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The wait is almost over for Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the sequel to 2018's Venom that promises to dig deeper into the relationship between Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and the alien symbiote that calls him home, while also introducing a new villain into the mix. This time around, motion capture legend Andy Serkis jumps into the director's chair, presumably to enhance the creature feature fun of the film's action sequences, and Tom Hardy himself steps up to contribute to the film's story, adding a somewhat personal layer to a sequel that promises to explore the bond between Eddie and his carnivorous symbiote pal even more.
This time around, three years have passed since Eddie and Venom first got to know each other, and they've reached an understanding that basically makes them a couple who've just carved out new living arrangements. They share a home and a body, and while Venom definitely still gets his share of meat, he doesn't get to kill any humans along the way. Eddie, for his part, has learned to live with his alien bodymate well enough to try to get back to his first love, journalism, via an exclusive interview with deranged serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). If you've read Marvel Comics, then you presumably know how that goes. Eddie and Cletus get a little too close, the symbiote spreads, and Eddie and Venom are suddenly faced with a new threat in the form of the hyperviolent red monster known as Carnage.
Now that we're on the cusp of its release, critics are finally letting everyone know what they thought after their Let There Be Carnage screenings earlier this week. The verdict: If you liked the first Venom flick, then there's a very good chance you'll like its bigger, weirder sequel. If you didn't, well... hey, there are other comic book movies.
Here's a rundown of critical reactions:
"Everything that worked about the first Sony/Marvel movie—the offbeat humor, the sultry special effects, the intense characters—is all back in full force in the sequel. However, for the most part, everything that didn’t work is also back, so your personal feelings on the original are a very good indicator of how you’ll feel about this one," Germain Lussier of io9 wrote.
"After two installments, it seems as though the Venom movies may always fall into the same symbiote action trap over and over again. But ideally these sequences will get shorter and shorter, allowing more time for the dysfunctionally affectionate relationship that gives this franchise its charm," Oliver Sava of Polygon said.
Though there's definitely a high level of criticism aimed at the film's visuals, knocking Let There Be Carnage for muddled action and too-dark cityscapes, one key element of praise that keeps coming up in reviews is the sense that the film works best when it focuses on the relationship between Eddie and Venom. When the film takes its time to verge into weird romantic comedy territory, things are really working.
"Taking itself less seriously and having more fun, its relatively short runtime is packed densely with plenty of action, character development, and campy humor," Francesca Rivera wrote for IGN. "At the same time, it’s a love story about relationships evolving and learning to grow and trust each other. Venom as a series is working through its growing pains, but it looks like it’s uphill from here."
"Still, even when comic book fans inevitably go wild for a game-changing mid-credits scene, it’s not the promised spectacle that cements Venom: Let There Be Carnage as touching, wild entertainment," Robert Daniels wrote for The Los Angeles Times. "It’s the themes of home, love, and companionship that make Serkis’ sequel another reason to want more Venom movies, and quickly."
"But Venom: Let There Be Carnage is also refreshingly breezy. It flies by — probably because it's pretty clear multiple scenes ended up on the cutting room floor at some point. On top of that, the stakes are incredibly low," Chris Evangelista of Slashfilm wrote. "There's no threat of world domination here or mass extinction. In an era where we're inundated with superhero movies, and every single one of those movies is treated like A BIG EVENT, there's something oddly comforting about a movie like this that has very little on its mind, other than throwing big gooey monsters up on screen to scream at each other in surround sound. The bottom line: Venom: Let There Be Carnage does not want you to take any of this even remotely seriously, and there's nothing wrong with that."
Of course, there were plenty of people who didn't like the first Venom film with its wild tonal swings and often surprising focus on Hardy's eccentric character work, and the same thing applies here. Whether it's the nature of the action sequences or the pure strangeness of these particular comic book movies, the films just refuse to land with some audiences, critics included.
"But the distinctiveness of this buddy-movie bond is often drowned out by giant set pieces of CG mayhem that feel exactly like those found in the good guys’ movies," John DeFore wrote for The Hollywood Reporter. "Though it will please most fans of the 2018 first installment, Carnage proves that superhero fatigue applies to nonheroes as well."
"It’s possible that the action scenes look so bad because things had to be cut and obscured to secure Venom: Let There Be Carnage’s PG-13 rating. (The lack of subplots or character motivations could also be collateral damage of all the trims.) But this is a movie about two sadistic aliens who murder people and eat their brains for kicks," Matt Singer wrote for ScreenCrush. "Carnage creates knives, spears, and axes out of his symbiote slime and uses them to stab, maim, and decapitate people. Why is a movie about that guy rated PG-13 in the first place?"
"Technically, this goofy muddle of a sequel is a significant step up from the absolutely mind-numbing mediocrity that was 2018’s Venom," David Crow wrote at Den of Geek. "But when you’re starting from deeper than six feet in the hole, climbing up to still subterranean conditions doesn’t really feel like progress. Yes, Venom 2 is better than the first Venom, but then so are trips to the dentist."
Find out for yourself when Venom: Let There Be Carnage hits theaters Friday.