Moving Pictures
Sep 30, 2021, 06:27AM

Blackberry Villains

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a Marvel programmer and nothing more. C-

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The basic structure of the Venom superhero movies, in which Tom Hardy's Eddie Brock is constantly accompanied and sometimes possessed by the titular foul-mouthed alien symbiote, isn’t one that’s in any way conducive to a coherent or entertaining movie. This was the problem with the first Venom movie in 2018, and it’s still the case with the new sequel, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, gives both its hero and villain symbiote sidekicks.

The movie has all of the bad aspects of the original, while adding even more mindless CGI, including a ghastly climax that's nothing but the creatures fighting each other incoherently. Andy Serkis, the world's greatest motion capture performer, is the director, and you'd think he'd be better at wielding computer-generated effects. Venom is one of those franchises that exists for corporate rights reasons more than anything else. Sony made a deal to allow Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe to use Spider-man, but then decided to go ahead with movies based on other Marvel characters still in Sony's intellectual property portfolio. One of those is Venom, who you may remember as one of the three villains, played by Topher Grace, in Sam Raimi's third Spider-Man movie.

The first movie was a huge hit, so now we have a sequel, which Sony is using as an opportunity to tout its Bravia TVs. People even go out of their way to comment on how great the hero's TV looks. Eddie Brock (Hardy) is still a journalist, and the host of Venom, the wisecracking alien entity. Sometimes that means Venom is a voice in his head, sometimes his head floats alongside Hardy's, and other times he exists as a separate creature, frequently trashing Eddie's apartment and threatening to eat people. Whatever form he takes, Venom (also voiced by Hardy) is one of the most tiresome movie characters in memory.

At the start, Eddie pursues an interview with serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), which comes about as some sort of collaboration with police detective Mulligan (the normally appealing character actor Stephen Graham, sporting an extremely unfortunate hairpiece). The two don't have a journalist/cop relationship that resembles any such relationship I've ever heard of in real life. Worse than that, the film takes an extremely tenuous step towards the zeitgeist, giving Mulligan guilt over having shot a Black woman (Naomie Harris) who appears to have returned as a ghost.

Eddie ends up unwittingly passing the symbiosis onto Harrelson's killer character, and now we have the two alien entities fighting one another. It all ends in an explosive CGI meltdown in a church. The biggest plot hole in the movie—that Harrelson's character was already a killer before the symbiosis, so he didn't really need it to be become scary—remains a plot hole, even as a character acknowledges it.

Michelle Williams, who's way above this sort of thing, returns as Eddie's ex-girlfriend, while Reid Scott, who was Dan on Veep, plays Williams' fiancé. He's a character we're supposed to hate, although it's hard to buy that when he doesn't have toxic Armando Iannucci lines coming out of his mouth. There's some decent material at the margins. There's an amusing segment in which Harrelson escapes and walks the streets in San Francisco. The film also tries, half-heartedly, to imply that Venom is "coming out," during a brief period in which he's separated from Eddie. This might’ve been interesting to explore if the movie wasn’t barreling towards the finish.


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