Venom: Let There Be Carnage

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Venom: Let There Be Carnage is tied with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as the worst movie to ever have the Marvel name attached to it. That includes Blade Trinity, New Mutants, and the 2015 Fantastic Four. I thought the first Venom was terrible, but it looks like a masterpiece compared to this sorry sequel. There's not a single element that works. Given how strong many of the Marvel-related pictures are, the poor quality of this one is even more glaringly obvious.

A big part of the problem is that there's barely a story. Tom Hardy returns as Eddie Brock, the reporter with the symbiote lifeform known as Venom attached to him. For reasons that are fuzzy, he goes to meet with imprisoned serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). During their interaction, Cletus gets some of the symbiote in his own body, causing him to spawn the red tentacle-laden creature Carnage. He breaks out of jail to go in search of lost love Frances (Naomie Harris), while Eddie/Venom chases him. That's literally it. Michelle Williams returns for a few scenes as Eddie's ex-fiancée Anne, although she's mostly an afterthought.

Just as there's no plot, there is also no character development. We barely know Cletus, so his quest to find Frances – who we know even less about – fails to generate any tension. And since we don't care whether or not he finds Frances, we don't care whether Venom catches up with him. When we don't care about the hero and we don't care about the villain, what is the point of watching the movie? Venom: Let There Be Carnage flashes a bunch of murky, unappealing images in front of our eyes for a mercifully brief, yet still seemingly endless 85 minutes, never bothering to tell a coherent story or provide anything worth giving our attention to. The movie is a black hole that sucks time away from our lives.

To be fair, a handful of pictures every year achieve this precise sort of vacuousness. The element that sets Venom: Let There Be Carnage apart is its bizarre treatment of the two creatures at the center. Both are hideous-looking entities that, portrayed correctly, could be quite scary. Like the first installment, though, the sequel wants to be a comedy. Venom makes constant wisecracks, and some of his battles with Carnage border on slapstick humor. Given that both are well-established figures in the Marvel world, witnessing them go head-to-head in a battle with emotional stakes feels like a more natural approach than what we actually get.

We're also supposed to laugh at the interactions between Eddie and Venom, who are stuck in the same body and often bicker at each other. Instead of being an exciting comic book movie, director Andy Sirkis and writer Kelly Marcel try turning this into a twisted version of the 1984 Steve Martin/Lily Tomlin comedy All of Me. Tons of potential resides in the idea of an ordinary man infused with a snarling, aggressive alien lifeform. Venom: Let There Be Carnage has zero interest in finding it.

Broad, unconvincing performances, flat dialogue, choppy editing, and Woody Harrelson's distractingly atrocious wig are other problems, if not the major ones. Maybe I'm wrong, but watching this movie, it felt like the people who made it didn't care, like they were just slapping something up on the screen because they knew the word “Marvel” at the beginning would be sufficient to draw crowds. Venom: Let There Be Carnage wastes two of the company's most enigmatic villains on a profoundly stupid production that isn't worthy of the Marvel legacy.

out of four

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some strong language, disturbing material and suggestive references. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.