“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is a significant improvement upon its predecessor


Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Although the CGI in “Let There Be Carnage” could have been improved, the plot was enough to draw audiences in.

Naomi Scissors, Arts Writer

“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is undoubtedly an improvement upon its predecessor, but that is not saying much. Director Andy Serkis offers a take on the Eddie/Venom dynamic that almost feels like a rom-com, though the film is still an action movie at heart. It’s truly funny by Marvel movie standards, and Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson offer strong performances as Eddie Brock and Cletus Kasady respectively. However, these strengths are not enough to overcome the same awkward dialogue and bad action that plagued the first installment. 

The film follows odd-couple team Eddie Brock and Venom, a journalist and the alien parasite that shares his body, as they track down serial killer Cletus Kasady and work through some relationship issues of their own. Eddie and Venom are instantly likable and very easy to root for, and their relationship holds the whirlwind of a film together. 

A breakup subplot featuring Michelle Williams as Eddie’s ex Anne Weying attempts to provide romantic tension, but the true love story of the film is that of Kasady and his childhood love Shriek. Their story is the relationship that truly feels eternal, and worthy of the film’s 90 minute run time. The obvious comparison is to the DCEU’s Joker and Harley Quinn, but Kasady and Shriek’s romance is of a different nature. They have history together, established in beautiful pen-and-paper-esque animations, and the devotion that they had to each other as children makes their unshakeable loyalty as adults believable. Shriek protected Kasady when he was vulnerable, making for a much more equal and interesting power dynamic than the Joker pushing his supposed love into a vat of acid. His relationship with Shriek is what differentiates Kasady from every other generic Marvel villain.

Still, the relationships, as compelling as they may be, are not what’s drawing an audience to “Let There be Carnage.” The battle that the title promises does happen, but all of Marvel’s bad habits when it comes to action are made glaringly obvious when both characters are in CGI. One of the things Marvel consistently does badly in action scenes is the camerawork, and it’s become so normalized in current action movies that audiences don’t expect any differently. In most Marvel action scenes, you might not see a single hit land. Every time someone is punched, or thrown against a wall, or struck by a weapon, the camera cuts to a different angle right at the moment of impact. This is understandable for action scenes involving actors because it’s not worth risking a broken bone or, worse, a paralyzed stuntman to get a good action shot. But when one CGI monster is battling another there’s no excuse for never giving the audience a good look at the fight. So much work is put into camera angles and disorienting movement instead of animating a fight that’s exciting even when filmed with a still shot, and the result is singularly underwhelming.

Another glaring flaw of the film is the dialogue. The comedic exchanges between Brock and Venom are very well done, and refreshingly different from the awkward one-liners that are expected from superhero movies, but whenever the film attempts serious dialogue the result is physically painful. No effort is made towards subtle exposition or consistent character development, rather it feels as if half of the lines were just written to fill space as the script moves from one plot beat to another. The exception to this is Carnage, whose design is cool enough to pull off all of the cheesy threats he’s made to deliver.

“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” fulfills its purpose as a film. It’s funny, it’s fast, and it shows two aliens fighting each other. It’s not something that audiences are likely to remember a week later, or even a day later, but it’s not attempting to be. For those who can look past horrible dialogue and mediocre fight scenes, it’s hard not to recommend the film just for Eddie and Venom’s dynamic. It’s not a great movie. It’s not even a good movie. It’s entertainment, and its achievement of the biggest opening weekend since COVID-19 closed theaters proves that entertainment will continue to sell.