There are two types of people in this world: the enlightened few who understand the pure cinematic brilliance of Venom, and the losers who can’t appreciate art even when it’s jumping into a lobster tank. Don’t let the overwhelmingly negative reviews fool you: Venom was a transcendent experience that, in the (very sweaty) hands of Tom Hardy, brought something new to the superhero movie landscape. Playing Eddie Brock, an investigative journalist with the power of always looking confused about what he’s reporting, Hardy turns Venom into a stealth romantic comedy between a man and the gooey Symbiote living inside him, craving human flesh. (Four-time Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams is also in the movie, for some reason, even though she’s obviously the odd one out of the love triangle, including during the three-way kiss.)
Venom was perfect. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t room for improvement. That’s because it’s clear that Hardy was the only person working on the film who was leaning into the absurdity of its premise—to wit: The lobster tank sequence was reportedly his idea. From Riz Ahmed’s bland techbro villain to the complete waste of Jenny Slate to the generic CGI action sequences, the rest of Venom was working against Hardy’s bonkers performance, which felt like an Oscar-worthy cross between Marlon Brando on quaaludes and Tommy Wiseau with a stomach bug. But if a Venom sequel could successfully get on Hardy’s wavelength, we wouldn’t just be talking about a movie that would surpass anything from the Marvel Cinematic Universe—it would belong next to all-time greats like Citizen Kane, Rashomon, Kundun, and The Tree of Life. And even those films didn’t have an alien parasite deciding not to destroy the human race because he’s “kind of a loser” on his home planet.
Thankfully, in Venom’s mid-credits sequence, the emergent franchise teased a worthy future adversary for its title character. Behold, Woody Harrelson as an imprisoned serial killer with the same hairstyle as the clown hired for my seventh birthday party:
The anticipation among us Venom-heads—also known as Brock’s Boys—for the sequel was impossible to overstate. And then we waited. Nine hundred and forty-nine days passed. The release date for Venom: Let There Be Carnage was changed four times. Monday morning, though, our patience was rewarded. The first trailer for Venom: Let There Be Carnage absolutely lives up to its name, and the hype. There is so much to process in those glorious two and a half minutes of footage that I need to take my time to slowly digest every second of it—unlike Venom’s new breakfast routine. Let the Carnage begin.
One of my biggest pet peeves about trailers nowadays is that they start with a brief compilation—basically, a trailer for the trailer that airs within the trailer—teasing all the stuff that’s about to go down in the next two and a half minutes. I’ll never understand the logic behind this. It’s not like someone is going to click on a trailer for a movie called Venom: Let There Be Carnage, get a glimpse of an alien about to chomp down on a dude’s head, and be like, “This is not what I signed up for!” Whoever came up with trailer teasers for trailers should be Venom’s next meal. Here’s a visual representation of what I’m talking about:
It’s another beautiful San Francisco morning in the Brock-Venom household, which has gone through a bit of a makeover since the last time we saw them. Eddie is doing something that should be very familiar for anyone who’s dealt with troublesome roommates: leaving passive-aggressive notes for them in the apartment:
In Eddie’s defense, I don’t think he’d be able to get his security deposit back if Venom turned his digs into a glorified human slaughterhouse, so “no eating people” is a good rule. But the rest of the apartment is still a mess, and sorry, Eddie, that’s on you, buddy. Here’s a little tip for all you aspiring screenwriters out there: If you want to make it obvious that a character is going through some shit, put two chickens in their living room:
Eddie’s breakfast routine is a little different now that Venom has been inside him for a while. Gone are the days of Eddie twitching and convulsing as he eats a bunch of frozen tater tots or jumps into a lobster tank because of insatiable cravings—now, it seems they’ve come to an understanding. While Venom always wants to be sated by fresh, raw meat—preferably of the human variety—he’s apparently willing to go along with Eddie’s more conventional dietary needs, like waffles and eggs. Still, Venom has a lot of work to do in the, uh, tidiness department:
Venom helps prepare this mix between a Waffle House breakfast and a Jackson Pollock painting while listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s performance of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”—at least, I’m pretty sure that was the case, because Venom’s singing sounds way closer to Armstrong’s gritty tenor that it has any right to. Considering the song’s lyrics are about a couple that can’t agree on anything but still love each other anyway, it’s a perfect encapsulation of the Eddie-Venom relationship. And just so we’re clear about the dynamics: Venom is the dom and Eddie is the sub.
