Rating: 4 out of 4.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the follow-up to the 2018 hit film Venom, which was based on the famous Spider-Man villain. The first Venom wasn’t very good, and the sequel has many of the same problems and more. Like its predecessor, the movie hasn’t been received well by critics, but it made a ton of money in its opening weekend. This is a good thing. Theaters have needed a hit like Venom and as much as I hated it, I’m so glad it was a hit because frankly, cinema in general, needed it.

The past year has been rough on movie-going fans like me. Many cinemas were shut down for months last year and, unfortunately, many closed for good. I myself crossed state lines to be able to see Tenet. The idea of a darkened theater, surrounded by people, all having a shared experience is one of the things COVID destroyed. Since movie theaters have generally re-opened and studios have begun releasing movies again, it’s been slow at the box office. Many of the movies that had a planned theatrical release went straight to streaming last year, with more on the way. However, Venom’s $90 million opening shows that people still want to see movies in a theater and will go to a theater despite a pandemic. So, how did we get here? The idea of people not wanting to go to movies seems like that would never happen but, unfortunately, it’s been heading this way for a while. The pandemic just accelerated it.

Since the dawn of home media, movie watchers have enjoyed viewing movies in the comfort of their own homes. Along came HBO, and high-quality TV movies started to get produced. However, Hollywood was doing itself no favors. As home video, and later DVDs, were becoming popular, movie tickets were getting more expensive, so the cost of a family of four going to the movies (plus popcorn, candy, and soda) became astronomical. Audiences weren’t going to see Sinatra live. They were seeing the newest Adam Sandler movie in a sticky and butter scented theater.

After becoming prominent, streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon began producing their own content. This came at a time when Hollywood was making less risky content to ensure big box-office and really bank on those rising ticket prices. In doing so, mid-budget movies were not being produced, and nowadays studios make very few original mid-budget films. Many movies today are based on familiar properties like books, comic books, and true stories, with budgets ranging from very low to very high.

However, streaming sites make the kinds of movies that studios used to for theatrical release, and people watch them there because audiences would rather pay one price for a swath of risky content rather than pay one price for one. Because of this, we see more sequels and superhero movies released to theaters instead of original and potentially risky material. I don’t think any movie known as a classic was ever considered a “sure thing.” Prior to the pandemic, movie theaters were seeing record highs but the truth is that the average person only goes to the movies twice a year. If movie theaters are only banking on these big event movies, they’re in trouble. 

But back to Venom.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a 90-minute cash grab that barely has a plot. It’s too bad because Tom Hardy is a great actor, but his performance as Venom sounds like a drunk Bane and the relationship between him and Eddie Brock is cutesy and annoying when it should actually be kind of scary.

The film doesn’t contain any stakes at all (I reread the plot synopsis when I got home – nope – none), and it really feels like it was made because they knew by having fan favorites Venom and Carnage in one movie, it would make money, and despite a pandemic – it did. What’s sad is there are many truly people behind the film. Andy Serkis directed it, and one of the world’s greatest cinematographers, Robert Richardson, shot it (though it’s clearly his worst photographed film).

Not a scene of this film has any artistic value, and it feels like it was only made to showcase live-action Venom and Carnage, with a weak plot shoehorned in. Is this where we’ve gotten with film – these are the movies that need to be made to get people to come to movie theaters? In 2021, Venom is what you have to see if you want to go to the cathedral of world’s greatest artform. But honestly, why would anyone love two ugly CGI characters who look basically the same fighting? It’s mind-boggling. But you can’t argue with a $90 million weekend.

As mentioned, as much as I hated Venom, I’m glad it was a hit. We need to keep movie theaters open. Despite what people may feel (too expensive, have to drive there, have to get a babysitter, have to sit with other people) there is nothing like seeing a movie in a theater and experiencing a filmmaker beam their art into you, instead of watching it at home where distractions galore can take you away from the experience.

If movies like Venom keep movie theaters open — so be it, because if they’re open, that means there is a chance a great original movie will slip through the cracks and make its way to the big screen — where it’s meant to be seen.

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