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VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE (2021) Review

Neil reviews Sony Pictures VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE saying “with Serkis at the helm [the film] is a vicious, agile caper…”

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Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Sony Pictures)

Venom: Let There Be Carnage hits cinemas in the US on October 1, 2021. The film hits UK cinemas on October 15.

Synopsis

Tom Hardy returns to the big screen as the lethal protector Venom, one of MARVEL’s greatest and most complex characters. Directed by Andy Serkis, the film also stars Michelle WIlliams, Noamie Harris and Woody Harrelson, in the role of villain Cletus Kasady/Carnage.

Review

Back in 2018 Sony Pictures set themselves a difficult task with the release of Venom. Could they legitimately introduce one of Marvel’s most adored characters without the presence of Spider-Man? Call it the SPMU (Sony’s Spider-Man Universe) or the SUMC (Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters) but there was no escaping a lack of Peter Parker in these MCU-adjacent movies.

Venom dodged falling flat thanks in no small part to Tom Hardy. His dual performances as Eddie Brock and Venom are key to the franchise’s success. His warmth and likability as Eddie brought viewers in to the world effectively. Whilst his outlandish and hilarious turn as the alien-symbiote offers the perfect counterbalance. The combination was electric and conquered many of the first film’s shortcomings.

Three years, a new director and a global pandemic later and Venom is back in a new adventure which cuts a slim figure at just 90 minutes. The runtime alone has generated countless headlines across the globe which begs the question, is there a correlation between runtime and quality? No, of course there isn’t.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage rampages through its perceptibly short runtime. Edging us quickly from reintroduction to action. Written by Kelly Marcel and based on a story idea from Hardy himself, Let There Be Carnage is tightly would and promptly, but not hastily, executed. I was impressed at packed the runtime actually is in its relentlessly journey to a final showdown with Woody Harrelson’s Carnage.

Andy Serkis quickly asserts himself as a capable director. We don’t retread any character introductions or waste precious time on convoluted subplots or exposition. Keeping the story simple and the mission focussed allows the film plenty of time to enjoy itself and its absurdity. Let There Be Carnage, even more so than Venom, doesn’t care what you think. It revels in the craziness of its premise and characters, relishing every human-versus-symbiote argument and severed head.

The film takes on more of a buddy-cop form with Venom now established as the voice in Eddie’s head. We experience the film through their own joint exploration of life together. For example, there are plenty of scenes set in Eddie’s apartment where exposition is cleverly masked as dialogue between the two. This is brilliantly utilised throughout the film to further develop their relationship. There are romantic elements to the relationship, naturally there are feelings in play as the two personalities share one body. Likewise, they bicker like an old married couple. It elevates the overall experience and highlights the uniqueness of the premise.

Woody Harrelson explodes from the screen as Cletus Cassidy. He snarls and creeps his way around the film’s various locales. At times he literally chews at the scenery and does so with glee. It’s clear that Harrelson relished the opportunity to play such a delightfully evil character. Anyone worrying he might still be wearing the heinous wig from Venom need not worry.

Returning from the first film are both Michelle Williams as Anne Weying and Reid Scott as Dan Lewis. Both have a lesser role in the sequel although arguably their characters are more vital. Anne is key to Eddie’s journey so to have removed her from the sequel would have been detrimental. The connective tissue certainly rounds out Eddie’s world effectively.

Naomie Harris is added to the cast this time around as Shriek. Harris does the best with the material she is given but unfortunately her character is criminally underused. She crackles on screen much like Harrelson but is demoted to a love-interested-with-powers role.

The visual effects in Let There Be Carnage feel much improved over its predecessor. Serkis chose to continue with the fully VFX symbiote characters rather than switch to motion capture. Both Venom and Carnage look great. They’re easily discernible from each other and feel grounded in the practical sets in which they appear. Carnage features his trademark red colouring compared to the inky black of Venom. Carnage also lives up to his name, he’s towering and ferocious, adding the right sense of jeopardy to the story.

Composer Marco Beltrami brings a wonderfully melodramatic score to the film. Taking inspiration from classic horror films with just a pinch of Danny Elfman, its sonically delicious. Listen out for music during some of the film’s darker moments, it truly outstanding.

Verdict

Venom‘s return to the big screen capitalises on everything positive about the first film. With Serkis at the helm Let There Be Carnage is a vicious, agile caper that hinges on the likability of its cast.


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