Dueling Critics: <em> Venom: Let There Be Carnage </em>
Oct 11 2021

Dueling Critics: Venom: Let There Be Carnage

By: David Vicari, Fritz Esker

David: Investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and his alien symbiote, Venom, are back at bickering about eating brains and fighting villains in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the sequel to the 2018 Marvel movie, Venom. This time, Brock/Venom are up against a death row serial killer, Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), who, after biting Eddie and drawing blood, also becomes a host to a super powered symbiote.

I wouldn't call Let There Be Carnage a very good movie, but it does entertain. Well, up to a point. The romantic comedy-esque bickering and break-up between Brock and Venom is funny stuff, which gives the film a slightly offbeat edge. However, when the filmmakers deliver the obligatory, and chaotic, digital mayhem, the movie gets dull. It's not cleverly constructed action scenes, but just computer-generated debris thrown at the screen. What was your reaction?

Fritz: I think the problem you mention is one that plagues essentially all superhero movies now. There's always a 3rd act confrontation with a CGI creature. The finales of lots of comic book movies now feel very perfunctory to me (I would also include the finale of Marvel's recent Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in this criticism). Superhero movies feel increasingly like they're being made on an assembly line and the climactic battle with (insert CGI monster) is part of the assembly process. There are exceptions like Black Panther, but I think part of the reason Black Panther resonated so much was the villain was human and the conflict between Black Panther and Killmonger was a sharply drawn human conflict.

You're right that Venom: Let There Be Carnage feels a little different in parts due to Brock and Venom's weird co-dependent relationship. I also appreciate someone making a superhero movie that's relatively brief. But I don't think Woody Harrelson's serial killer is a compelling villain. That's another flaw I find in a lot of comic book films. With a few notable exceptions (Killmonger, Loki, Jeff Goldblum in Thor: Ragnarok), the villains all tend to be very meh and forgettable.

It's clear comic book movies are going to dominate the market for at least a few more years. Do you think audiences will get tired of the same-old, same-old? Will someone break through and breathe new life into the genre?

David: The Western eventually burned out and so will comic book movies. Of course, there will be exceptions that will be fresh and offbeat like Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Thor: Ragnarok.

As for the new Venom, yes, the villain is ineffectual, but I do think that Michelle Williams, as Brock's ex-girlfriend Anne, has some fun moments. As you said, the film is brief—90-minutes to be exact. Incidentally, it's directed by Andy Serkis, a fine character actor known for his performance capture roles such as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings movies and as Caesar in the recent Planet of the Apes films. He's done a good job here, keeping Venom moving at a quick pace and playing it rather campy. So, with that in mind, I give Venom: Let There Be Carnage a marginal recommendation.

Fritz: I think it's a marginal thumbs down for me, even if I will concede it at least feels a bit different than most recent comic book films.

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