Making a sequel to a much maligned film is one of those situations that is both a hard thing to do and an easy task at the same time. On one hand, you have to follow a film that critics did not take to kindly, including myself, yet still went on to make an unholy amount of money. On the other hand, expectations are at such a low level that it almost offers the filmmaker a blank canvas to bring something different to the table for audiences. In the case of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Andy Serkis replaces Ruben Fleischer behind the camera and delivers a better film than its predecessor that I'd put down as one of the most batshit insane films of the year.

Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) struggles to adjust to his new life as the host of the alien symbiote Venom, which grants him super-human abilities in order to be a lethal vigilante. Brock attempts to reignite his career by interviewing serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), who becomes the host of the symbiote Carnage and escapes prison after a failed execution.

Much like the film that came before it, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is just utterly bonkers. It's non-stop from start to finish, moving along at such a frenetic pace that barely any aspect of the film has room to breathe. Kelly Marcel's screenplay is as juvenile as the first so anyone hoping for a true R-rated style adventure is bound to be disappointed. Tom Hardy gets to share the writing credits for the story with Marcel, a move which surely indicates how interested Hardy is in carrying on this iteration of the character.

The story is one of the aspects of the film that was done much better this time round, the origin story in the first being so bland and uninspired that made it so hard to enjoy. Andy Serkis has a blast directing such a frantic film that introduces a villain we've all been waiting to see in live action for some time now, Carnage. He's a more vicious version of Venom, helped by the deranged serial killer the symbiote is attached to, and he does not disappoint in his live action debut. The visual effects to bring both Venom and Carnage to life are simply stunning, though is it too hard to ask to see both in daylight for a bit as the lighting throughout is dim as fuck.

Committed again to delivering such an unhinged performance is Tom Hardy, who might not be leaping into lobster tanks here but he no doubt revels in the physicality of it all. We all know Hardy is one of the best actors working today and while these films aren't the best at showcasing that, he stops the film from sinking by being incredibly watchable. Woody Harrelson is an incredibly welcome addition as Cletus Kasady/Carnage, using all his experience of playing goofballs or the deranged towards the role and at his best here when sharing a scene with Hardy. Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris and Stephen Graham sadly feel like dead wood throughout proceedings, Harris and Graham especially not getting enough to do to flesh out their character's motives.

While it's certainly a better film than its predecessor, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is still a way off the high standards set by some of the comic book films being made today. I've mentioned Hardy's interest in wanting to carry on playing this character and nothing solidifies that more than a post credits sequence that sets up a very interesting future for Eddie Brock and Venom indeed.

Verdict: ★★★


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