Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Venom: Let There Be Carnage ★★½

Is the crazed “The Incredible Hulk by way of All of Me” energy of the Venom films a welcome change of pace from the cookie-cutter professionalism of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies? Sure—but that’s not exactly the same thing as saying they’re “good” movies. Tom Hardy returns as Eddie Brock, the San Francisco reporter inhabited by an symbiotic alien consciousness, and who inadvertently creates a rival beast called Carnage when serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) gets a taste of his infected blood. It’s hard not to recognize you’re in the presence of something unique once Hardy and Harrelson begin engaging in a performance twitch-off for the ages, the screen barely able to contain their twisted line readings. And that’s decent fun for a while, especially in a 90-minute narrative that treats extraneous exposition like … well, like an unwelcome alien symbiote. Eventually, though, it’s all going to come down to a massive showdown between our two monsters, and director Andy Serkis—experienced though the Gollum actor might be at understanding tormented split psyches, his action beats can’t wrestle anything interesting out of the crash-bang-boom. As long as Let There Be Carnage focuses on Eddie/Venom as a bickering old couple, it at least weirdly amusing in a way that yet another comic-book grand finale seems incapable of delivering.