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10-01-2021 Daily Edition September 30, 2021

Daily Edition

Scarlett Johansson, Disney Settle Explosive ‘Black Widow’ Lawsuit

Scarlett Johansson and Disney have settled a breach of contract lawsuit over the star’s Black Widow payday, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. “I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney,” stated Johansson. “I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly […]

Scarlett Johansson and Disney have settled a breach of contract lawsuit over the star’s Black Widow payday, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“I am happy to have resolved our differences with Disney,” stated Johansson. “I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together over the years and have greatly enjoyed my creative relationship with the team. I look forward to continuing our collaboration in years to come.”

Disney Studios chairman Alan Bergman added: “I’m very pleased that we have been able to come to a mutual agreement with Scarlett Johansson regarding Black Widow. We appreciate her contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and look forward to working together on a number of upcoming projects, including Disney’s Tower of Terror.”

The explosive suit, filed by the actress in July in Los Angeles Superior Court, claimed that the studio sacrificed the film’s box office potential in order to grow its fledgling Disney+ streaming service. Disney countered that Johansson was paid $20 million for the film.

The settlement brings to a close a back-and-forth PR battle that pitted the CAA-repped star against Disney and was poised to have dramatic implications for all of Hollywood’s major studios. Johansson’s cause received support in the industry, with talent and executives — including Jamie Lee Curtis, Marvel’s WandaVision star Elizabeth Olsen and mogul Jason Blum — speaking out on her behalf.

At the time of the complaint, a Disney spokesperson said, in part, “The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” CAA co-chairman Bryan Lourd shot back that Disney “shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t.”

In her complaint, Johansson said the Marvel tentpole had been guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release when she signed her deal. She alleged that her contract was breached when the film was simultaneously released on Disney+.

As the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on Hollywood over the past 18 months, Black Widow was one of many big-budget movies, also including Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984 and Disney’s Cruella and Jungle Cruise, that bowed simultaneously on streaming and in theaters. But to date, Johansson is the only major movie star to sue.

“Why would Disney forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in box office receipts by releasing the Picture in theatres at a time when it knew the theatrical market was ‘weak,’ rather than waiting a few months for that market to recover?” the complaint asked. “On information and belief, the decision to do so was made at least in part because Disney saw the opportunity to promote its flagship subscription service using the Picture and Ms. Johansson, thereby attracting new paying monthly subscribers, retaining existing ones, and establishing Disney+ as a must-have service in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”

Black Widow, which has earned $379 million at the worldwide box office to date, debuted at the same time in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access for an additional $30. But in what was viewed by rival studio executives as a major miscalculation, Disney boasted July 11 that Black Widow earned $60 million via Disney+ Premier Access, opening the door for a fierce clash. After all, Johansson had been considering litigation for several months, says a source familiar with the suit. Until the afternoon of July 28, she believed Disney would make an offer and that she wouldn’t have to file a suit. But Disney stayed in the mode of, “Let’s keep talking,” the source adds. Johansson was particularly incensed by the announcement, which pleased Wall Street but not the talent and representation community.

According to the complaint, Disney’s move “not only increased the value of Disney+, but it also intentionally saved Marvel (and thereby itself) what Marvel itself referred to as ‘very large box office bonuses’ that Marvel otherwise would have been obligated to pay Ms. Johansson.”

Johansson vs. Disney marked the latest iteration of a profit-participation dispute that is all too common in Hollywood, with actors fighting studios over their backend compensation or the definition of “net profit.” Very few of these battles percolate to the surface; they often come to a resolution before lawyers get involved, or the actor’s contract contains an arbitration provision and the whole process remains confidential. (A source familiar with Johansson’s suit says her contract does have an arbitration provision, but her lawyers were willing to test it.)

