Now that studios are getting more comfortable with releasing films in theaters, we are about to witness a flood of blockbuster releases in the next 3 months. Venom: Let There be Carnage, the sequel to the 2018 hit, was originally scheduled for release on October 15, 2021. However, the success of Shang Chi prompted Sony to move up the release of Andy Serkis’ sequel by two weeks to arrive on October 1st.
The first Venom was a massive hit, grossing over $800 million worldwide, 75% of which came internationally. The film further proved you can release a blockbuster any month of the year, as it smashed October box office records while joining films such as Deadpool and Black Panther as movies that far outperformed the historical value of their month of release.
The movie garnered wildly different reactions from critics and audiences. Critics felt that the script lacked drama and excitement, but audiences responded to the unique bromance shared by Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and his symbiotic companion. These losers turned vigilantes resonated with audiences. In looking at the original, while the central dynamic between the two main characters is fun, the film’s conflict (which leads to a battle with the baddie Riot) isn’t all that compelling.
I believe one of the biggest issues with the first Venom is the lack of a worthy adversary for the title character, a common issue with origin movies. No disrespect to Riz Ahmed, bless his heart, he has certainly picked better roles. But his turn as Carlton Drake pretty much came off as a bland retread of the same “CEO has ruthless goals no matter the human cost” we’ve seen a thousand times, and Ahmed is not the type of actor that fits that role. Famously, during a mid-credits scene for the original, we were introduced to Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady, the psychotic serial killer who, in the comics, is destined to absorb the symbiote known as Carnage.
It wasn’t exactly an outstanding first impression. Beyond the fact that Harrelson looked like Bob Ross had a love child with Ronald McDonald, his portrayal was a little too manic and phony. I’m not saying “do Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecture, but on crack!” was the direction Harrelson was given, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Thankfully, Sony had time to retool the character into someone who can be taken seriously as an antagonist rather than a parody of someone suffering from insanity. In the trailers that have been released for the sequel, the ridiculous wig is gone, and Harrelson’s performance appears to be much more focused.
The story’s conflict appears to be that the Venom symbiote desires vengeance on the criminals of the world, while Brock attempts to keep Venom in check. Kasady and Carnage will show Venom the extreme effects of ill-fated bloodlust, which will perhaps evolve Venom into a more heroic figure.
But divorced from the film’s potential narrative devices, exists speculation about the future of the franchise. Promos from the film feature a tease that “The Universe is Expanding.” Rumors and potential leaks are running rampant about what the mid and post-credit scenes may be. This, of course, is all happening in the aftermath of Spider-Man: No Way Home crushing the internet with its latest trailer. There’s a desire to see Venom crossover with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, which in turn will introduce the anti-hero to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As of this writing, these are just rumors and I have no intention of reading these supposed “leaks.” I hope most fans follow suit, and just enjoy the ride instead of scrounging the internet for details that may not even be relevant once the movie hits theaters.
In the meantime, we should enjoy watching Tom Hardy match acting talents with Woody Harrelson. That, perhaps, will be even more entertaining than the CGI slugfest. Where all of this will lead, on a franchise level, seems inevitable when you consider how Venom has proved itself at the box office. This is the multiverse, after all, which means the sky is the limit.
Venom: Let There be Carnage hits theaters and iMAX, worldwide, on October 1st.