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Venom Let There Be Carnage sees Tom Hardy and his symbiote embrace comedy and queer subtext

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Although he was looked down upon by critics who wouldn’t know the right time if he arrived from a distant galaxy and took possession of their bodies, the first Venom (2018) was a pleasantly rowdy trash, comic book movie that felt like a throwback to a time before Christopher Nolan and the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the whole genre taking themselves so seriously.

It was chaotic and more than a little rude, even though the demonic alien symbiote that became attached to star Tom Hardy turned out to have a big old sweet side.

In the spirit of its predecessor, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is an old-fashioned sequel: less inspired and essentially more identical and largely indifferent to the demands of the contemporary superhero model. (At least until the inevitable post-credits moment that makes the whole thing look eerily like an excuse to bring the characters into a larger franchise.)

A dark haired man in a black and gray jacket walks towards something menacing outside with a flashlight in his hand.
Tom Hardy, pictured, has story by credit on the film alongside British screenwriter Kelly Marcel and is also a producer.(Supplied: Sony)

You will remember from the previous movie that the interstellar castaway Venom, the adorable shapeshifter slime that looks like a cross between a luchador, a killer whale and HR Giger’s alien took possession of Hardy’s hapless investigative reporter Eddie Brock, establishing a kind of wobbly cohabitation born of a mutual need.

“You live in my body, you live by my rules,” warns his unpredictable guest Eddie, whose frustration with his host’s human physical and ethical limitations continues to be a source of funny, slapstick comedy.

This odd couple has settled into a more or less secret existence, with carnivore Venom promising not to eat people and Eddie giving them a diet of chocolate and chickens, a menu that Venom, understandably, has become irritated by.

But that’s about to be the least of their problems when the larger-than-life serial killer Cletus Kasady Woody Harrelson, teased at the end of the first movie, sends Eddie an invitation to interview him in the prison where he awaits his execution. Turns out Eddie helped put him there, and Cletus is determined to make the reporter pay.

The man with short blond hair and blue eyes wears a blue prison outfit and looks behind metal bars.
Serkis told Screenrant, “It was a golden opportunity to play in an environment where you have these marginal, dysfunctional, messed up characters.”(Supplied: Sony)

Cletus takes a bite of Eddie and Venom’s flesh, transforming into his own evil alien symbiote, Carnage, a crimson tentacle monster who escapes from prison and sets out to devastate the city.

In exchange for his reign of terror, Carnage agrees to help Cletus save his former girlfriend, Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris), aka the villainous manipulator of her Shriek from the asylum where she has languished since the mid-90s.

He also appears to kick off a performance of then-era Woody Harrelson, complete with a ridiculous wig, Vegas handbag outfit, and a stolen cherry red convertible Mustang in which Cletus and Frances roam the streets of San Francisco.

It’s a comically minimal plot, which barely pushes the film over its 97-minute runtime, but, again, Hardy voicing Venom as a deranged but needy alter ego proves there’s a lot of fun in have with that split personality, and even a touch of soul.

A muscular, slimy black monster with razor-sharp teeth and many jagged sword-shaped arms pins a man in a cap and jacket to a wall.
“The principal objective [is]: Can I make Eddie Brock and Venom an established Marvel superhero? ”Hardy told Esquire of the first Venom movie.(Supplied: Sony)

The comedy is less surprising than in the first film, where the gruff and obnoxious Venom wrestled with Eddie’s reporter like a comic-book Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin in All of Me (1984) mingled with Vincent D”s indelible performance. Onofrio in Men in Noir (1997).

There’s nothing here as funny as the moment in the previous movie when a sweaty, paranoid Eddie went on a rampage at a fancy seafood restaurant to munch on live lobsters at Venom’s behest.

Instead, the war of occupation of the body has given way to the fun, sometimes tender bickering of an old married couple, where the film seems less preoccupied with a duel between the Id and the ego than the trials of a domestic partnership or just learning to love the many sides of yourself.

In one scene, Venom, detached from Eddie’s body, hosts a Halloween costume party at a dance club, where dressed in luminous hoops like floral necklaces, he turns the mic away from the stage and delivers a breezy outing, but no less sincere. “speech.

“I came out of Eddie’s closet,” he said in tears, to the approving but somewhat baffled cheers of the gathered club crowd, who might as well be the substitutes for the club. online fandom that “shipped” Venom and Eddie in the wake of the first film. (At one point, the sequel would even be called Venom: love will tear us apart.)

It is this kind of comedy that gives the film, like the first, its personality, where scenes which seem conceived as throwaway gags carry as much weight as the ostensible and always less interesting affair of advancing the overall plot.

A dark haired man in the black leather jacket sits across from a woman with long blond hair and a patterned black shirt at the dining room.
“[Eddie and Venom] have very different ideas about the world and rub shoulders with each other in a very small apartment, ”Hardy told The AV Club.(Supplied: Sony)

Director Andy Serkis, replacing Ruben Fleischer, knows a thing or two about orchestrating computer-generated action: warfare symbioses a dynamic mix of flesh and fantasy.

Cinematographer Robert Richardson (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; Natural Born Killers), meanwhile, captures the city with sullen, luscious delight.

Serkis and Richardson give the film’s climactic confrontation atop an Expressionist-lit church a Gothic, Burton-Batman vibe, another reminder that this is a film that could have been released in 1997 when the co – Venom creator Todd McFarlane, Spawn has terrorized cinemas with his unholy rocktronica. soundtrack and Mad Evil Clowns (a cinematic nightmare that sometimes feels like a fond memory in the MCU’s busy moment landscape).

In keeping with the film’s presumably youthful tenure, CGI’s bombastic clashes are undermined by the fighters’ reliable and rude mouths, their ability to transform into a giant middle finger, and their generally sticky physique, which resembles a mischievous alien parody of Body worlds.

A slimy dark red monster with razor sharp teeth, large insect-like white eyes and many jagged sword-like arms, a threatening smile.
The film’s release has been postponed for a year due to COVID-19.(Supplied: Sony)

Hardy, who co-wrote the story with returning screenwriter Kelly Marcel, clearly enjoys his knockabout monster, playing on the dissonance between Eddie’s nebulous chatter and Venom’s bellowing non-sequences.

Venom’s dedication to reuniting Eddie with his true love beard, Anne Weying Michelle Williams, returning with a sporty straight face leads to some of the film’s funniest moments, where otherwise sappy emotional advice takes on an eerie intensity coming from ‘a seven foot oil spill with the tenor of a heavy metal singer.

It’s actually rich enough ground that you wondered if the movie could have been a little smarter until you realized that making Venom “mean something” would just ruin its rambling qualities.

With all the tedious world-building, cynical plays on diversity, and the generally inflated sense of cultural significance of the superhero genre, sometimes it’s a relief to sit down and experience something. smart enough to play totally stupid.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is in theaters November 25.

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