The team behind the second Venom movie had a few title options, but in the end, they didn’t simply go with Venom 2, or Venom vs. Carnage, or even Venom: There Will Be Carnage. Instead, they landed on Venom: Let There Be Carnage; a plea, a demand, a desperate prayer from a dying man in the desert whose only hope for survival is a drop of 90s-style xtreme comic book carnage. With each passing release date delay and pushback, that title became more and more apt, audiences finally, finally sitting down in theaters last week, every cell in their body screaming “please……just let there be carnage.” Tom Hardy, director Andy Serkis, and the rest of the creative team knew they could get away with it, too, because what they eventually delivered was an aggressively lean and mean film that does not include a single second in which carnage is not occurring. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is 90 minutes long including credits. It’s just barely longer than your average HBO drama episode. It’s like 2.5 Ted Lasso episodes. It is a straight concentrated shot of carnage directly into your vein, and I’d also argue it is a template that more big studio blockbusters should pay attention to.
In his review, Collider’s own Matt Goldberg called Let There Be Carnage the “breeziest superhero movie ever made,” and that’s really the ticket here. A movie’s runtime doesn’t dictate its quality, and there’s no Master Runtime all blockbusters should aim for. (And, sometimes, a movie is just bad!) In this very specific case, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a film that works almost exclusively because of its runtime. A two-and-a-half-hour version of this film sounds like torture, like accidentally getting strapped into the Veloci-coaster on an endless loop while the ride guy gets lunch. But in this form, it is, in fact, a breeze. Let There Be Carnage boiled a narrative down to what worked in the first film—the fact that Eddie Brock and his alien symbiote life partner are clearly in love—dialed its silliness up to 11 while obliterating any hint of self-seriousness, and in the process turned into more madcap rom-com than comic book movie. Let There Be Carnage shoots out of the gate like a greyhound from minute one and doesn’t slow down until the credits roll, which wouldn’t really work for a period costume drama, or sci-fi epic, or even a massive superhero team-up event film. It works like gangbusters for a movie that absolutely can be whittled down to “Woody Harrelson is in a Spirit Halloween wig, trying to murder Tom Hardy and his extraterrestrial boyfriend, who are having trouble cohabitating.
It’s an obvious metaphor (Eddie and Venom literally share a body). It’s an obvious villain (his name is Carnage and he likes to cause carnage). It’s so, so tempting, especially in the age of instant social media reactions, to cry “bad writing!” when a movie tosses details in the trash in favor of momentum. (And, in the case of, say, “Slipknot, the many who can climb anything,” it can be!) But take a breath, look deep inside yourself, and ask whether a film like Venom: Let There Be Carnage needs to explain itself. Ponder whether a film like Venom: Let There Be Carnage would be improved in any way by slowing down. When Venom sees Carnage for the first time and yells “that is a red one!” you can imagine an extended explanation set deep in the furthest reaches of space that fleshes out why the red-colored symbiotes of Venom’s homeworld are the most powerful. You can also just accept that red ones are bad and keep this crazy train barrelling down a single track uninterrupted.
Again, it’s really just the beauty of a film deeply understanding what it is, what it has to offer, and exactly how long it has before it wears out its welcome. The answer to that question is not always going to be 90 minutes. Avengers: Endgame had a decade’s worth of work to do; it earned that mammoth runtime. No Time to Die is cleaning up the mess left by Spectre and saying goodbye to Daniel Craig’s James Bond at the same time, I get that 2-hour-45-minute tally. But if franchise spectacle is going to be the dominant theatrical experience for the foreseeable future, then Distancia de rescate (Fever Dream) 2021 offers concrete proof that there’s room—heck, there’s demand!—for quick slices of standalone entertainment. Not every conflict is an One Summer (2021). Give me an New York Ninja (2021) movie centered on a single heist. Let’s see a Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone (2021) film unconcerned with bloodlines, prophecies, and the tales of old. Let V/H/S/94 (2021) be sad and solve a crime.