Back when Venom came out in 2018, I didn’t think it was a good movie, but I made it clear how much I enjoyed the experience. To the point this lead to many discussions throughout that day reviews published about what my Rotten Tomatoes score should be. The argument was I clearly enjoyed myself, so why wouldn’t it be a positive review? This was actually a fair point. But I couldn’t get myself to actually recommend Venom to any other human beings, unless it was a midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show, “go with a bunch of friends and laugh” situation.
Also, re-reading my 2018 review, I forgot just how much plot there was in that movie. All I remember now is Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and Venom (also played by Tom Hardy) arguing. But there’s a whole plot involving spaceships and experiments on humans and Eddie Brock as a kind of independent video blogger that is all nonsense. The key to that movie is Eddie and Venom arguing and acting like a loon. To the point it’s no secret that Tom Hardy and director Ruben Fleischer didn’t, let’s say, see eye to eye about pretty much everything to do with this movie. From the outside looking in it seems like Fleischer wanted the movie to have a plot, which, on the surface, makes sense. And Tom Hardy didn’t care about the plot and wanted to, instead, do unscripted scenes flailing around inside a lobster tank. (I remember interviewing Fleischer for this movie and him doing everything he could to contain his disdain for that particular scene.) So what we were seeing on screen was pure behind-the-scenes chaos. I still contend it wasn’t a “good movie,” but it was, no doubt about it, interesting. And there aren’t a lot of interesting big-budget movies these days, so maybe I underrated it. Also, it made a whole bunch of money.
This brings us to Venom: Let There Be Carnage. This will come as a surprise to no one, but Ruben Fleischer did not come back to direct and has been replaced by Andy Serkis. Serkis does two very smart things in this movie: one, he sides with Tom Hardy that this movie should just be insane and not at all care about such things as “plot.” (I say this is smart because if Serkis wants to make more of these movies, agreeing with Hardy seems to be a key to that.) And, two, he admits the aforementioned lobster scene is his “jumping-off point.”
So what we get in Venom: Let There Be Carnage is another display of chaos on screen, but a more controlled chaos. Or, if not controlled, let’s say more “endorsed” chaos. Hardy gets to run free in this movie and do pretty much anything he wants with the approval of his director. And I’m exaggerating a bit, there is sort of a plot, but it takes a backseat to Eddie and Venom bickering.
When this movie starts Eddie and his alien symbiote, Venom, are basically a married couple who argue all the time. Venom is mad because he wants to go out and eat people’s brains because that’s his favorite food. Eddie argues that would be bad, and besides, he’s bought Venom live chickens to eat instead. But Venom doesn’t want to eat the chickens because he’s become attached to them and looks at them now as pets. The arguing gets worse and worse and eventually results in Eddie and Venom coming to blows and breaking up. Which later results in Venom, sans Eddie, going to a rave party and, while wearing glow sticks, giving a speech to the crowd about how much he wishes Eddie were there. (It’s truly remarkable that none of what I just wrote is made up and is actually all in the movie.)
Meanwhile, Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) is on death row and wants Eddie to visit him for a final interview. Why Eddie? It doesn’t matter. The point is Eddie has to be there so that some symbiote blood gets into Cletus, which turns him into Carnage. Carnage then hunts for his girlfriend, a woman named Shriek (Naomie Harris) who has the power to make very loud noises when she screams. Why does she have this power? It is not explained and I am thankful for that. I just accept that she has this power. Anyway, at the end, they all fight! (Michelle Williams and Reid Scott are back, too, and offer some good comic relief. Basically, they sit back and look at Eddie and Venom and wonder what on Earth is going on with these two? But I would bet Williams was not on set for longer than a week.)
Look, I’m all in for these movies. Yes, this movie is so stupid! But that seems to be the point. And Serkis knows the heart of these movies is the relationship between Eddie and Venom. These two losers who, often, call each other losers. These Venom movies really should be a slog. Think back on Spider-Man 3 and how Venom was used in that movie. He was just “a monster.” And Sam Raimi has been pretty clear over the years that he never wanted to use Venom in the first place. But these movies have kind of cracked the Venom code by making it a love story between Eddie and Venom. Oh, and by making it as ridiculous as humanly possible. I’d watch ten more Venom movies.
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