Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller and Superhero Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.
Release Date: October 1st, 2021 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Andy Serkis Actors: Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Stephen Graham, Reid Scott
ddie Brock’s (Tom Hardy) life is still a mess. His estranged girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams) has been avoiding him, police detective Mulligan (Stephen Graham) has been hounding him over his involvement in recent criminal activities, and the brutish alien symbiote Venom still invades his thoughts and body at inopportune times. But things start to look up for the crestfallen journalist when soon-to-be-executed serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) offers him an exclusive tell-all on his life and crimes in exchange for printing cryptic messages in the newspaper. When Venom uncovers clues that lead to Kasady’s hidden graveyard of victims, Brock is hailed as a hero for giving closure to the families. Furious, the madman tricks the reporter into meeting one last time, giving him the opportunity to abscond with a bit of Venom’s DNA. The result is the catastrophic unleashing of the deadly Carnage, a symbiote variant hell-bent on destroying everything Brock holds dear.
This direct follow-up confusingly starts with a rushed bit of backstory, before transitioning to the present day for a hint of reiteration about the primary antagonists – who both receive far more attention than the heroes. For anyone unfamiliar, or anyone who may have forgotten details about the prior picture, this sequel is unfriendly at best; the brief scenes to catch up on current situations don’t bother to include Eddie and Venom. Instead, they’re immediately presented as a comedy duo (like another Eddie and his pesky, inseparable bane from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”), engaging in jokey insults, odd slapstick, and cartoonish shenanigans.
Sadly, Eddie and Venom still don’t work as an effective filmic team. The duality of a brain-eating predator inhabiting the body of a mild-mannered reporter rarely produces laugh-out-loud funny results; their bickering and play-fighting routines generally fall flat. Venom is slightly more efficient as an evilly mischievous Jiminy Cricket, whispering in the ear of his hapless host, but when the muse manifests into a mass of writhing tendons and appendages, it’s woefully stale. Successful humor all but evaporates with the appearance of the eely monstrosity.
Meanwhile, Harrelson and Naomie Harris (as love interest Frances) eat up the bulk of the screentime as pitiful, modernized counterparts to Bonnie and Clyde, struggling to be engaging serial killers rather than meaningless murderers. They aren’t given much to work with, as the script is outrageously unimaginative – turned even more toothless when Carnage’s reveal clashes with the unwelcome fact that mutants already live among human society. There’s almost no need for an extraterrestrial presence at all. And their streak of devastation is strangely violent but never graphic (thanks to the PG-13 rating), presenting plenty of chaos but nothing shocking or memorable.
Once again, however, the biggest problem with this continuation is the CG. Whirlwinds of computer-animated disorder tend to be the focus, which are remarkably unfavorable to action sequences; when it’s difficult to sort out the visual jumble, viewers aren’t likely to acknowledge any sense of tension or excitement. Rare, slower moments of facial transformations prove far superior, demonstrating the advancements in computer-augmented imagery, but important set pieces are primarily a blur. This carries over to the futile character development, which adds virtually nothing beyond what was established in the first movie; here, no one is worth rooting for, as they’re all blandly tragic souls content with mere destruction and mayhem. Even Brock’s love triangle goes nowhere, further dehumanizing the Eddie/Venom persona. By the end of it all – and what a rough, inconsequential ending it is – it’s evident that the filmmakers have no idea what to do with these characters and their super-antihero capabilities.
– The Massie Twins