This is the same face I make whenever my cat tips over her water bowl for fun.
Finally, it’s time for Eddie to enjoy the fruits of Venom’s chaotic labor. The breakfast in question appears to be, starting from the bottom of the plate: Lucky Charms, strawberries, waffles, syrup, sausages, and eggs not so much fried as looking like they disintegrated on top of the waffles. (Side note: If Eddie is using those chickens in his living room to make fresh eggs, that might be an ingenious and very organic life hack.) This is what the Ratatouille rat would prepare right after doing four lines of coke:
Let’s be real, though, Guy Fieri would definitely say he’d “eat this off a flip-flop” on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
The cherry on top of this completely batshit sequence could’ve been a literal cherry, given the DGAF presentation, but it’s actually ketchup. Or, as Venom says, “KATCHUHP?!” before splattering our guy with it.
Is it too late to rescind Nomadland’s Best Picture Oscar and give it to this trailer?
After the Sony, Columbia Pictures, and Marvel logos flash on the screen to remind viewers that this erotic human-Symbiote interplay somehow has a lot of financial backing, Eddie pays a visit to his favorite corner store and its owner, Mrs. Chen. For the uninitiated, Eddie enters the store at the end of Venom, where he stops a robber and threatens to eat his head and limbs until his torso is “rolling down the street like a turd in the wind.” He then devours the man whole off-screen—somehow, this movie about a flesh-eating alien was rated PG-13—as Eddie explains to an understandably shocked Mrs. Chen that he “has a parasite.” As if cannibalism is a normal side effect of feeling sick.
Well, not only has Mrs. Chen very casually accepted the fact that one of her regulars has a monster living inside him that eats people, she’s on a first-name basis with it. “Good evening, Venom,” she says, to which the Symbiote responds by waving at her through Eddie’s bomber jacket:
I love that for them. I can only hope that, with enough time, I’ll have as much of a bond with my local bodega guy as Venom and Mrs. Chen.
“I’ve been thinking about you, Eddie,” Harrelson’s Cletus Kasady says in a voice-over, lending Let There Be Carnage some additional horny undertones. (This is where it’s helpful to remind people that the sequel’s script was written by Kelly Marcel, the same screenwriter for Fifty Shades of Grey; she gets it.) Picking up where the Venom mid-credits scene left off, it looks like Cletus is the Hannibal Lecter to Eddie’s Clarice Starling. Cletus writes him letters, and the implication here is that he believes Eddie is a kindred spirit. Cletus also has an edgy prison cell where he carves giant trees and the word “hell” on the walls:
Why does Cletus feel so attached to Eddie? What do Eddie and Cletus have in common, aside from being played by two gonzo actors who absolutely understand the assignment? Could this have anything to do with the Symbiote that will inevitably find its way inside Cletus, turning him into Carnage? Spoiler alert, but, probably—it’s right there in the title!
This is the part of the trailer where we come to understand the unstable duality of Eddie Brock and Venom. One moment, Eddie lets Venom take full control of his body to inhale bad guys they deem worthy of death—think the moral code of Dexter, but with a much easier clean-up. In another, he’s out here doing his best Spotlight impression:
From that expression, Eddie is either struggling to crack a mystery, or Venom’s diet is finally catching up with his digestive tract. (Maybe both?) But given that Cletus is a prolific serial killer in the comics, I do wonder whether Eddie’s new journalistic pursuits have anything to do with finding Cletus’s missing victims. (Real serial killers, whether or not they have the same haircut as Sideshow Bob, sometimes strike deals if they disclose where some of their victims’ bodies are buried.)
In any case, I do hope Eddie is getting enough freelance assignments to cover his rent and those elaborate Venom breakfasts.
