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“I’ve been thinking about you, Eddie.” The same can be said for fans who have been anticipating footage from the Venom sequel since rumors circulated of a Super Bowl spot. Chaos reigns in the first trailer for Sony Pictures’ Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the follow-up to the 2018 hit, Venom, which kicked off Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters. Director Andy Serkis reunites Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Woody Harrelson, who appeared during the first film’s mid-credits scene, for a film that will see Eddie Brock/Venom face-off against his greatest comic book nemesis, Cletus Kasady/Carnage.
While the presence of Carnage does signify a bigger threat for Brock and Venom, it’s clear from the trailer that the elements that made the first film work so well for audiences, and gross $856 million worldwide, have not been scrapped in favor of delivering a sequel that sacrifices its humor in favor of grim realism. Venom: Let There Be Carnage, due out Sept. 24, has all the promise of being just as unconventional in its tone as the first, while also raising the stakes in ways that should please both comic book fans and general audiences.
One of the most pleasantly surprising elements of the first film was its tone, one that played with buddy-cop and rom-com conventions, with Sony even releasing a Blu-ray teaser paying homage to later. Venom is also a film that wears its love for ’90s Venom comics on its sleeve, and the same seems to be true for its sequel, which sees Kelly Marcel return as screenwriter. As much as the character Venom is considered to be a reflection of the “cool” and “edgy” era that defined so many ’90s comics, there’s plenty of silliness to go around. Yeah, Venom hunted down Spider-Man on an island and gave poor Mary-Jane no shortage of nightmares, but he also sang show tunes and had an insatiable love for chocolate, two elements present in the latest trailer that sees Eddie and Venom living out an Odd Couple-esque domestic comedy of errors to the tune of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.”
Andy Serkis may have seemed like an odd choice to some when he was first announced as the director, but if there’s anyone who knows how to let loose with a character, while pushing motion capture to the next level, it’s Serkis. And although he’s certainly better known as an actor than a director, Serkis’ experience as a second-unit director on Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films certainly proves he can deliver action sequences fans of the genre have come to expect. Along with his direction on Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018), which was unfortunately lost in the shuffle after being moved to Netflix, Serkis has proven to be a filmmaker who knows when to be reverential to the source material and when to take advantage of the freedom a new medium can provide.
There is a refreshing lack of self-consciousness to the trailer for Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the same factor that made Tom Hardy climbing into a lobster tank and biting one of the crustacean’s heads off in the first film such a highlight. Venom: Let There Carnage knows it’s silly, and owns that factor with confidence, while, based on this trailer, still approaching the threats with gravity and emotional sincerity. Venom: Let There Be Carnage looks to be a showcase of Hardy and Harrelson’s range, with the actors portraying their human characters and symbiote counterparts. While other comic book adaptations work so hard to convince audiences they should be taken entirely seriously at every moment, Venom: Let There Be Carnage aims for high camp. It’s not that one way is wrong and the other right, or a case of “either, either” to quote Miss Fitzgerald. Rather, it’s important to recognize what a film is aiming to be and appreciate that there’s room for both, and everything in between. After all, as Three Dog Night sings in the trailer, “one is the loneliest number.”
Eddie Brock’s life is certainly getting less lonely in the sequel. If Brock is attempting to be a better human with the help of his symbiote, the unhinged Cletus Kasady will only become worse through his. Still, as perhaps the only two people in the world who share the experience of living with a symbiote, it will be interesting to see how the relationship between the two men and their symbiotic counterparts evolve. Harrelson, who may be taking the opportunity to riff on his psychotic Natural Born Killers (1994) character, Mickey Knox, certainly seems primed to match Tom Hardy’s energy with both actors chewing scenery and appearing to have the time of their lives. And Kasady’s bringing another character familiar to comic readers with him, Shriek (Naomi Harris), whose escape from Ravencroft Institute may plant the seeds for a bigger story down the line: Maximum Carnage. Add in Stephen Graham’s Patrick Mulligan, who becomes Toxin in the comics, and there’s a lot of territory left to explore in this symbiote saga.
While a Venom film without the Spider-Man connection may have seemed like an odd choice when initially announced, it’s clear that the character can certainly thrive on his own without certain tonal limits associated other characters, which is the beauty of the comics as well. Venom can be explored as a one-man reckoning with his suicidal impulses in the face of cosmic existentialism and fatherhood, as writer Donny Cates has tackled in his phenomenal Venom run, which wraps in June, or it can be about the struggles of finding a decent meal when there’s an alien parasite living inside you. Venom, much like the symbiote that makes up his being, is elastic and flexible and Venom: Let There Be Carnage looks to allow the contemporary superhero film to stretch itself even more.
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