Designing a film around an anti-hero is never easy, particularly in the over-saturated world of superheroes on film. That was the challenge that lay before the team adapting Venom in 2018. And yet, the film fronted by Tom Hardy somehow worked. It was amusing at times and the inter-play between Hardy’s Brock and the titular Venom ended up being fun. That, naturally, led to a sequel.
The original film, a spin-off of the Spider-Man universe that helps Sony stay in the Marvel business outside of the MCU, was sometimes a tricky sell. And it was fair to wonder if this character could work as a franchise piece on his own. In this follow-up, which introduces another famous piece of the Spider-Man universe in Carnage, builds on what works with the original and ups the action and spectacle in a satisfying way.
The film finds Eddie (Hardy) still struggling to rebuild his career while also maintaining his secret partnership with Venom. He still pines for his former fiancé Ann (Michelle Williams) and has an uneven relationship with the police, particularly Detective Mulligan (Stephen Graham). When he’s offered the chance to interview an incarcerated killer, Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), it seems a chance to boost his career profile.
With the help of Venom, Eddie is able to use the clues from that encounter to solve a mystery, sealing Kasady’s fate. It makes Eddie a star and earns him another audience with Kasady, which doesn’t go as planned. Soon, Kasady morphs into something else, bent on rescuing his love, Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris), and making Eddie pay.
This one has a good look and an interesting story. It comes from director Andy Serkis, who is no stranger to giving a compelling performance where the face on screen is not his own. It feels like that experience helps to pull something out of the characters of Venom and Carnage that takes this film up a notch. Having Harrelson and Harris opposite Hardy also makes for a more compelling adventure.
Hardy is an under-rated actor who does quite well here. He plays a lot of different tones between the dual characters, bringing moments of humor, drama and action. I thought that piece worked better in this second installment, which adds to the fun.
The action and set pieces also feel bigger, particularly the climactic battle. The film builds on what worked in the first installment and steps it up, setting the stage by the end for a universe all its own. I enjoyed this sequel and appreciated the elements that made it a kick to see on the big screen. As we’re coming back to bigger movie experiences in person these are the kind of films that remind you of the magic of seeing something on a giant screen.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a fun ride that was better than I expected.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.