Venom: Let There Be Carnage (PG13)
98 minutes, now showing, 2 stars
The first movie in 2018 was a Marvel flick that asked: "What if instead of making the creepy, fanged and tentacled alien-human hybrid creature the villain, we make him the main character?".
It was a hit, with producers noticing that audiences responded to the comedy and its craziest moments of action.
So, with an eye to making the sequel even more of a smash at the box office, everything that is not about quips and yes, carnage, has been shed.
The result, coming in under 100 minutes, should have been an adrenaline rush, but instead feels like a theme park ride at the wrong speed setting. Characters have to practically scream their internal motivations, because there is no time for showing - only telling.
Following the events of the first movie, investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) has come to a comfortable, if fraught, living arrangement with the alien Venom - the being that lives in Brock's body in a symbiotic arrangement. Brock feeds Venom, while Venom grants him super strength and agility.
Imprisoned serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) offers Brock a once-in-lifetime interview, but may have a sinister motive - one that involves Cletus's incarcerated girlfriend, Frances (Naomie Harris). Also known as Shriek, she is a mutant who can emit body-shredding screams.
Lawyer Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), Brock's former fiancee, is pulled into the case when his links to Kasady attract the suspicion of the police.
It is puzzling why producers would rope in stars with the calibre of Hardy, Williams, Harris and Harrelson - only to have them mainly perform runs and jumps. But at least they brought in someone qualified to direct a movie that is mainly physical, when it is not taken over by computer graphics.
To helm this work, English actor Andy Serkis relies on his expertise playing motion-capture characters such as Snoke from the Star Wars films (2015 to 2019) and Gollum from the Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings franchises (2001 to 2014).
Like Brock, this movie is a hybrid, except for one entity - the over-caffeinated cartoon, which strangles the life out of the human story hosting it.