Now on VOD, Venom: Let There Be Carnage picks up right where Venom left off: Moronville. The first film was one of 2018’s most annoying movies, a Spider-Man spinoff — sans Spider-Man! Pretty sweet — starring a ludicrously overqualified Tom Hardy as the webslinger’s most powerful enemy, an alien goo-blob who can merge with a human and become a massive humanoid megatoothed shapeshifting wisecracking asshole. It also featured an end-credits teaser sequence in which Woody Harrelson appears as a character who will become Carnage, who’s pretty much exactly like Venom except he’s red. And lo, the prophecy of Black Venom vs. Red Venom is fulfilled, as the gods ordained from high above, perched on their towering piles of money.
VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: THE FIRST OF MANY OMINOUS SUBTITLES: Oh god, why bother. It’s a comic-book nuthouse where young Cletus Kasady is locked up for killing his family. Alongside him is a woman named Frances Barrison who can scream holy hell, a mutant power of some never-explained — again, why bother — sort. They’re split up and, well, again, broken record here, why bother getting into detail, because it doesn’t matter in the slightest. There’s another ominous subtitle telling us it’s the present day, but it’s another comic-book nuthouse, not the same as the first one, but who can tell? Frances (Naomie Harris) is there. Now we jump to San Quentin, where intrepid, and always a little greasy-looking and bedheaded, reporter Eddie Brock-slash-Venom (Hardy, playing both, lending a distorted voice to the latter character) interviews Cletus (Harrelson), hoping to shake some information out of him about the bodies of the people he serially killed. Meanwhile, Venom exists inside Eddie’s head the whole time, chattering away like the DVD commentary of the damned, occasionally manifesting as a smear of tar-black CGI with a couple of evil teardrop eyes, usually, and quite thoughtfully, when nobody’s looking.
At this point I struggle to recall the Eddie-Venom dynamic as established in the first movie, which deserves to be abolished to the nethers of lost memory. I think they’re benevolent vigilantes now, except Venom still demands to consume human brains, because that kind of shit is funny if you’re 11. He has to settle for chickens, which is the Venom equivalent of vampires hitting up the butcher shop for a carton of pig plasma — but that’s hard, because he’s grown attached to two of the fowl, which he’s named Sonny and Cher, a joke that’s aimed at 11-year-olds but is only funny if you’re a lot older than that, although most people who are a lot older than that won’t laugh. Anyhow, Eddie appears to be somewhat reasonably managing the issue of sharing a brain with an alien slobberbeast that sometimes makes a gigantic mess of the kitchen while preparing breakfast, like a real Oscar to Eddie’s Felix, a reference that only people who are a lot lot older than 11 will snatch from the air like Miyagi’s chopsticks to a fly.
Venom and Eddie agree on one thing: They still have a big thing for Eddie’s ex, Anne (Michelle Williams, reprising the paycheck from the first movie). What kind of thing Venom has is as yet unknown; is he anatomically correct? If so, do they share the thing, and all the things it does? The mind boggles, until it irreparably breaks. Anne has a new fiancee now, prompting Venom to tell Eddie, “Emotional pain — it hits much harder and lasts much longer. You just need to pull up your big boy pants and take it.” Neat! She also inevitably becomes a damsel in distress when Cletus becomes Carnage, the crimson Venom, although of course Cletus-Carnage comes a-callin’ right after Eddie and Venom split up, literally, thus invoking the universal distress we all feel when our alien symbiotes vamoose with nary a lick of couples counseling even, and leaves us vulnerable to slavering serial killers-turned-hideous-monsters. Say it with me: I HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS.
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What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: The Venom films are like the Deadpools crossed with one of the medium-terrible Fantastic Fours.
Performance Worth Watching: (Mumbles incoherently, something about Tom Hardy)
Memorable Dialogue: Eddie points out the inappropriateness of Venom’s actions, and also inadvertently reviews his own movie: “That was abusive.”
Sex and Skin: None. The mystery of Venom’s reproductive capabilities remains just that.
Our Take: The opening credits appear and, 35,000 FX shots later, ya got yerself a movie! Venom: Let There Be Carnage marks a directorial change from its predecessor, from Ruben Fleischer to Andy Serkis, and if you can tell the visionary differences in each film’s unconvincing CGI omnibewilderment, congratulations, you are a movie knower like few ever have been. Maybe the sequel leans a hair more towards comedy than Venom, but it absolutely matches the first film’s obnoxiousness. The most discernible difference between the two rewards those who can count by ones: Carnage is 14 minutes shorter, and is therefore the more merciful film.
By the time we get a good gawk at Harrelson’s ridiculous Frankenstein haircut-wig; by the time Carnage kills a prison warden by inexplicably turning himself into a tornado; by the time Venom briefly divorces himself from Eddie, meanders into an LGBTQ rave and yell-growls “Look at all these weirdos. My kind of people!”, this movie has reached a ripe level of juvenile annoyance, of pervasive peabrainedness, of “comedy” in the fullest sense of the quote marks, that you just want to flick it away like a mosquito. And like the bug to your blood, the movie feels like it’s gorging on your intelligence, quaffing the IQ points until you’re a husk, your smooth muscle pumping blood to a brain no longer capable of anything more than basic, unconscious function.
V: LTBC is the type of movie with a big final grand kerflooey of mass destruction, its two endlessly morphing tentacular creatures flying toward each other, engaging in mid-air lunge-punches over and over again until we care about absolutely nothing that happens, in the movie or perhaps in the entirety of existence. None of the film makes sense, or maybe it’s just not worth the effort to make sense of it; is there a difference? It’s overstimulation to the point of ultraboredom. It’s the visual equivalent of a sheet of noise, and the one-liner-laden dialogue is just a louder, more grating sheet on top of the first sheet. So, yes, this movie sure is a whole lot of sheet.