“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is wanton slaughter lightened by monstrous zingers delivered in a growl that needs subtitles, a colossal waste of talent in front of the camera and not exactly a resume builder behind it.
Seriously, I hope the talented Tom Hardy bought himself an island — or a better agent — with this.
This noisy, collateral damage-cluttered sequel lives down to its name as a second alien “Symbiote” like Venom, named “Carnage,” takes up residence inside of Woody Harrelson‘s elaborate wig. Woody plays a serial killer named Cletus Kasady.
And as he’ll be the first to tell you, “People LOVE serial killers!”
Cletus killed lots of folks over a long period of time before Carnage came calling. And he got caught and is now awaiting execution in San Quentin. Yes, he’s so evil that California amended its death penalty laws just for him.
That’s how hapless reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) ends up in the cell block with an exclusive interview. And that’s when the serial killer takes a bite out of the reporter (hazard of the profession) and that bite is what creates Carnage.
Shy, mopey Eddie still misses Anne (Oscar winner Michelle Williams), but she’s taken up with the more suitable Dan (Reid Scott).
Even Cletus has a lady love. Or had one. He’s obsessed with reconnecting with his equally-disturbed other half, Francis (Naomie Harris). Does he know her “special power?” He will when they get back together. There’s a reason he names her “Shriek.”
Stephen Graham is an actor ill-suited for comic book movies trapped in a comic book movie playing a cop trapped between a dangerous reporter and a dangerous serial killer.
Venom? He’s still a nag, calling his host body a “loser” for losing his girlfriend and refusing to sate his symbiote’s appetites for human flesh and brains.
“We should out there, protecting the city — LETHALLY!”
Eddie just wants to set boundaries.
“This is a ME thing, not a WE thing.”
Bodies are flung about, pierced, beheaded and generally violated as our two symbiotes act up and act out on their way to their host-and-symbiote showdown.
Actor-turned-director Andy Serkis delivered a noisy, bloody and brisk visit to this corner of the Marvel universe. All these characters, all this “carnage” and he only burned through 98 or so minutes of our time. But that’s still 98 minutes wasted.
The story’s simple through line exposes how inept screenwriter Kelly Marcel (“Fifty Shades of Grey” is quite the um, recommendation) is about finding entertaining things to show us as we march from Point A to Point B.
Serkis works in a Hunchback of Notre Dame, with a King Kong chaser, visual homage. But the fights are in the hands of digital animators, with all the brawls staged in gloom and the action lapsing into a blur.
The ladies acquit themselves well, with Williams finding the humor in all this mayhem and Harris (Miss Moneypenny, to you.) committing heart, soul and voice to Shriek.
But if most comic book adaptations have trouble being “about” something, the “Venoms” have that problem in spades. This is, what, Eddie Brock killing his way out of his shyness?
Every beef anybody might have with the genre is writ large in the two “Venom” movies, something “Let There Be Carnage” underscores with extreme prejudice. This is visually incoherent ugliness played for laughs that just aren’t there.
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some strong language (profanity), disturbing material and suggestive references
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham, Peggy Lu and Woody Harrelson.
Credits: Directed by Andy Serkis, scripted by Kelly Marcel. A Sony/Columbia release.
Running time: 1:38