*. More CGI sludge from Marvel. I wish I could be more upbeat about this one, but that’s all it is.
*. As I said in my notes on Venom (which also left me underwhelmed), the character of the dark alien symbiote has potential. But it’s still left undeveloped. Tom Hardy plays journalist Eddie Brock without the scruffy charm of a Ryan Reynolds or Paul Rudd. He just doesn’t seem a good fit for a project like this because while the material might be a bit darker than usual, it’s still an action comedy, a buddy movie where the buddies inhabit the same body.
*. The core of the film should be the bickering between Eddie and Venom, who are often made out to be an odd couple heading for a divorce even though they need each other. But their back-and-forth just isn’t fresh or funny.
*. Meanwhile, the villains are another poorly matched pair. First there’s Woody Harrelson as Cletus, a redneck serial killer on death row who gets infected by the symbiote when he bites Eddie. Which I guess isn’t quite as silly as Peter Parker being bitten by a radioactive spider, but it’s right up there. Somehow the symbiote turns Cletus into a far more powerful creature than Venom named Carnage. Then, playing Harley Quinn to Carnage’s Joker is Naomie Harris as Shriek, a bad girl who can scream really loud. Since the symbiotes can’t stand loud noises this would seem to make them incompatible, but love may find a way. Or not, when it turns out three’s a crowd.
*. Harrelson and Harris should have been great in the parts but they are totally wasted playing villains who aren’t in the slightest bit interesting, thrown into a formulaic plot that has Cletus escaping from prison and springing Shriek from the Magneto-style soundproof prison she’s being kept in. Then they go after their revenge, which involves (yawn) kidnapping Eddie’s girlfriend so that he’ll have to come save her.
*. Without characters worth caring about or a story that qualifies as even remotely original all we’re left with is the usual jarring CGI slugfests, with Venom and Carnage tearing the city apart as they slam around defying the laws of physics and generally raising hell. More yawns. We’ve seen all this before, and to be honest I didn’t think the CGI work was even that good. Carnage’s tentacles looked pretty cheesy coming from a studio that should be state of the art all the way given their budgets and the amount of experience they have doing this sort of thing.
*. The only thing I can think of to say in this movie’s defence is that if it had come out ten years earlier I might have enjoyed it more. As a 2021 release it felt dead on arrival. Marvel deserves some grudging credit for keeping as much air in its various franchise balloons as it has for this long, what with the multiverses and shifty reboots, but at the end of the day they just don’t have anything new to bring to the table aside from what we’ve been gorging on for the last twenty years. Alas, with a global box office of over half a billion a third Venom film was promptly announced. Why are so many people paying money for this?