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"VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE"
(2021) (Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi/Superhero: Infected by an alien parasite that can control and change the physical attributes of his body and speaks to him inside his mind, a down-on-his-luck reporter must contend with a serial killer who ends up with the same condition.
PLOT:

Eddie Brock (TOM HARDY) is an investigative reporter who works in San Francisco and has just learned that his former fiancée, lawyer Anne Weying (MICHELLE WILLIAMS), is now engaged to Dr. Dan Lewis (REID SCOTT). Eddie is shaken by this development, while the alien parasite inside him known as Venom -- that can not only alter his physical shape but also talks to him inside his head -- is angry and wouldn't mind eating Dan, what with his appetite for humans.

Things become more complicated when serial killer Cletus Kasaday (WOODY HARRELSON) wants Eddie to write his life story but in doing so secretly gets a message to his locked away, mutant girlfriend, Frances Barrison (NAOMIE HARRIS), who can emit destructively loud screams. While interviewing Cletus, Venom emerges and attacks the man who then bites Eddie, thus getting part of Venom inside him. His alien alter-ego, Carnage, then emerges and allows Cletus to escape and free Frances.

As they go on a rampage of revenge and destruction and as Det. Mulligan (STEPHEN GRAHAM) tries to figure out what's going on, Eddie must contend with his rocky relationship with Venom and the new danger presented by Carnage.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

In my many laps around the big bright thing in the sky, I've encountered all sorts of people, both good and bad, and a lot of interesting variations in between, most thankfully leaning far more toward the former than the latter quality. Some of the more interesting types are those who simply can't stop talking. I remember being at the beach one day and a woman within earshot talked, and talked, and talked, and then talked some more.

All to the point that her friends -- or maybe they should be called victims -- couldn't get in a word edgewise. For hours. All of which got me thinking, does she talk to herself aloud when she's by herself, or is it internalized as a nonstop, speeding locomotive with an endless supply of fuel and no planned stops? If so, does she end up annoying herself? Thankfully such thoughts in my head don't keep me up at night. And they don't involve thinking about eating people if no chocolate is around. Wait, did I just say that? In my head?

That's a recurring "I can't get it out of my noggin" issue for investigative journalist Eddie Brock who, the last time we saw him, ended up with an alien parasite in his body. Not the kind that gives you intestinal issues, but more so headaches -- and related body aches -- from the snarky, childish, hyperactive, and yes, quite chatty personality attached to it known as Venom. Both return and continue their symbiotic relationship in the sequel to that namesake 2018 sci-fi meets superhero hybrid offering, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage."

The film -- written by screenwriter Kelly Marcel -- picks up where the first film left off, or at least I think it does as, quite frankly, I don't remember much about the original pic outside of the unique, odd couple type arrangement at the heart and core of the film. Eddie (a returning Tom Hardy doing the same shtick as before) has grown more accustomed to Venom chatting inside his head and occasionally emerging from his body in part and sometimes in full, destructo Hulk style. His former fiancée, Anne (Michelle Williams), is now engaged to her doctor boyfriend, Dan (Reid Scott), and that's thrown Eddie for an emotional loop.

He gets a distraction in the form of convicted serial killer Cletus Kasaday (Woody Harrelson) wanting to give him an exclusive interview in exchange for printing a message that ends up intended for his girlfriend, Frances (Naomie Harris). But she's locked away due to her mutant power of being able to unleash destructive sonic screams and Cletus would like to get her out and resume their romance. He gets that chance when Venom decides to manhandle him in his prison cell, thus providing the inmate the opportunity to take a bite out of Eddie's arm and thus unwittingly ingest a bit of venom, uh, Venom.

It's not long before he ends up in a similar state as Eddie, although his is more of a Mr. Hyde & Mr. Hyde double bad guy arrangement. All of which allows him to escape, free Frances, and put them on a path of revenge. The unholy trinity ends up targeting Eddie, Venom, and detective Mulligan (Stephen Graham) who years ago shot out Frances' eye. All of which results in lots of special effects mayhem laced with dark humor.

I suppose if you really liked the first film, you'll probably enjoy this follow-up. That said, the novelty factor is obviously no longer present and director Andy Serkis (the extraordinary motion capture performance master) doesn't do anything remarkable enough with the new story or characters to make things interesting. At least the "you're annoying me" chemistry and back and forth banter between Eddie and Venom are still present, and that provides for some decent laughs now and then.

Had all involved ended up doing the same with Harrelson's character and his symbiote, that might have provided the extra spark the film could have used to jolt our attention into place. As it stands, his personal monster, known as Carnage, is mostly just a big bad guy creature with next to no fun personality (save for one scene and line of dialogue involving a priest).

All of which robs the film of a lot of potential it could have used. Although to be transparent, that probably would have given that lady at the beach too much to talk about, and talk about, and... About on par with the earlier offering, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed September 28, 2021 / Posted October 1, 2021


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