1/10 Venom was fun enough to be enjoyable though its flaws. That kind of good will doesn’t last.
San Francisco- Freelance reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy, who also has a story credit) works with the FBI to find the lost victims of serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), because Kasady has decided that he and Brock are “kindred spirits” and he’ll speak to no one else. Kasady is found guilty of murder in a litany of unsolved disappearances thanks to Brock’s work, and the governor reinstates the death penalty in California specifically for his case. Visiting him as he’s about to be executed,
Cummyeyes McGoo Venom (also voiced by Hardy), the alien symbiote that lives in Brock’s body, spawns into Kasady, creating Cummyeyes McGoo, Jr. Carnage (also voiced by Harrelson). The newly empowered Kasady breaks out and starts wreaking havoc in search of his long-lost love, Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris).
Venom: Let there be Carnage looks and feels like it was written and edited via algorithm – and by algorithm, I don’t mean an experienced company writer an editor who is competent but has no real voice did this, I mean one of those programs that keeps crashing cars. It feels like there was never a human who has seen a movie before involved anywhere in this process.
Screenwriter Kelly Marcel and editors Maryann Brandon and Stan Salfas should probably get a bit of slack given that director Andy Serkis clearly didn’t get everything he wanted. Venom: Let there be Carnage reeks of a compromised production, which ran Nov. 15, 2019 to Feb. 21, 2020 – they went into post-production a few days before the film industry shut down due to COVID-19. What probably happened, since major studio movies rely so heavily on a reshoot process these days, was they didn’t have time to do any secondary shooting to fill gaps. If that’s what did happen, the solution, obviously, is to not take that sort of shortcut in the first place.
The way you can tell production was incomplete is the extreme reliance on ADR dialogue – it feels like half of the lines delivered by humans in this movie are either from characters off-screen or characters who aren’t facing the camera. When the CGI-generated Venom and Carnage get lines, they’re almost always big and bright in the frame, one of those overcompensations that only points out the initial deficiency. It also obviously doesn’t help that Venom still looks like a humanoid pile of sludge that’s just been jizzed on, and Carnage also looks like a humanoid pile of sludge that’s just been jizzed on with more arms and a slightly different texture.
Harrelson in particular seems to have wanted nothing to do with the movie. So many of his lines are slapped on in post-production that it starts to look less like production was incomplete and more like he personally was absent for some shooting days. He also reportedly tried to get Serkis to do Carnage’s voice. He’s great when he’s onscreen of course, but his apparent reluctance begs several questions about why he was brought in at all to play a character who’s specified as about 20 years his junior wearing the wig of a man 40 years his junior and apparently no other makeup. It looks like Harrelson agreed to work with the previous film’s director, Ruben Fleischer, before the script for this movie had been written, so it makes sense that he’d want out after having his connection leave and learning the mystery script was this poor.
Venom: Let there be Carnage is on track for the second-biggest opening of the pandemic era after Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and this is why you shouldn’t let people enjoy things. This and its predecessor are the movies I’m afraid of when boring, listless MCU entries like Shang-Chi make tons of money. As Disney moves further and further away from making things that are actually good art, cutting more and more corners and continuing to demonstrate that there are no consequences, that all most viewers care about is participating in the cultural construct this has become, the more it opens the door for these horrible, cynical things that are directly oriented to ticking the expected boxes and aren’t really trying to be movies at all.
Sony has been watching the MCU right along with us for two decades now, and after their first attempt to match it in grandness of scale failed, they’re now attempting to match it with a similar, tongue-in-cheek incorporation of comfort-food genres – most MCU movies are buddy comedies with road movie elements, and both Venom movies are sloppy rom-coms with some terrible CGI action. Let there be Carnage is actually a fun expansion on that idea, setting Brock and Venom up as an old married couple and using several relationships, which are either explicitly romantic or coded as such, to drive the plot.
Venom: Let there be Carnage isn’t about telling a story or being even vaguely intelligible, and it isn’t about being entertaining or even vaguely appealing. It’s about connecting to past and future media. It’s a link in a chain that has no purpose other than to exist.