Sony Pictures is back with a film that may have single-handedly killed the entire superhero genre.
What do you get when you remove the lead screenwriters from a project and replace them with the lead actor of the movie? What do you get when you lose your director and replace him with Andy Serkis? You get a film that may go down as the very worst superhero film not starring Shaquille O’Neal (and we may still have to apologize to Shaq).
The 2018 release “Venom” was not well-received by critics, but it did have some great acting by Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Jenny Slate. The film had enough charm to make it enjoyable even if it wasn’t memorable.
“Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” however, is a different beast. It’s a film that Sony Pictures wanted to use to launch its “Spider-Man Universe” but it may have turned one of Marvel’s most popular characters into a product no one is going to want to see again.
The big glowing problem with this film is the script, which was mostly written by Kelly Marcel, who was the only one of the three “Venom” writers to return for the second film. Marcel and Hardy spent months developing ideas for the film before she wrote the screenplay herself.
“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is one of the worst-written films of the year. There is no semblance of a story to be found. This film doubles down on the only thing that worked in the original, which was Hardy finding chemistry with a giant CGI parasite. This film strips any shred of character and comic interpretation from Eddie and Venom and makes them nothing more than avatars of comic relief.
Marcel takes one of Spider-Man’s greatest villains, a physically imposing bad-ass villain, and puts glow sticks on him while having him run the streets like a jaded teenager angry at his parents because she thinks that would be funny.
Somewhere in the middle of this mess there is a storyline, but you wouldn’t know it. Harrelson is the antagonist, Cletus Kasady, who is a crazy killer without any purpose. The film highlights a prison romance he built with a woman named Shriek (Naomie Harris), who controls sound by screaming like a discount Black Canary. This plot point is supposed to develop Kasady’s character, but the film doesn’t spend any time explaining their connection or why the audience should care.
Instead, we are treated to Eddie and Venom fighting like an old married couple, and when you don’t care about the protagonist’s relationship, you are going to care even less about the bad guy’s love interest.
Williams is back in a film that doesn’t need her. She reprises her role as Anne, who this time around has even less chemistry with Hardy than she did in the first movie.
The dialogue is written for the lowest common denominator. Who would have thought that the “Fifty Shades of Grey” scriptwriter couldn’t figure out how to write characters that sound and act like human beings. Sony has turned one of Spider-Man’s serious adversaries into a Disney Channel comedy act while having the audacity to tease a possible fight between the two characters in the future.
If you are a major fan Spider-Man on the big screen, perhaps this film will tickle your funny bone. But if you are expecting any level of depth or story from this, you will find a more groundbreaking plot playing Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots by yourself.
Serkis had no chance of saving this mess. “Venom: Let There be Carnage” fails because the filmmakers have no fundamental idea about any of the characters. Sony took two of its most valuable properties and ran them down into nothing more than one-note jokes. If “Venom: Let There be Carnage” isn’t the worst superhero film of 2021, it will certainly get a cash prize as the runner-up.