Photo: Courtesy Sony Pictures
Everyone is in the joke in Venom: let there be carnage, and it’s more disappointing than I could have imagined. 2018 Venom wasn’t exactly a paragon of subtlety, restraint, or good cinema, but there was a crazy charm that had everything to do with how most of the actors acted like they were in a comic book adaptation. gritty while Tom Hardy… didn’t. Mumbling and drenched in sweat, Hardy walked through the film insisting that the saga of how a swashbuckling investigative reporter named Eddie Brock becomes the host of a cannibal alien symbiote was, in fact, a comedy of boyfriend. His performance felt like an assault on the implicit promise of any super (anti) hero origin story – that whatever sacrifices and losses his lead character may endure, they will be blessed in return with a minimum of cool. Eddie never got cool. Eddie ate a rotting chicken carcass in the trash and jumped into a restaurant’s lobster tank.
Eddie is still not cool in Venom: let there be carnage, but his chaotic lack of dignity is less fun because everyone around him has started to shtick too. Chief among them is Woody Harrelson as serial killer Cletus Kasady, who invites Eddie to jail to interview him, then bites his hand, tasting the blood infected by aliens that allows the murderer to germinate a symbiote all by itself – the titular Carnage. Does Cletus-as-Carnage scream the film’s subtitle at one point, just to emphasize more? You bet he does. It also gives the most sacred pronunciation of origin I’ve heard before (it’s something like o-REE-gin) and wears a horrible wig different from the one he wore in the Venom dart. Cletus only wants to find the object of his obsession, Frances Barrison – a mutant he met in reform school and who has spent most of his life in a secret facility. As an adult, her name is “Shriek” and is played by Naomie Harris, who is 15 years younger than the actor playing her childhood sweetheart. Harris glares and gives a good deranged villain face but has surprisingly little to do – she barely manages to use her powers! – while Harrelson has too many. Its grueling performance is barely toned down by a bit of animated backstory, and its tentacles stretch out like a red creature slaughtering countless people in a bloodless, PG-13 fashion.
About it: The first time Venom sees Carnage, he yells “It’s a red!” and try to get out. This dismissed implication that Carnage is a phenomenon of the genre that Venom has encountered before is as far as the film goes in terms of lore. And while he’s relieved to be gotten rid of the superheroic exposure, the characters’ lack of curiosity about the murderous new monster among them attests to how sloppy this sequel is. He’s so obviously shaped by fan response that it sounds like the cinematic equivalent of someone who has gone viral online and now can only repeat himself with diminishing returns in an attempt to sell merchandise while he can. Hardy, who was responsible for most of what made the first movie good, seems to be one of the main reasons the sequel is so desperate. The actor – who spends much of the film wearing Eddie Murphy’s outfit from Beverly Hills cop for unclear reasons beyond the first name her character and comedian have in common – shares a story credit with writer Kelly Marcel. The result is a script that devotes a tremendous amount of time to Hardy-as-Eddie talking to himself-as-Venom.
The bizarre couple argue over Venom’s chicken and chocolate diet, and not going out and doing more brain-devouring vigilante work, and the odds of finding her ex-fiancée. ‘Eddie, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), and on Eddie’s lack of competence as a reporter. At one point, the two go their separate ways, and Venom goes to a costumed rave where he gives a speech about being in hiding (“Stop this cruel treatment of aliens”), which enthusiastic attendees receive as one on the back. acceptance. There’s a universe in which this scene satirizes toothless social justice claims so vague they could apply to homosexuality or to creatures that just want to be free to eat brains out. Corn Venom: let there be carnage can’t really decide what the joke is beyond the absurdity of the storyline and just leaves the moment hanging, oddly flat. He seems aware that the sequence doesn’t matter – that in fact, nothing in the movie matters other than the mid-credits scene that brought the house down during the fans’ screening at which I attended. It was all we talked about leaving the theater, as if everything that had happened before had already been erased from memory. We should all be so lucky.