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The honeymoon phase is over. Now that the cutie meet between disgraced reporter Eddie Brock (Tom hardy) and the disgraced alien Venom got behind them, cohabitation turns out to be trickier than expected. Add a child of illegitimate love, and Venom: let there be carnage ends up serving as a violent, sloppy but entertaining battle through couple counseling for the couple.

Eddie’s career is slowly improving thanks to his overpowered symbiote, who helps him solve a cold decades-old case related to serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody harrelson). But Eddie has Venom-style cramps and the two have engagement issues that lead to constant bickering, ultimately culminating in domestic violence. This leaves both vulnerable when Kasady escapes from death row after transforming into Carnage. Kasady’s first stop is to spring the lost love Shriek (Naomie harris) from his padded cell before aiming for revenge.

Written by Kelly marcel (Cruella, Fifty Shades of Gray) from a story by Hardy, Let there be carnage leans hard on the odd couple from the previous entry. Almost everything else falls in the background or by the wayside; it’s a romantic comedy in disguise. Eddie and Brock get into a fight, go their separate ways, and must learn to work through their differences once the child they unwittingly gives birth turns out to be a homicidal maniac with daddy issues. Eddie has always had engagement issues, but for the good symbiote and the help of his ex Anne (Michelle williams), well, Eddie finds his personal growth in chaos.

Director Andy Serkis hits the ground running and doesn’t stop during the quick 90-minute runtime. It’s the perfect runtime for a romantic comedy, but as a superhero movie it gets sloppy. Let there be carnage ends up looking more like an abridged version of the long-awaited cinematic showdown of Carnage and Venom, with chunks of history excised for action. It’s Shriek who hurts the most. Harris attempts to inject wild psychotic energy into her character, but there is nothing in the script for her to take hold of. Shriek finds himself relegated to the plot role meant to highlight how big a crowd three is in his doomed romance. She has a grudge against the officer that led to her capture, but that too is flown over. Shriek’s inclusion ends up landing with a thud.

The PG-13 sanitizes the action a little. Carnage accumulates quite a bit of body, Venom to a much lesser extent, but it’s never as satisfying as it should be. Serkis tries to get around the limitations with plenty of blasts or quick cuts, but it’s hard not to miss the lost potential. A medium credit scene serves as the required teasing but also perhaps explains the reduced rating.

Comic book fans hoping this would be the battle for the ages will likely be disappointed. It’s a quick and dirty brawl that ends cleanly. For those linked to the unusual bond between Eddie and Venom, the sequel devotes its entire identity to this aspect. It’s a sloppy entry into the superhero kitchen, but it’s hard not to be charmed by Venom trying to cheer his host up with a lavish breakfast and pep talk. Or a dose of self-esteem and acceptance in the form of a micro confessional at a costume party. If you’re in the silly mood, this sequel nails it. But for an epic monster showdown, it lacks bite.

Venom: let there be carnage releases October 1, 2021.

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