Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is still learning how to live as a host to alien symbiote Venom, but a visit to an obsessed imprisoned serial killer leads to another symbiote on the loose that the duo must face.
The first Venom movie has a mixed reputation — it’s hated by critics thought it was a box office success and fans enjoyed the relationship between Eddie and Venom. The sequel understands what some fans enjoyed about the first film and leans even more into the silliness of that dynamic. Unfortunately, it carries with it everything that made the first film one of the worst superhero movies in recent years. The dialogue is horrendous — there are a few good jokes here and there but every time every time a plot point needs explaining or the villains open their mouth, you can’t take it seriously at all. And every time the symbiote Venom opens his mouth, his lines are incredibly bland and annoying. For a cast led by four Oscar nominees, nobody does a remotely memorable job, though Hardy looks like he’s enjoying himself more this time. Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady could’ve been a darkly hysterical psychopath of a killer, but instead he feels like his character’s twin brother in Now You See Me 2, meaning his performance is truly unbearable. Naomie Harris is also at her worst as Shriek, Kasady’s girlfriend from his teen years who he hasn’t seen in decades but they’re still madly in love. Even the humor often dives from funny into purely cringeworthy territory as the jokes don’t feel more thought out, just Tom Hardy goofing around with 2 different voices.
The action and editing are a mess, with nonstop cuts and dark lighting that prevents you from truly grasping onto the set pieces without laughing at everything that’s going on. The CGI also doesn’t feel so smooth though the design of Carnage is great — the character itself, though, is poorly utilized and we barely get to see him fight Venom or understand what makes him a unique symbiote and fan favorite comic-book villain. There’s no reason viewers would remember him or why he’d strike fear into the audience’s heads like he does with the characters in the film — he’s just a bad symbiote like Riot in the first movie. Considering director Andy Serkis has created some of the most interesting CGI characters of all time, it makes no sense for him to create something as haphazard and painful as this. In terms of conflict, there’s no interesting build of stakes or threat, and in terms of internal conflict for our hero, it’s literally just “Eddie and Venom have to fight less and get along more and Venom needs to eat bad guys but not good guys”.
Visually, script-wise, and tonally, Venom: Let There Be Carnage doesn’t have itself figured out, just like the bro-mance at the center of the film. Though the post-credits scene is worth staying for, the movie as a whole proves why these films can’t latch onto viewers as well as a symbiote like Venom latches onto its host Eddie.