Even after 3 years and its commercial success, Venom remains a terrible movie. While our review fails to recognize it as a standalone work from the comics, it doesn’t change that Sony’s first Spider-Man Universe film is an assortment of tones that don’t work. While it is PG-13, the DNA of the adult film Sony originally wanted to make is still there. When mixed with forced comedy, such dark elements feel out of place. Worse, the film is less than memorable. It has what it needs to be a footnote in superhero cinema.
Understandably, our expectations for the sequel weren’t very high. It didn’t help that Andy Serkis – best known for his acting chops – was tapped as the film’s director. However, against all odds, Venom: Carnage Unleashed acknowledges the weaknesses of its predecessor and turns them into strengths. Now, does this mean it’s a good film? Not exactly, but it’s certainly a much more entertaining and consistent experience in tone matters.
The story of Venom: Carnage Unleashed is set after the original film’s events. Serial killer Cletus Kasady has requested the presence of Eddie Brock to “tell his story.” However, with the help of Venom, Eddie uncovers a clue that leads to the police finding evidence of Cletus’ multiple murders and being sentenced to death. This allows Eddie to be redeemed as a journalist. However, Cletus bites Eddie in the middle of his last interview and gets part of the symbiote. This marks the origin of Carnage.
Venom 2: Movie vs Comics
Let’s talk about one of the film’s significant changes from the comics – Cletus Kasady. Played by Woody Harrelson, this is easily the most inhuman villain in the web-slinger’s gallery in the comics. However, Venom: Carnage Unleashed reinterprets Cletus to its advantage. The killer, while mostly ruthless, enjoys an element that humanizes him: his genuine love for Shriek (Frances Barrison), played by Naomie Harris. This is the opposite of what happens in Maximum Carnage, one of the main inspirations for the sequel. In this iconic saga, the abuse Shriek is subjected to by Cletus is a complete contrast to the relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. However, this change makes Cletus a more exciting villain without making him redeemable.
This humanization also makes a more direct comparison between the serial killer and Eddie Brock, played by Tom Hardy. Carnage represents what Venom would be without a moral compass in the comics. While this symbolism is also present in Carnage Unleashed, the film presents Cletus and Eddie as kindred spirits. Unlike the first film, where Spider-Man’s absence shines through, it does make for a story exclusively with Venom and Carnage.
Speaking of relationships, it’s time to dedicate a paragraph to the symbiosis between Eddie Brock and Venom. While the relationship between the two remains more or less the same as in the first film – of course, with some ups and downs – the film’s comedic tone really reinforces their companionship. On the one hand, Eddie tries to keep the symbiote under control to try to live everyday life. On the other, the latter denigrates his host to get him to embrace his mission as the “Lethal Protector.” While it’s a dynamic filled with hostility, it also hints at the apparent appreciation for each other. It even shows something the original film couldn’t: their dependence on each other. While Eddie requires Venom’s abilities to be a hero, Venom craves Eddie’s recognition and approval.
Ironically, the roller coaster that is Eddie and Venom’s relationship is one of the reasons why the action scenes are minimal throughout the sequel. Like the first film, Carnage Unleashed only has a trio of fights. Fortunately, unlike the previous movie, what’s in between these frenetic sequences is entertaining and exudes much more personality than the 2018 film.
The above is not to say that Venom: Carnage Unleashed is free of flaws. Similar to its predecessor, this tape is riddled with inconsistencies and conveniences. What do you think of symbiotes generating tornadoes and “hacking” the internet to obtain FBI data? And what do you feel about Cletus achieving a perfect symbiosis with his symbiote, just like in the comics, only for the film to claim the complete opposite later? Yes