“The exception is when there’s so much money involved or if there’s a level of acrimony that has reached a point of no return, and people are going to stand on principle,” attorney James Sammataro tells THR. “That statement by Disney confirmed the latter, but it still is a shocking statement to make — to paint someone as being insensitive and playing the whole, ‘You’re so out of touch’ card. You could probably make the same argument about Disney; ‘Yeah. You’ve been generating millions, if not billions, during the pandemic.’”

In the wake of Johansson’s suit, more than a handful of other A-listers were said to be considering filing similar suits. (Jungle Cruise star Dwayne Johnson was not one of them, given that he has a different compensation structure than Johansson.) But that has not come to fruition yet. Cruella’s Emma Stone closed a deal two weeks after Johansson’s suit to star in a sequel of Disney’s live-action film, offering a sign that Disney was working to secure and mollify talent amid the charged atmosphere.

While Disney has faced criticism for its handling of talent deals during the pandemic, WarnerMedia took a different approach by proactively doling out as much as $200 million to pay a long list of stars whose Warner Bros. films were simultaneously opening in theaters and on its HBO Max streaming service, including Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot and Will Smith.

Johansson is represented by Kasowitz partner John Berlinski, while Daniel Petrocelli has been repping Disney.

Super Bowl 2022 Halftime Show: Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Snoop Dogg to Perform

“43 Grammys, 19 No. 1 Billboard albums and 5 legendary artists on the biggest stage in Los Angeles,” is how Pepsi, the NFL and Roc Nation revealed the lineup for the Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show, with a monster roster comprising Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar. The music […]

“43 Grammys, 19 No. 1 Billboard albums and 5 legendary artists on the biggest stage in Los Angeles,” is how Pepsi, the NFL and Roc Nation revealed the lineup for the Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show, with a monster roster comprising Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar.

The music superstars, joined together for the first time, will take the stage for the 12-minute spectacle inside L.A.’s SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13, with the telecast airing on NBC, Telemundo and streaming live on newly launched Peacock.

“The opportunity to perform at the Super Bowl Halftime show, and to do it in my own backyard, will be one of the biggest thrills of my career,” said Dr. Dre in a statement. “I’m grateful to Jay-Z, Roc Nation, the NFL and Pepsi as well as Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar for joining me in what will be an unforgettable cultural moment.”

It’s certainly a huge cultural moment for Los Angeles. The city is hosting the NFL championship game for the first time in nearly 30 years and will be doing it for the first time inside Inglewood’s new $5 billion, state-of-the-art SoFi stadium, which hosts home teams the L.A. Rams and Chargers. Speaking of the city, the show will be hosting three music industry greats who hail from the greater L.A. area in Dre and Lamar (Compton) and Snoop (Long Beach).

In a statement, Jay-Z singled out the trio and their hometowns, adding that “they will be joined by the lyrical genius, Eminem, and the timeless Queen, Mary J. Blige,” he added. “This is history in the making.”

The Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show telecast is being produced by DPS with Roc Nation and Jesse Collins as executive producers. Award-winning live TV helmer Hamish Hamilton is back as director. Roc Nation is also serving as the strategic entertainment advisors of the live performance. The 2022 show also marks a third year of the collaboration between Pepsi, the NFL and Roc Nation, and the Pepsi brand’s 11th year as title sponsor of the halftime show and 20th as a partner of the NFL.

“Artists like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg were at the forefront of the West Coast hip hop revolution, so to be able to bring them back to L.A., where it all began alongside Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar will prove to be an epic, unforgettable celebration of the impact hip hop has today,” said Todd Kaplan, vp of marketing for Pepsi.

As part of the collaboration around the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show, Pepsi and the NFL have partnered to support the launch of Regional School #1, a magnet high school in South L.A. that is set to open next fall as part of the L.A. Unified School District network. The high school is based on the nationally recognized USC Iovine and Young Academy, a program founded by Jimmy Iovine and Dre.

