My favorite parts in disappointing movies are when on-screen characters say the offensive things we, the audience, all think. Of all the modern comic book characters to whom this honor can be paid, none enjoys this duty better than Venom in its latest installment. Let there be carnage.
“This guy doesn’t make sense,” bursts out the CGI beast, voiced by Tom Hardy, after a puzzling change of dialogue. He’s even tougher on his real co-star Woody Harrelson in a climax of the kiss and exclaims “Fuck this guy!” after a completely deaf confession.
Most of the time it is Poison: Let there be slaughter has it all: the willingness to let Hardy off the leash and channel his identity. Whether he’s going for violence or compassion in his beast form, it’s hilarious stuff. But the fun only reigns for about 30 minutes before production slows down while they don’t decide whether to deliver an overdone plot or to throw the logic out the window.
A positive feedback loop about chicken brains
What exactly did Eddie Brock (played by non-CGI Hardy, Mad Max: Fury Road) since the first Poison Movie? It’s not really clear, other than coexisting with the needy, disgusting Venom that apparently only lives on brain and chocolate. Keeping Venom saturated doesn’t go well as Brock is stuck with one Terminator 2-like rule: do not kill people.
Finally we learn that Brock’s journalistic work has dried up, but he is told by a detective (Stephen Graham,
). Cletus Kasady (Harrison), a serial killer on death row, will only give one interview with Brock for some reason, no other reporters – and the razor-thin logic is literally drowned out.
“I like you.”
“Okay, it’s a deal.”
Kasady then continues to lose her mind when Brock’s first interview sheds light on Kasady’s year-long murders that turn his life sentence into an execution. The criminal swears revenge quickly. (Maybe instead of telling secrets to a journalist next time, you might hire a PR firm, Kasady.) Here we get the semblance of a positive feedback loop between Venom and Brock: Venom’s superpowers proved essential to solving the case, and im In return, he gets Brock’s help in finding and eating valuable chicken brains. This concept is no less strange when implemented in real time.
An all too short Looney Tune
This sequel kicks off because it enjoys the inherent comedy of the Brock-Venom relationship, as opposed to the fun that takes way too long to develop in the first film. Each half shows an unsuspecting need for the other. There’s a lot of trending anger and “I don’t need you” skirmishes, but all the time they stick through each other’s nonsense in order to fulfill this violent co-dependent friendship. This symbiosis creates hilarious circumstances along the way.
I had high hopes from the start that we would get something along the lines of “Detective Venom”, between the duo’s super-powerful detective work (full of Venom insulting Brock) and their split personality conversations with either the sneaky detective or an old flame ( Michelle Williams, back as Anne Weying). Director Andy Serkis has a CGI blast in these moments that allows Venom to animate through and beyond Hardy’s body to create an adorable true Looney Tunes equivalent.
But the word “Carnage” in the title alludes to a popular Venom spin-off villain, and that means V: LTBC must come up with a way to involve this blood-red monster in the process. What follows is one serious mistake after another.
The film breaks up the band first when Venom leaves Brock on bail to find other hosts that will leave him “free”. Hardy’s bestial voice never finds someone to click with, an issue the film wastes too much time on pounding over our heads until the duo are finally reunited. During this pause we hear a lengthy speech about how his newfound freedom should be celebrated. But right after that, Venom says to himself, “I wish you could have seen me tonight, Eddie.” Yes, poison. That might have been more fun.
This breakup allows Kasady to develop his own symbiotic bond with an otherworldly monster, which he mainly does to get along with Shriek, his captive, tortured, and overpowering villain friend (Naomie Harris, Pirates of the Caribbean). Constantly feeling like the wrong casting call for Kasady’s leaps between mad, squirrel-like poet and vengeful monster, Harrelson is never able to hit either end of that manic-depressive spectrum. I kept imagining actors like Nicholas Cage or Jim Carrey rippling the uneven script they were given and breathing life into the performance. Unfortunately, Harrelson sticks to the disappointing, logical script and cashes a check.
The Kidz Bop version of Godzilla vs. Kongthe final
To build up each subsequent plot point – Kasady’s long trapped romance, Brock and Venom’s shaky friendship, Brock’s involvement in the boring detective’s investigation – the script works overtime to make sure we stay up to date on the “what” and things “why” s.
There is no payout in the end. We see Kasady ignoring the clear signs that Carnage is about to break off their mutual scratching contract. And we see Kasady break down at the end of the movie and mumble to Brock that this famous serial killer “wanted” [his] Friendship. “Um, where is the” See Issue # 72 “footnote on the screen to show us how that fits in with the rest of the movie’s plot?
Perhaps worst of all, it is Serkis’s turn to be a director that doesn’t lead him to pass on his expertise in CGI-filled productions. Carnage is a total snoozer of a monster confined to cramped, previously-seen environments for each of its action sequences (a prison, a church, and a single mansion driveway). The possible, anticipated battle between Venom-versus-Carnage looks like the Kidz Bop version of Godzilla vs. Kong‘s finale.
This review doesn’t shake the hit comedy Hardy delivers with two versions of himself, and I’d rather not spoil that. At best, Hardy’s two-character performance is the beating heart of the film – and really a good reason to eventually check out this film on a dark, scary night. (You’ll be laughing with friends at the beginning, then pulling your phones out as soon as the movie’s swing crater kicks in.) Wish the movie was as good as its first 30 minutes as that part enjoys silliness, cheese, and a James Gunn-like setting for entertainment about everything else. Let there be a better sequel, I suppose.
Offer picture from Sony
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