Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a movie. That is technically undeniable. It is a story recorded by a camera, screened at a cinema. It was written, it was directed, it was performed, it was edited. These are all things that are true.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage (you have to say the full thing) follows the titular Venom, which refers to the collective being of Eddie Brock, played (emphasis on play) by Tom Hardy, and the symbiote. The symbiote wants to go out and eat people and fight crime, and Eddie Brock doesn't. That is the core of the story of this movie. It is the emotional throughline, that swings us from one point to the other, but not swinging by web because Sony doesn't have the full rights to Spider-Man. No, instead, Venom ascends buildings without the tacky fingertips we associated with Peter Parker. He climbs by digging his meaty fingers into concrete, clumsily breaking through steel and glass, chunks of stone falling onto the streets below.
I'm going to deliver this review to you in the same manner that Venom: Let There Be Carnage was delivered to me, and tell you that the prior image of Venom ungracefully lumbering up the side of a building is me crafting a metaphor for you, to illustrate the experience of watching Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
This movie starts with a flashback, which is not a sin in itself. What is sinful is casting a younger man for Woody Harrelson's character, and then also dubbing Woody Harrelson's voice over the younger actor, and not really getting it in sync. There's two types of people in the world: people who watch this scene and think, life is short, leave the cinema, and decide to commit themselves to living a fuller life and making better decisions. And then there are people like me, people who truly love nothing more than a good bad time. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a terrific bad time.
There are bad movies that are so bad that you cannot help but love them, the most iconic one being Tommy Wiseau's The Room. What makes a bad movie good? I would say two things. Firstly, it has to be earnest. That's why the Sharknado movies aren't able to tap into that same part of my brain that kicks when Tommy pets the dog in the flower shop. They are trying so desperately to be bad, just so that we pay attention, like a screaming toddler. Secondly, it has to not be boring. Most of DC's recent movies have been offensively bad. But most of them have also been incredibly boring. Justice League, whether by Whedon or Snyder, has entire sections of the film devoid of any entertainment value, not considering for a second that I, the viewer, desperately need something to point at and shout "Stupid! Movie stupid!"
Venom: Let There Be Carnage (I'm going to keep saying the whole thing) is earnest. It does not try to lean into the character's edgier side, presenting some sort of cynical take on what the hero needs to be in the modern age. Nope. Venom wants to help people, but also he wants to eat brains. Is Carnage his polar opposite, revealing something fundamental about Venom and his approach to the world? Is he Venom's mirror reflection? The yin to his yang? Nope. Carnage is just Woody Harrelson in a red wig, who wants one thing: You guessed it, it's carnage (Harrelson says it with a very hard c, bordering on a k, and he almost rolls the r, just so you get the whole picture).
The movie is also never boring. There is hardly a second where something ridiculous isn't happening, or I'm not recoiling from the prior scene's madness (I'm still suffering from whiplash from Venom's pride speech at a rave). Now let's be clear. That doesn't make the movie good. That just points to the flaws in my own lizard brain's programming and its insatiable desire for activity. If anything, we should be worried if Hollywood has indeed cracked the code on appealing to our basest instincts, knowingly engineering schlock that is designed to distract us from the real existential horrors we face. But for those 90 minutes, I was not worried. I was enthralled. It was borderline meditative. There was nothing in the universe but me and Venom: Let There Be Carnage. My zen was interrupted by the only unacceptable moment of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which is when Carnage says, you guessed it, "let there be carnage".
I started this review by stating the objective fact about Venom: Let There Be Carnage. It is technically a movie. It was made by people, who then stitched together 97 minutes of what could be called a story. What I didn't say is that there are TWO separate moments in the film that refer to Venom's toes. Based on that fact, instantly, you are going to know which camp you're in. Are you a sensible person with better things to do with your time? Are you reasonable? Are you rational? Or are you hopeless? Are you lost? Are you trying to escape? Because if you are, boy oh boy, do I have the movie for you.
(The movie is Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Just to be perfectly clear.)