One of Spider-Man’s most powerful enemies returned in a blockbuster sequel that moves to the ultra-high definition disc in Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 97 minutes, $45.99).
I’m guessing about every Marvel Comics’ reader on the planet was waiting for this epic, live-action battle between two legendary symbiote villains Venom and Carnage.
The story picks up with reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) continuing to adapt to bonding his body and consciousness with the brain-munching extraterrestrial symbiote nicknamed Venom, a highly intelligent and shape-shifting creature with super-strength, healing powers, a black gooey exoskeleton and a large, expandable mouth full of razor-sharp teeth.
Eddie‘s floundering career gets resurrected when his new friend, imprisoned serial killer Cletus Kassidy (Woody Harrelson ramping up his “Natural Born Killers” persona), accidentally gives him enough clues to find the bodies of his victims and condemn him to death.
A final meeting before the execution has Cletus bite Eddie and ingest some of Venom’s blood, turning him into the psychotic villain Carnage.
Cletus, now bonded with Carnage, breaks out of prison and unites with his girlfriend Shriek (Naomie Harris). The pair go on a destructive journey of revenge, and Eddie and Venom must stop them.
Mr. Hardy again brings the odd couple of Eddie and Venom to life, in both an amusing and schizophrenia-like terrifying way while Mr. Harrelson delivers another quirky psychotic performance worthy of his comic book counterpart.
Fans will be thrilled by the results, especially a mid-credits scene that brings this Venom into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Now, despite the frenetic entertainment value, the film’s short run time disappoints. I could have used more plot, mixed in with the extreme action. The ending comes quickly and is unfulfilling, making the last 30 minutes of the movie feel like a video game boss battle.
Also, the “PG-13” rating hampers the dark storyline and limits what should have been much more graphic kills. The franchise needs an uber R rating here to let Venom and Carnage live in their horrifying universe.
4K in action: The screen-filling UHD presentation will certainly have viewers focused on the pair of computer-generated foes.
As usual, the visual effects magic looks great throughout, offering the perfect realistic embodiment of the comic book legend Venom complete with his tentacles, pink gums holding his bright white teeth and that long viscous tongue.
Even better, the debut of Carnage, the reddish multisizing creature who looks often like a squid with a humanoid body spotlights with 2160p clarity its sharper sinewy tentacles and razor-sharp teeth.
Carnage’s reference quality highlights include the beast standing in front of a massive fiery explosion with his full undulating musculature in view and a shot in a church of a fully tentacle-extended Carnage in front of a large circular panel of bluish stain glass.
I am slightly disappointed by the abundance of drab night scenes that take away from both creatures’ finer appreciation.
Also, worth examining was one of the more artistic moments of the film as Eddie reads and Cletus‘ writes his twisted postcards while a blood-red, three-dimensional line drawing animation scene showing the backstory of the serial killer plays around each character.
Best extras: Viewers get a bite-sized mix of bonus content led by five featurettes (roughly 30 minutes long) covering the production, the relationship between Eddie and Venom, the background on Cletus, his girlfriend Shriek, and Carnage.
Supplemented by interviews with cast and crew including director Andy Serkis, the segments also highlight plenty of sequential art from the history of Marvel Comics.
Next, a four-minute look at some of the film’s Easter eggs focuses on examples of the pop art source material used in the film. It includes a comparison from the four-part, 1995 miniseries “Venom: Carnage Unleashed, No. 3” that has Carnage killing by ramming a tentacle down a victim’s throat.
Also worth a look are nine minutes of deleted scenes and visual effects supervisor Sheena Duggal briefly explaining the storybook-style animation used for the scene revealing Cletus‘ backstory.