The news won’t come as a huge shock to anyone who’s been paying attention to the rumor mill these past few months, which kicked into overdrive this summer after Snoop volunteered for the gig and said that Dre, Lamar and Eminem were also available. “Hopefully the NFL will be smart and make the right decision,” he told Yahoo. “It’s in Inglewood, Calif., and it will make the most sense in the world. … It’s just a matter of the NFL pulling the trigger.” Consider it done.

Jon Stewart’s New Showrunner on “Intense” Expectations, Diversity and that “Dicks In Space” Video

Brinda Adhikari never had any intention of leaving the world of news. Not until Jon Stewart came calling, that is. Earlier this year, the ABC and CBS News veteran was tapped to run the former Daily Show host’s new current affairs series, The Problem with Jon Stewart, set to premiere Sept. 30 on Apple TV+. […]

Brinda Adhikari never had any intention of leaving the world of news. Not until Jon Stewart came calling, that is.

Earlier this year, the ABC and CBS News veteran was tapped to run the former Daily Show host’s new current affairs series, The Problem with Jon Stewart, set to premiere Sept. 30 on Apple TV+. Her most notable interaction with Stewart prior to that was as the producer of some silly weather segment that once landed on that night’s Daily Show shame reel. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is going to end up on The Daily Show,’ and it fucking did,” she recalls with a laugh.

Now, Adhikari and Stewart are in the trenches together daily mapping out the next iteration of his career, a deeper dive on issues that matter to them both. In late August, she took a break from prep to share her journey, both to and at the show.

Okay, take me back. You’re working at CBS News when you hear about a new project from Jon Stewart ….

It all happened very much by chance. I was at CBS at the time and I got word that there was a current affairs show that Jon Stewart was going to be starting up and, like so many, I was a huge fan of his. At the time, I was interested in seeing what some next steps for me could be but I never thought of anything other than traditional news because, quite honestly, news is very much its own universe and you don’t think there’s anything else outside of it. You just keep going and talking to the same people about the same opportunities. But I got word that they were interested in looking beyond just comedy, that they were looking at all different kinds of people with all different kinds of experiences, and so my name got thrown in the ring. And then I talked to Jon a couple of times, and we had some really, really good discussions and we laughed a lot, and before you know it, I’m the showrunner.

In those conversations, what did you find yourself asking Jon? What did you want to know?

A big thing for me, even more important than what the objective is of the show is, was where’s the person coming from? What are their general values? How do they see things? And with Jon, the impression is you know exactly where he’s coming from, but what was nice is he engaged me in things that I thought about news. He was challenging some of my beliefs about the importance of news, and how it can be most effective. We had a really healthy debate about it and what I left feeling from that was that he and I actually have a very similar worldview, we’re both seeking truth and we’re interested in listening to the things that make us mad or upset or sad or outraged. We’d just been approaching the “why” from a different place: he’d been using comedy and satire, and I’d been using the tools of news.

Sure.

Ironically, he and I both come from a similar daily news background, just in a different space. We both worked for 22-minute shows that reacted to breaking news every day — arguably, his was much more influential. He’d done it for almost 17 years. I’d done it for 18 years. So, in that sense, we were weirdly aligned in our professional paths, minus the 22 Emmys he had. And so it felt like, A, it’s Jon Stewart, and B, maybe we can move the conversation forward from a comedic space and from a news space with a voice like his at the helm. And these opportunities are so few and far between, and so of course I would do it.

You referenced the healthy debate you two had with regard to news. In what ways did he challenge your beliefs?

He and I had a healthy conversation about what it means to be truly objective and neutral and impartial, and whether or not there’s a difference between seeing all the facts and then going with the side where the evidence is clearest versus feeling like you are emotionally driven towards one side versus feeling like you’re just doing both sides, like, “On the one hand, and on the other.” For me, I see a lot of value in that 30-minute news program format — I still think there’s value to seeing the “what happened that day.” He and I will sometimes go back and forth on stuff like that. But what I love is that we are very much aligned on the fact that the press is a deeply, deeply important institution in this country. It plays an incredibly important role, and both of us are super invested in trying to make sure that it’s its best self. And listen, I will always be a journalist at heart. It’s who I am and how I approach life.

