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‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ Movie Review: Abbreviated Action


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Tom Hardy returns as the titular hero in a shorter sequel to the 2018 blockbuster

 

When a movie is notably short for its genre, it can be a sign that the elements have been honed to perfection (the best example being “Dr. Strangelove,” which runs 95 minutes) or that the filmmakers couldn’t work up enough material to make it longer. The latter would seem to be the case with Marvel’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” a less-than-100-minute follow-up, playing in theaters, to the 2018 “Venom,” which, clocking in at 112 minutes, was on the short side for a superhero epic to being with.

In that one Tom Hardy played a hapless TV reporter, Eddie Brock, who becomes an unwilling host to an alien protector called Venom, a tentacled symbiote with uncouth habits and a subwoofer voice. Eddie and his alter ego are back in the sequel, which is silly and chaotic. Yet the wonder of it all is that the silliness and chaos won’t matter in the slightest to young, mostly male moviegoers who have been waiting eagerly for the much-delayed film to arrive. (And for news of whether, in the era of crossover comic-book heroes, Spider-Man will be in it—on that count my lips are sealed.) 

The original “Venom” was trashed by critics and triumphed at the box office. The same outcome is in store for its successor, which takes itself as unseriously as possible—a liberating aesthetic, all things considered—and brings a menacing but generally reserved Woody Harrelson under the gaudy tent as Cletus Kasady, a serial killer with a previous connection to Eddie. Kasady has a symbiote of his own, a particularly vengeful creature called—how did you guess it?—Carnage, and an enduring passion for Naomie Harris’s Frances Barrison/Shriek, a madwoman with the ability to manipulate sound.

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Tom Hardy stars as Eddie Brock/Venom

Photo: Sony Pictures

To its perverse credit, “Venom 2,” as it’s being called, manipulates its audience with all the tentacles it can deploy, most of them cheerfully ridiculous, although a climactic battle between Venom and Carnage is the dreariest face-off since the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel duked it out in Zack Snyder’s 2016 “Batman v Superman : Dawn of Justice.” Michelle Williams has also returned, giving herself radiantly—that’s authentic heroism of an unsung kind—to the role of Anne Weying, Eddie’s on-again-off-again love interest and ally. For better or worse Eddie remains an antic nebbish, while Venom huffs and puffs with unquenchable indignation at the sorry state of the human world. He’s the H.L. Mencken of symbiotes.

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