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  Venom: Let There Be Carnage Doing It By Halves
Year: 2021
Director: Andy Serkis
Stars: Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham, Peggy Lu, Sian Webber, Reece Shearsmith, Michelle Greenidge, Laurence Spellman, Little Simz, Scroobius Pip, Sean Delaney, Jack Bandeira, Olumide Olorunfemi
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in 1996, in a high security home for troubled teens, two inmates were very much in love, but they were torn apart by the authorities who wanted the girl to leave for a different institution. Unhappy about this she used her superpowered scream to try to escape, but was recaptured and stayed in a prison for the criminally insane ever since. Now, her beau, Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), still pines for her, but got into trouble himself by turning serial killer - he wants journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) to tell his story, but Eddie has a problem of his own to occupy him, literally, as he is sharing his body with an alien symbiote called Venom...

The first Venom movie was not one anyone had any great expectations for, but did rather well, call it the Marvel effect despite it not being technically part of the company's comic universe at the time. The sequel proved even more of a tonic at the box office, earning more than its predecessor significantly, and this under pandemic conditions too. You can see now how it was paving the way for the runaway success of Spider-Man: No Way Home that Christmas, as more or less the same audience turned out for both, their interest in the Venom movie validated by the de rigueur end credits scene that whetted their appetite for what Marvel had planned next.

Meanwhile, back at this plot, star Tom Hardy and new director Andy Serkis evidently had more humour in mind for this outing, as the way it played out was as a buddy comedy had, say, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis inhabited the same body and grew just as sick of one another as they had in real life. There was plenty of comic mileage to be had for Hardy performing a double act with himself, technically a double act with a load of post-production computer graphics, but he did do the growly voice of Venom therefore that consciously schizophrenic approach that went above and beyond simply talking to yourself in an internal dialogue actually created some sparks.

Hardy had a hand in the script as well, though actress-turned-writer Kelly Marcel took care of the end result, and the characters naturally had been guided on the comic book page by writers and artists such as the divisive Todd MacFarlane, who in the nineteen-nineties had adopted a cocaine fuelled aesthetic to the medium, even if they did not indulge in the powder themselves. As if acknowledging how ludicrously pumped with testosterone these sources had been, Let There Be Carnage appeared highly amused at how pompously seriously comic antiheroes like Venom had taken themselves, and looked to take them down a peg or two with such familiar antics as accentuating the homoerotic qualities of being so focused on the macho.

There were women in this, though both heroine Michelle Williams (back as Eddie's not really interested love interest) and villainess Naomie Harris (as the grown up version of Shriek who Kasady is romantically obsessed with) were mostly around to be rescued by the men who idolised them. Whether this too was intended as a parody of the traditional tropes was less clear, actually it came across more that they were hamstrung with these characters in that they were stuck with some very hackneyed narratives impossible to break away from fully. After Kasady bites Eddie and draws blood, he becomes infected with another symbiote named, you guessed it, Carnage, who was basically Venom but red, leading to the CGI battles that every Marvel movie culminates in, but there was such self-awareness in the project, likely helped by the British involvement (all that irony!) that it breezed by with more of a sense of fun than its predecessor. For all that it was straitjacketed by the conventional, there was enough wacky about it to entertain. Music by Marco Beltrami.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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