I remember reading your bio when you were hired — “Has worked closely with anchors such as Diane Sawyer, David Muir, Scott Pelley, Norah O’Donnell” — and I couldn’t help but think The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart would have had a really good joke about his name being added to that list.

Totally. He would have laughed so hard.

In your estimation, how different is the Jon Stewart we’ll see on this show from the one we watched for 16 years on The Daily Show?

Well, it’s interesting, I only know that him as a viewer, of course, but there’s a part of me that feels like this Jon Stewart was always there, we’re just amplifying it now. Like he says in the first episode, that 9/11 episode of The Daily Show for him was the catalyst for a type of work that he was really interested in exploring. And to me, I think labels are very limiting: news, comedy, whatever. He’s interested in doing any sort of content that sparks an emotional reaction, whether it’s outrage or upset or something else. He’s interested in hitting that visceral place. And comedy does that really well, but if somebody came away from this show not necessarily belly-laughing, I don’t think we’d view that as a failure. What we’re interested in is in putting together really good content that will spark conversations — and of course there are going to be laughs. It’s still who he is, and our head writer is a comedian. We very much want this to have that point of view, but, at the same time, these two worlds very much live in him and this show will be reflective of that.

In the premiere, Jon actually makes a few references to questions or concerns that he’s clearly heard about whether the show will be funny. He even ends the hour by joking that he’s “going to go to the table at the Comedy Cellar, and they’re going to go, ‘Ooh, look, Mother Teresa just came.’ And it’s going to be a fucking nightmare.”

What I’m learning with him is the expectation is so intense because he’s done what he’s done that at some point you have to just say, “Fuck it, we’re going to do the show that we think is great.”

I want to talk about how you approached the hiring process, and what you were ultimately looking for as you populated the office.

What was exciting was that we got to create something 100 percent from scratch. We didn’t inherit a staff. And both of us have had wonderful experiences with teams we’ve worked for [that we at least partially inherited], but it’s a crazy opportunity to be like, “Okay, you have to hire everybody.” And look, having different kinds of voices, people who look different from each other and sound different from each other, it makes a better product. It genuinely does. The conversation is more alive, people are challenging each other more, and you’re getting to decisions in a way that feels much more intentional and reflective of different realities. And Jon can speak for himself, but obviously he was a part of a show at a very different time when these kinds of things weren’t done and I think he really wanted to change that, and not in a way that that felt tokeny and aesthetic. And by the way, it’s not just racially or gender-wise — we have people coming from news, from comedy, from academics, from all different kinds of places. And the other thing is that we really wanted it to be open.

Open to applicants of all backgrounds, and not simply those with Hollywood representation, you mean?

Exactly. So much of hiring is often done through word of mouth, through you know this person who knows this person, and we wanted to see what it would be like to truly make it open. And we got a wonderful array of people. At one point, there was a truck driver who was writing comedy on the side applying. We have members of the military on staff. The blind submissions just produced an energy that was thrilling. People weren’t just doing this because it was the next thing to do; there was a genuine kind of, “I really want my shot.” And sure, it made for a lot of work because we were going through thousands of resumes but it was fun and we came out of it with this incredible team that was reflective of our vision.

You settled on eight writers, plus your head writer Chelsea Devantez. How many of them came from outside the traditional Hollywood system?

Most of them have never worked on a comedy show of any sort. A couple of them have. But it’s not like we’re just hiring writers who were at the Harvard Lampoon.

Sure. You’re tackling different topics, from the economy to vets. What does the healthy debate you referenced look like in that writers room? And to that end, is it a politically diverse room?

