ST. LOUIS — If you wish to watch a confused and bored Tom Hardy argue with himself for 96 minutes, then "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is right up your alley. For the people who like good movies, I would suggest you bypass this one.
Like the original, this sequel is tedious, not that funny, overly silly, and doesn't really have a reason to exist until the mid-credits sequence after the movie is over. There's a new villain in town inhabited by Woody Harrelson's Cletus Kasiday (see the title for his comic book name) who has a fascination with Hardy's Eddie Brock, whose alter ego name is also in the title. Venom vs. Carnage is what the movie was billed as, but let me assure you that's not the focus of this film.
The focus rests on the shoulders of Hardy, which would usually be a great thing, except here the script he has in his hands is absolute trash. A series of very odd interactions in Brock's just-rugged-looking-enough apartment, where he experiences countless battles of will between himself and Venom, the flesh-eating yet witty monster that has invaded his body and life. Do you know what happens next? More aloof Hardy arguing with himself!
But there's plenty of window dressing, even if it's useless in the end. There's Michelle Williams playing a throwaway role and acting nearly as confused as Hardy every time she's on screen as Brock's ex. There's Stephen Graham (wonderful as Al Capone on "Boardwalk Empire") slumming it as a cop on the trail of both leads. There's Naomie Harris standing there in an underwritten role. Nobody makes a dent here with their character, which makes the entire film one extra-long sludge, because you don't care about anyone!
This one is not better than the original; it's actually worse. Back when "Venom" hit theaters a few years ago, I was excited to see such a celebrated and ingenious actor in Hardy take on such a well-known comic role. When that film underwhelmed considerably but performed very well at the box office, a sequel was inevitable. One would have to go in thinking this one should be better, right? Wrong, and it's all in the poor script. Kelly Marcel's script isn't as cool and irreverent as it thinks it is.
Andy Serkis shows little finesse here as a director, showing not even a resemblance of a fingerprint on this film (maybe Sony is promising him an indie project later). I would have much rather had him in the movie instead of in the director's chair here, because he could have at least delivered a jolt of energy to the doldrums of this production.
The script covers much of the same ground from the first film. Eddie is still not used to having a psychotic, human-eating standup comic wannabe in his life (who would be?!), but he somehow has good relations with the cops. Harrelson's Cletus is set for execution, but we all know that won't happen. A fight will eventually take place. A certain person will win. Blah, blah. Knowing all of this isn't the real problem; seeing it portrayed so loose and campy is what makes this one drift instead of entertain.
There's simply nothing really interesting about "Venom: Let There Be Carnage," except for Harrelson's distracting wigs. While I admire all attempts to hide inside a character, a bad wig can really throw the scene into disarray. You can't focus on the tension between Eddie and Cletus during their scenes, because you're making imaginary evil eyes at the person whose one job was to make Woody's hair seem less awful. That didn't happen.
What's good about this movie? The running time. After the longest and most monotonous 96 minutes, the movie was over. In case you missed it earlier in my review, stick around for the credits teaser. It's more worthy than anything that came before it. What should be a lightning rod online for comic book and movie geeks is really a lifeline for a not-that-interesting series of films.
"Venom" is 0-2 at the plate with their movies. Maybe Sony should finally let Marvel take over and actually produce a good movie. Just a thought.