Here’s a little Easter egg for the Marvel fans out there:
This detective, played by noted That Guy Stephen Graham, is reading The Daily Bugle. The newspaper isn’t a big deal in and of itself—we already know that Venom exists in the same universe as Spider-Man, even if the latest iterations of the characters haven’t crossed paths yet—but the logo is in the exact same style as the ones from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. With several characters from Raimi’s movies reportedly coming back for the next Spider-Man movie, which might play out like a live-action Into the Spider-Verse, perhaps this is a roundabout way to insert Venom into the MCU. I think I can speak for everyone when I say we need to see Venom threatening to eat Tom Holland.
There’s a good chance Carnage isn’t the only villain that Venom will have to deal with. We get a brief glimpse of Naomie Harris’s Shriek, who is being held at the Ravencroft Institute—essentially, a Marvel equivalent of Arkham Asylum.
If the name doesn’t give it all away, Shriek’s whole deal is that she can manipulate sound in a loud and discordant way. But perhaps more importantly, in the comics she is Cletus’s love interest. Whether that will factor into Let There Be Carnage remains to be seen, but if Cletus’s dynamic with Carnage is anything like Eddie and Venom, then Shriek may have to settle for being second fiddle. (Michelle Williams knows exactly what that feels like.)
Harrelson’s rambling voice-over finally concludes, and the trailer gives us our first proper look at Cletus since Venom’s mid-credits scene. It’s unclear how much time has elapsed between the two movies, but something awful happened to Cletus. He cut his hair.
Disregarding the creepy smile that just screams “I’ve got some candy in my van, so you follow me this way,” Cletus looks, dare I say, normal? I’m already yearning for the days when Venom’s greatest nemesis was a guy with a clown wig. But I’ve chosen to remain optimistic that Let There Be Carnage will retain an unapologetically campy spirit, despite this betrayal. After all, this is what Harrelson looked like when someone snapped photos from the film’s production last year.
I don't even know what to do with this pictures of the Venom 2 set pic.twitter.com/kK6MqU5NxB— Marcelo Pico (@MarceloJPico) February 24, 2020
That’s the good stuff right there—and by “good stuff” I mean “a flawless Josh Homme impersonation.”
Cletus is about to be executed by the state, but something strange happens. Instead of receiving a lethal injection, it appears the dosage was tampered with so that Cletus becomes the host of another Symbiote. Either that, or I’m going to need to know who Cletus’s plug is, because this man is smacked:
We were promised Carnage; finally, he’s arrived.
This is the section of the trailer dedicated to teasing all the upcoming action sequences, which is, frankly, the least interesting aspect of most superhero movies. That goes double for Venom, which is at its best when embracing the odd-couple dynamic of its co-leads sharing the same sweaty body and disheveled apartment. Nevertheless, Let There Be Carnage couldn’t be all about how Venom is a shitty roommate, as awesome as that would be. And admittedly, in small doses, Carnage is looking pretty rad:
I’m not sure how Let There Be Carnage will turn its fight scenes into more than a bunch of incomprehensible CGI alien goop smashing against itself, but if anyone can make it work, director (and mo-cap god) Andy Serkis could figure it out.
Full disclosure: At this point, I started crying tears of joy.
The title sequence has already flashed over the screen, but we’re not done yet. Mrs. Chen is back, and she has some bad news for Venom: Her chocolate delivery is running late. (Venom loves chocolate almost as much as he loves eating humans.) “I AM HAPPY TO EAT MRS. CHEN!” a dismayed Venom shouts in his booming voice, which is not the sort of thing you’re supposed to say to your friends. Eddie’s disgusted expression, which probably doubles as the face he makes after letting out a huge fart, says it all:
But considering Venom is still learning about earthly social norms, we can let that one slide. The fact that he didn’t consume Mrs. Chen is a sign of progress. Besides, if Venom is going to be upset about slowed-down chocolate deliveries, that anger should be placed at the feet of Louis DeJoy—right before he eats them like frog legs.
September 24 is an excruciatingly long time away—Venom’s anger about chocolate is suddenly quite relatable—but our patience will be rewarded. The theatrical experience is finally back, and with it comes Carnage … with a splattering side of KATCHUHP.