I’d say it’s a really thoughtful group of people who aren’t reactionary. It’s folks who’ve had experience, having worked in news or comedy or academics or somewhere else, and they’ll say, “Well, that’s an interesting point, but is that taking into account this other way of thinking?” And then we’ll have really healthy conversations about that. And quite honestly, Jon thinks like that and so do I. To me, it’s not a question of whether something is liberal or conservative, it’s what is the most satisfying way to present information and typically it’s in a complete way. At the same time, we’re also very cautious about falling into a both sides-ism trap. So, when something is happening that Jon feels or I feel or as a show we feel it really needs to be highlighted because there’s something fucked up about it, yeah, we’ll say it’s fucked up.

The first piece of material released from the show was the “Dicks in Space” parody, which was funny – but not particularly emblematic of the show you’re making. What conversations surrounded the decision to release that when you did? And did you have any concerns, which is probably too strong a word, about viewers coming to the show expecting more of that tone?

That decision was purely based on an opportunity that was too good to pass up, which is that Jeff Bezos was going up in space. And we had made this thing because we knew he was going up, but we didn’t know Richard Branson was going to beat him to it and we didn’t know that he’d be wearing a cowboy hat. So, the thing that we were parodying was becoming reality and we were just like, how do we sit on this for a month? We can’t. It was kismet.

I know you have to get back to work. What’s the only thing I have not asked that I should have?

The podcast! It’s something that we’re really excited about because it’s a chance for that more conversational Jon, who can maybe be a little bit more topical and also continue the conversation that the show starts. And we’re going to be using staff members on it, too. As you see in the episodes, we’re sort of tearing down that wall and letting people into our process a little bit on the show, and that’s something that folks can expect on the podcast, too. Also, our writers are so fucking funny, and their chemistry with Jon is off the chain.

FX’s ‘Shogun’ Update Sets Full Cast

FX has unveiled the full cast for its updated take on James Clavell’s Shōgun. The limited series, which the cabler ordered back in 2018, will star Hiroyuki Sanada (Army of the Dead, Lost), Anna Sawai (F9, Apple’s upcoming Pachinko) and Cosmo Jarvis (Raised by Wolves). The ensemble will also feature Tadanobu Asano, Fumi Nikaido, Tokuma […]

FX has unveiled the full cast for its updated take on James Clavell’s Shōgun.

The limited series, which the cabler ordered back in 2018, will star Hiroyuki Sanada (Army of the Dead, Lost), Anna Sawai (F9, Apple’s upcoming Pachinko) and Cosmo Jarvis (Raised by Wolves). The ensemble will also feature Tadanobu Asano, Fumi Nikaido, Tokuma Nishioka, Takehiro Hira, Ako, Shinnosuke Abe, Yasunari Takeshima, Hiroto Kanai, Toshi Toda, Hiro Kanagawa, Néstor Carbonell, Yuki Kura, Tommy Bastow, Moeka Hoshi, Yoriko Doguchi and Yuka Kouri.

Production on the show has begun in Vancouver. FX hasn’t set a premiere date.

Shōgun was previously adapted for a 1980 miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain, which told the story mostly through the eyes of his character, an English sailor named John Blackthorne. In discussing the series order in 2018, FX Networks chief John Landgraf said the new version would explore “a whole lot of point of view that was omitted from the original series because it was thought at that time that American audiences wouldn’t want to see the story from the Japanese point of view. And now, I think you have to tell the story from the Japanese as well as Western point of view.”

Sanada will play Yoshii Toranaga, a powerful daimyo (lord) from a feared lineage but someone who is isolated and outnumbered by his enemies in Osaka Castle as the series begins. However, he’s a brilliant strategist and master of the long game.

Jarvis will play Blackthorne, an English pilot major whose mission is to find a path to the Pacific islands and disrupt Spanish and Portuguese interests in Japan. His ship washes ashore in Toranaga’s territory, and the daimyo becomes both his captor and spiritual mentor.

Sawai plays Lady Mariko, the revered daughter of an infamous samurai traitor, whom Toranaga enlists to avenge her father’s death.

