Some relationships just don’t make sense. But they can sure be fun to watch.
In the new
rom-com superhero flick Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) has fallen on hard times. After the events of the first film, Brock has fallen on hard times. Struggling to pay the bills while living life with his frustrated (and hungry) symbiote Venom, Brock is doing everything he can to keep things together. When he is called in for an exclusive interview with serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), Brock reluctantly takes the job. However, after a freak accident transfers some of Venom’s symbiote into Kasady’s bloodstream, a new terror is unleashed upon the city. Suddenly, Eddie and Venom must decide whether or not they can put aside their differences in order to work together and defeat the villainous monster known as Carnage.
Directed by Andy Serkis, Venom: Let There Be Carnage in an energetic ball of silliness. Instead of leaning into the potential gravitas of the evil symbiote, Serkis opts to create a film solely about monster mayhem and wanton destruction. (The title Let There Be Carnage is more than just a character reference.) However, in doing so, the film seems to fight many of the major tropes of modern superhero fare. For example, clocking in at a shockingly brief 97 minutes, the film leans into its story without any extra padding. (Compare that to the next Spider-Man film which has a reported runtime of 150 minutes.) There are no long soliloquys or moments where characters contemplate what it means to be a hero. Instead, the film pushes ahead with the story quickly as it builds to the inevitable superhero brawl at the film’s climax.
What’s more, despite the darkness of the character, Serkis use Venom’s relationship with Eddie to create a bromance comedy with a surprisingly light tone. In fact, the film feels more like the campier Batman films of the 90s than it does with other entries in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite the fact that Venom speaks openly about his desire to eat people, somehow the film manages to portray the demonic force as a ‘grumpy best friend’ rather than a menacing threat to others. (At one point, Venom even attends a rave wearing glow necklaces and drops the mic after speaking onstage.)
While these may seem like criticisms, the sheer ridiculousness of the franchise makes the film an absolute blast to watch. (Dare I say, it may even be refreshing?) This is a franchise that began with the expectation of darkness but has decided to surprise audiences with something entirely different. Stars Hardy, Williams and Harrelson may best be known for their more serious dramatic work yet they seem like they’re having an absolute blast leaning into the goofiness of the film. Hardy argues with Venom about taking on ‘superhero names’ while Harrelson’s sly smirk barely hides his own madness. Even Michelle Williams speaks to Venom as though he’s some form of estranged best friend as opposed to a terrifying alien symbiote.
Underneath the laughs, this is ultimately a film about the signs of toxic relationships. Throughout the film, there are several spaces where the flaws between couples are exposed. Whether it’s Eddie and Anne, Anne and Dan, or even Cletus and Eddie, this is a film filled with duos who are struggling to keep things together. However, having said this, the best example of this may come in through Cletus and Frances as they attempt to build something, despite their issues together.
Drawn to the darkest aspects of each other, the would-be supervillain couple feed off each other’s thirst for revenge. However, despite their intense connection, their individual powers are in direct conflict with one another. With every shriek she makes, Carnage experiences pain, forcing Cletus to ask her to not use her abilities. (Incidentally, even though he cares for Frances, one could also read that as a sign of toxic masculinity where the male refuses to let his partner speak for herself.)
On the other hand, held up against the relationship between Cletus and Frances is the connection between Eddie and Venom. On the surface, the tension between host and symbiote is palpable as they want to be free from one another. However, even though they constantly bicker and fight, there’s something strangely supportive about their relationship. Whereas Eddie needs Venom’s strength and brains to find success, Venom has a difficult time finding another person that can properly host his power. For Eddie and Venom, they begin to understand the importance of the other and sacrifice their wants to make things work between them. In other words, whereas Cletus and Frances fail to find common ground, Eddie and Venom recognize that they need to humble themselves for their relationship to function in a healthy manner.
If that all sounds very strange, that’s because it is.
But, somehow, it works.
Admittedly, special features on the disc are surprisingly sparse. While outtakes and deleted scenes are expected, the disc is definitely missing a commentary by Serkis to discuss his vision. While he does offer his views in a segment entitled ‘Eddie and Venom: The Odd Couple’, it’s really limited. Even a feature entitled ‘Tangled Webs: Easter Eggs’ that may appear tantalizing for tie-ins for future films lacks meaningful content beyond the obvious teases. (Sorry, Sony. Cletus crushing an actual spider does not qualify.)
With all that being said, Venom: Let There Be Carnage may be utter madness but it also might be one of the best comedies of the year. Wild and wacky, Serkis has bizarrely created an Odd Couple-esque relationship out of one of Marvel’s more sinister villains yet hits the right notes to keep it entertaining. So, bring on another entry.
I, for one, am actually interested to see where this relationship goes.
To hear our conversation with Venom creator Todd McFarlane, click here (audio).
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is available on 4K and Blu-ray on Tuesday, December 14th, 2021.