every single one of his big scenes.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage looks and sounds exactly as it should. The symbiotes both look great on screen. Carnage is successful in looking and sounding incredibly intimidating in the few scenes he occupies. Harrelson turns in a solid performance that's reminiscent of his work in Natural Born Killers. However, Hardy's performance is the real standout. He's given a lot more to do than in the first installment.
If you liked the previous movie, you'll very much enjoy Venom: Let There Be Carnage. If you disliked its predecessor, the sequel is unlikely to change your mind. Director Andy Serkis' sequel essentially amps up every element of the first movie. There are some great moments sprinkled throughout the movie, but it simply tries to do too much within its short 90-minute runtime. Target audiences will know who they are. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a bit of a mess, but the queer story arc in a movie like this alone makes it interesting enough to check out. As always, be sure to stick around for the post-credits scene.