Length: 97 minutes
Director: Andy Serkis
Cast: Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Naomie Harris, Michelle William, Stephen Graham
In theatres from 14 October 2021 (Singapore)
3.5 out of 5 stars
Don't let the explosive, blockbuster action sequences of Venom: Let There Be Carnage fool you.
It all belies themes and emotions that are much closer to the heart, which may not be immediately obvious and covertly presented in the latest Sony-Marvel movie, that's largely chock-a-block with the usual sardonic jokes from the humorous symbiote, which were also replete in the previous installment.
The sequel follows Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, investigative journalist and very beleaguered host to a brain-eating extraterrestrial symbiote, Venom. You'd think that after all this time, they'd be best buddies already, right? Wrong.
By the way, Hardy actually also does the voice of Venom, which is quite a feat considering that their voices are really quite different.
The movie starts out with a flashback to St. Estes Orphanage, where Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) and lover Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris) are forcibly separated from each other. Barrison has mutant-like powers in the form of a sonic-banshee scream, leading to her incarceration in a sound-proof cell in the asylum-like Ravencroft Institute.
Fast forward to the present: Kasady is an unhinged serial killer, whose murders were uncovered by Brock, with a little help from his buddy Venom, thrusting his career as a journalist into the spotlight. But all hell breaks loose when somehow Kasady manages to bite into Brock in a scuffle, imbibing some of his blood and in the process inadvertently giving birth to a symbiotic offshoot, aptly named Carnage, as blood and destruction trails in its wake.
The relationship between Eddie Brock and Venom becomes even more front and centre in this sequel. As with every newly moved in couple, there will be teething issues. Brock is the hen-pecked house husband, as Venom, who is prohibited from eating human brains, complains about having to rely on consuming chickens and chocolate.
The symbiote nags at Brock constantly while haphazardly cooking, cleaning and simultaneously making a huge mess out of the apartment. Their relationship falls apart after a particularly nasty fight, and Venom literally leaves Brock by flinging itself out the window.
If this doesn't scream 'gay couple' to you, the queer subtext becomes evidently clearer as Venom leaves to find himself in the middle of a Goth rave party, casually imprinting on random strangers and lecturing to a crowd of cheering punks about acceptance and freedom of self-expression. Talk about a break-up downward spiral eh?
Venom: Let There Be Carnage seems to be all about that, in spite of itself. Underneath the flashy and protracted tongue-in-cheek Michael Bay-esque action is a softer side which addresses toxic relationships and coming out, eventually leading to a satisfying resolution of committed partnership, where two people evolve from a more parasitic relationship to a more synergistic one.
To me, Venom is a metaphor for one's inner self. For many in the LGBTQ community, we've not been able to make peace with the Venoms inside ourselves, which tend to inadvertently give birth to angry, Carnage-y offshoots to protect ourselves from the judging eyes of the general public.
We also often struggle with our inner psychological turmoil and instead resort to self-destructive habits like self-loathing (like Brock's love-hate relationship with Venom) and anger issues (Carnage, of course).
Much kudos goes to director Gollum, I mean Andy Serkis, who has clearly let Tom Hardy off the leash to do his maverick thing in Venom's sequel, which clearly worked.
All that aside, if you merely enjoy a mindless, destructive romp with awesome CGI fights, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is definitely worth catching.
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