By Troy Ribeiro
Film: Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Releasing in Theatres on October 14). Duration: 97 minutes.
Director: Andy Serkis. Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham and Woody Harrelson.
In today's digital age, comic-book adaptations of action-packed films, though promising, seem to be running out of steam. Every mega battle occurs in an incoherent cloud of computer graphics where you would not care less what you are watching, or what the stakes are.
The 2018 edition was an origin story of 'Venom'; this one takes off from where it left. It dives into the bromance between Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and his alien symbiote Venom. It is at its best when traversing the thick and thin of the duo's relationship, arguing about morality, crime fighting, chickens, chocolate and decapitation.
Even as Eddie and Venom struggle to compromise, Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), the serial killer, is about to meet his end via lethal injection. In a brief flashback, we are told Cletus was in love with a mutant named Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris), who was taken in by the government.
Cletus has been pining for her ever since and now that he has learned she is still alive, he wants to reach out to her. To that end, he asks to see newsman Eddie, promising an exclusive interview.
During one death row visit, a momentarily violent encounter results in Cletus biting Eddie, thereby ingesting some of his Venom-infused blood. This allows a new symbiont, Carnage, to develop inside Cletus.
For Carnage to achieve autonomy, it must destroy its "father", so Cletus and Carnage reach an agreement: first, find Frances; second, kill Venom. How Venom and Carnage confront each other, and their journey to that fight, forms the crux of this convoluted narrative.
Yes, if you are into some dim-witted mindless action drama, then there are faint chances that you might like this one too. To put it simply, the film is sloppily mounted with staid set-pieces and oft-seen visual effects that appear all over the place, and the humour seems forced. The film wanted to pit Venom and Carnage against each other, and it does not do anything except that.
The script is sprinkled with a few light moments, thanks to Tom Hardy as Eddy and Venom, a mellower version of their previous joint appearance. Tom is a gifted actor and his quirky performance with Venom is what elevates this film.
Woody Harrelson as Carnage does not share the same equation that Tom has with Venom. His Carnage is evil and is one of his worst performances. His get-up, including his wig, is disastrous. And the pivotal showdown between him and Venom feels more like an afterthought with no stakes, no tension, just a long wait until the bad guy is pulled down.
The weakest link in the film is between Eddie and his love interest Anne (Michelle Williams). Her character was barely in the film, but then you were meant to feel the loss Eddie experiences after breaking up with her.
Another issue with the film is its pacing. It appears rushed from start to finish and just feels like a longer film squeezed into a shorter runtime. Scenes and information slip by quicker than you can expect, making it difficult for you to process what is happening on the screen.
Overall, don't expect anything more than what you have seen in the trailers.
(Troy Ribeiro can be contacted at email@example.com)