What happens when that little voice inside your head, the one that helps you reason good versus bad decisions, tells you to eat people? That's the strange dilemma between an odd couple journalist named Eddie Brock, played by a committed Tom Hardy, and an alien symbiote named Venom, voiced with grumbly enthusiasm by Tom Hardy.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the continuation of the relationship between Eddie and Venom, this time moving from a conflicted new friendship into something more akin to an old married couple. Director Andy Serkis crafts a lean and mean comic book oddity that feels just outside the norm of the Marvel cinematic formula. That's a good thing, even if the final result struggles to excel beyond the limitations of an average script.
Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) finds balance in his chaotic life, living with an alien inhabiting him and consistently providing a manic internal dialogue and a craving for brains. They co-exist in a messy apartment, with holes in the ceiling made by outbursts from Venom and two chickens lovingly saved from a dinner plate and renamed Sonny and Cher. Their relationship is on rocky ground. Venom craves freedom and urges Eddie to embrace a role as protector of the city - while also allowing him to eat the heads of the bad guys they defeat. Eddie fears exposing the truth of his sudden abilities to solve cases the police can't and hopes to resolve his broken relationship with his former girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams).
Eddie finds attention from a serial killer named Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). After Eddie writes, with Venom's help, a story that solves a slew of cases, Cletus is fast-tracked to the front of the death row line. As a final request before the execution, Cletus asks to see Eddie one last time. Cletus bites Eddie during an altercation, and a piece of the symbiote attaches to Cletus, unleashing a monster born for carnage. Eddie and Venom set their differences aside to save the world.
Director Andy Serkis takes a breakneck approach to storytelling in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. The film, without credits, is under 90 minutes. That's unheard of for superhero films these days. But what Serkis does in limited time is focus on the highlights for fans of the Venom character.
Tom Hardy composes an unusual Eddie Brock, providing the mostly unlikeable journalist with enough charm and awkwardness to sympathize with the character. Hardy's nervous and timid performance is an essential quality for Eddie's composition because the story doesn't leave much time for character development. At the same time, the film quickly introduces the film's key villains, a lovelorn couple played by Woody Harrelson and Naomie Harris. Harrelson, whose performance feels just a few steps away from his character in Natural Born Killers, goes for broke. While the wild-eyed Naomie Harris, whose superpower is a ferocious scream, isn't offered much to do besides looking unhinged. A side story following Eddie's love interest Anne, a completely underutilized Michelle Williams, feels like an afterthought from the narrative.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage leans on its oddball vibes and harmless humor, along with an oddly captivating performance from Tom Hardy, to keep this sequel centered on simplistic entertainment value objectives. For the most part, it succeeds in honoring the path set by the original film. If you enjoyed the first Venom, you will find reason enough to smile with this sequel.
Movie Score: 2.5/5