Venom: Let There Be Carnage review: Superhero sequel doubles down on rom-com energy

Eddie Brock is still struggling to coexist with the shape-shifting extraterrestrial Venom. When deranged serial killer Cletus Kasady also becomes host to an alien symbiote, Brock and Venom must put aside their differences to stop his reign of terror.

Action, Sci-fi, Superhero
1 Hour 37 minutes

Tom Hardy
Woody Harrelson
Michelle Williams
Naomie Harris
Reid Scott
Stephen Graham

Tom Hardy
Kelly Marcel

Andy Serkis

Kelly Marcel
Tom Hardy

Avi Arad
Matt Tolmach
Amy Pascal
Tom Hardy
Kelly Marcel
Hutch Parker

3.5/5 (Times of India)
6.5/10 (IMDB)
60% (Rotten Tomatoes)

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is best enjoyed as a madcap romcom, instead of a comic-book movie.

investigative reporter and an alien symbiote live together in a shitty apartment in San Francisco, bicker over house rules, go through a rough break-up, regain their sense of self in the face of adversity, and reconcile over telenovelas and shared couple goals at a tropical getaway.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
is best enjoyed as a madcap romcom, instead of a comic-book movie. There’s a lot of fun and frolic when it revels in the former, and almost forgets its obligations to the latter. Viewers who take these two often-clashing approaches in stride will find themselves pleasantly surprised.

Taking over directing duties from Venom helmer Ruben Fleischer is Andy Serkis, who’s built his whole career by bringing humanity to non-human characters. Eddie/Venom (Tom Hardy) are much like Smeagol/Gollum, two minds struggling for control over one body. The struggle manifests both externally and internally. Watching Eddie negotiate with Venom about biting off human heads in the presence of startled civilians is oddly amusing. Since the events of the last film, Eddie and Venom have become pet-owners of sorts, committed to varying degrees to a pair of chickens named Sonny and Cher. Like every relationship, they have their good moments and bad. Venom makes Eddie breakfast, and helps him get through his heartbreak over the engagement between his ex-fiancée Anne (Michelle Williams) and her doctor boyfriend Dan (Reid Scott). While Eddie has human responsibilities to tend to, all Venom wants to do is feed his ravenous appetite. Frustrations grow. What they really need is some couples’ counselling, as Dan too suggests. But both say hurtful things, before breaking up.

The conflict over living arrangements here is not about the apartment but Eddie’s body. The jokes are played on the compatibility issues between two partners with a metaphysical obstacle to overcome. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dilemmas, and the resulting friction provides screwball sparks in an otherwise straightforward superhero movie set-up. Hardy savours the roles and carries himself with such true-blue conviction, it takes on a certain nobility. Even when the antics get silly. The fresh spin the Venom franchise puts on superhero films is by focusing on the volatile relationship between the ego and the alter-ego. In a pop-culture landscape jam-packed with costumed do-gooders, the Venom movies seem to posit themselves as counter-culture. The rawness to the visuals and tone is as much a remedial reaction, as it is a calculated decision. But just like Deadpool, they’re all part of the same cycle of self-sustaining feedback loop. A highly lucrative one too. But at least
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
has a personality it can call its own, which you can’t say in all honesty about most of the MCU entries.

Eddie is still trying to cut it as a reporter. A big opportunity comes a-knocking when he gets an exclusive interview with incarcerated serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), who insists he won’t speak to anyone else. Detective Patrick Mulligan (Stephen Graham) obliges, hoping Eddie can get Cletus to reveal the locations of his victims’ bodies. Thanks to Venom’s Sherlock and Picasso skills, Eddie does. The result of which has Cletus sentenced to death. On the day of his execution, Cletus beckons Eddie again to give the man who virtually signed his death warrant a piece of his mind. Only, he ends up provoking Eddie a little too much, and Venom’s protective instincts take over. The ensuing physical altercation ends with Cletus biting Eddie’s hand, getting a taste of that symbiote blood and soon his own symbiote with it. On becoming the titular Carnage, he lives up to the name, breaking out of prison and cutting a swath through the Californian city.

Besides Eddie and Venom, Carnage has a love story of his own. The prologue opens in 1996 on an orphanage where a younger Cletus meets and falls in love with Frances Barrison, who will grow up to be Shriek (Naomie Harris), before they’re separated. Being a mutant with a piercing shriek (hence the name), Frances is sent to another, more sinister, institution. In the years since, Cletus never forgets about her. For she was his “one bright light” in a life full of darkness. Once he breaks out of prison, he breaks her out too. And as you would expect, the whole thing ends with a CGI-driven face-off between the two and Eddie/Venom. Red weddings and lessons in good journalism are also involved. The special effects look like they have been bought at bargain price, the set pieces are perfunctory, and some of the plot beats recycled. But they can all be easily forgiven in light of the whole thing being over in 90-odd minutes.

By upping the rom-com quotient, the film also doubles down on the queer coding. Post break-up at an underground rave, Venom declares that he is “out of the Eddie closet.” But he doesn’t enjoy his newfound freedom for too long, and realises how much he misses Eddie. Theirs is quite a needy relationship. And only on separating do they realise they’re meant to be together. As the two acknowledge each other’s individuality and how their identities complement each other, they build a stronger symbiotic bond — until it will be tested again in the third instalment of course. When the first film was announced, Hardy playing Brock and voicing Venom left us cautiously curious. Two films later, caution has been thrown into the wind. Curiosity has been piqued .

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is now available in Indian cinemas.


Blog by Veer Ahir
For more Blogs and Books @veerthewriter

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