Asano plays Kashigi Yabushige; Nikaido plays Ochiba No Kata; Nishioka plays Toda Hiromatsu; Hira plays Ishido Kazunari; Ako plays Daiyoin “Lady Iyo”; Abe plays Toda Hiroshige “Buntaro”; Takeshima plays Muraji; Kanai plays Koshigi Omi; Toda plays Sugiyama; Kanagawa plays Igarashi; Carbonell plays Rodrigues; Kura plays Yoshii Nagakado; Bastow plays Father Martin Alvito; Hoshi plays Usami Fuji; Doguchi plays Kiri no Kata; and Kouri plays Kitu.

Shōgun is from FX Productions. Justin Marks (Counterpart) executive produces with Michaela Clavell (the author’s daughter), Michael De Luca and Ed McDonnell. Marks and co-EP Rachel Kondo co-wrote the first two episodes. Shannon Goss, Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich are also co-exec producers; Jonathan van Tulleken (Hulu’s Reprisal, Amazon’s Upload) will direct and co-exec produce the first two episodes.

Sanada is repped by CAA, Lighthouse Entertainment and Sheppard; Sawai by United Agents, WME, Zero Gravity and Felker Toczek; Jarvis by UTA, The Artists Partnership in the U.K. and Morris Yorn; Asano by Slush and ICM Partners; Nikaido by Atsuko Koibuchi and Sony Music Artists; Nishioka by Takabumi Uno and enchante, Inc.; Hira by ICM Partners; Ako by Wolf Talent Group; Abe by Rena Takiguchi and Stardust Promotion, Inc.; Takeshima by Hiroko Kitano, Polarstar Co., Ltd.; Toda by The Levin Agency and Sheer Talent Management LLC; Kanagawa by Carrier Talent Management (Vancouver) and Luber Roklin Entertainment; Carbonell by APA, Thruline and Felker Toczek; Bastow by United Agents, manager Christina Gualazzi and Goodman Genow; and van Tulleken by WME, Grandview and Independent.

Regé-Jean Page to Star in Netflix Heist Film From Noah Hawley and The Russo Bros.

After becoming a global star with Netflix’s Bridgerton, Regé-Jean Page is staying in business with the streaming service for a new heist thriller. The untitled project hails from writer-director Noah Hawley, the prolific TV creator known for Fargo and Legion. Hawley will produce via his 26 Keys alongside AGBO’s Joe and Anthony Russo and Mike […]

After becoming a global star with Netflix’s Bridgerton, Regé-Jean Page is staying in business with the streaming service for a new heist thriller.

The untitled project hails from writer-director Noah Hawley, the prolific TV creator known for Fargo and Legion. Hawley will produce via his 26 Keys alongside AGBO’s Joe and Anthony Russo and Mike Larocca. Page will executive produce with Angela Russo-Otstot. Plot details are being kept locked in the safe, but comes from an original idea from Hawley.

The project reteams Page with The Russo Bros., who recently directed him in Chris Evans’ and Ryan Gosling’s upcoming The Gray Man for Netflix. The Russos are currently producing a sequel to Extraction, the 2020 Chris Hemsworth action film that Netflix has touted as its most-watched original film ever.

“AGBO was originally founded to allow us to collaborate with artists we greatly respect and admire. We are very happy to continue to fulfill that pledge by supporting this new film from Noah Hawley and Regé-Jean Page,” said AGBO’s Larocca in a statement.

In addition to his work on television, Hawley directed the feature Lucy in the Sky, and has his sixth novel, Anthem, due out Jan. 18, 2022.

Page became a breakout star with Bridgerton, and quickly rose to become one of Hollywood’s most sought after actors. He has a role in the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons film for Paramount, and will also lead the studio’s The Saint reboot.

Page is repped by CAA, Mosaic, The Artists Partnership for UK representation and attorney Greg Slewett. Hawley is repped by CAA and McKuin Frankel Whitehead. The Russos are repped by CAA and Greenberg Glusker.

‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’: Film Review

Woody Harrelson joins Tom Hardy in Andy Serkis’ Marvel sequel, and is given an alter ego even more violent than Hardy’s Venom.

How do you make a place in a world of heroes for a monster with a taste for human brains? In the case of Venom, Marvel’s answer seems to be: Make him funny, and let him fight monsters who are even more homicidal than he is. Thus does Andy SerkisVenom: Let There Be Carnage, the second feature for a character who could have been a true Deadpool-like outsider, make its subject look like little more than a Marvel Universe stepchild; he’s doomed to inhabit stories structured just like the Avengers’ — until Disney’s synergistic needs demand that he actually cross over into their saga.

Penned by star Tom Hardy and longtime collaborator Kelly Marcel, the film does develop the chemistry between the titular alien and the human he’s forced to inhabit while inside Earth’s atmosphere. But the distinctiveness of this buddy-movie bond is often drowned out by giant set pieces of CG mayhem that feel exactly like those found in the good guys’ movies. Though it will please most fans of the 2018 first installment, Carnage proves that superhero fatigue applies to nonheroes as well.

Hardy’s Eddie Brock, crusading San Francisco reporter, is basically where we left him in the last film: His career has rebounded, his relationship with onetime fiancée Anne (Michelle Williams) is still dead, and he’s got a killer inside him. His body hosts a symbiotic alien, Venom, who can either lurk invisibly and growl at Eddie in a voice only he can hear, or turn Eddie into a slithery giant with tentacles, fangs and superhuman strength. Either way, the monster needs nourishment. Though his preferred food is brains, he can survive on chocolate and live chickens; much of the script’s comedy derives from Eddie’s attempts to keep Venom on a diet.

When Brock has an opportunity to interview convicted serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), it’s all Eddie can do to keep Venom from eating the resentful Detective Mulligan (Stephen Graham), who chaperones his visit. But Venom’s the one who gets chomped: Kasady bites Eddie, and somehow a little bit of that symbiotic alien material enters his bloodstream. Later, when the death row inmate lies in the execution chamber, that material mixes with lethal-injection chemicals to transform Kasady into Carnage, a red beast who leaves San Quentin looking like a tornado hit it.

This transformation happens while Eddie and Venom have other things on their minds. Bickering over the incompatibility of their lifestyles (to put it mildly), the two get into a physical fight that leaves Eddie’s place totally wrecked. Venom flees Eddie’s body, leaping into the night from one unsuspecting stranger’s body to the next, while Eddie does what one expects in a movie co-produced by Sony: He buys a replacement for his giant TV, and leaves the box in the middle of the room where we can’t miss the logo. (Hammering the product placement home, a visitor will soon compliment him on his “nice TV.”)

While Venom has a comic misadventure or two, Carnage lives up to his name. Kasady uses his new powers to reunite with his long-lost love, a mutant he knew as a teenager in reform school: Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris), who will be known as Shriek when she someday crosses paths with Spider-Man, has the power to destroy things with high-pitched wails and has been locked for years in a soundproof prison cell. When set free, she’s just as ready to break things as her boyfriend.

The couple’s spree ends at Grace Cathedral, where they intend to get married. But matrimony is just the pic’s excuse for the usual woman-in-peril business: Not having gotten herself out of danger by breaking up with Eddie, Anne is now the bait drawing him and Venom to a giant battle with Carnage. Anne, if you survive this, please delete Eddie’s number from your phone and block him on social media. Michelle Williams is too talented to be stuck with this sidekick/hostage stuff.

There’s nothing wrong with that climactic battle, but the best thing you can say about the action in Carnage is that it doesn’t stretch the film past the hour-and-a-half mark. That’s not counting the credits and inevitable hidden-scene coda, which teases a return to Venom’s roots. The previous Spider-Man film featuring Venom (from 2007) is the worst of the webslinger’s big-screen outings to date. Here’s hoping things go better — or at least go badly in a more entertaining way — the next time they cross paths.