Venom was intended to be the start of a new shared universe, and plans for a sequel began during production on the first film. Harrelson was cast to make a brief appearance as Kasady at the end of Venom with the intention of him becoming the villain Carnage in the sequel. Official work on the sequel began in January 2019, with Hardy and Harrelson confirmed to return along with Marcel as writer. Serkis was hired as director that August, partly due to his experience working with CGI and motion-capture technology which was an important part of portraying Venom and Carnage in the film. Filming took place at Leavesden Studios in England from November 2019 to February 2020, with additional filming in San Francisco in February. The title was announced in April 2020. The film was primarily inspired by the comic book story arc "Maximum Carnage" (1993) and the 1994 Spider-Man animated series story arc The Venom Saga (1996).
Venom: Let There Be Carnage premiered in London on September 14, 2021, and was theatrically released in the United States on October 1, 2021. It was delayed from an initial October 2020 date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film has grossed over $200 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics.
In 1996, a young Cletus Kasady watches helplessly as his love, Frances Barrison, who has the ability of sound manipulation, is taken away from St. Estes Home for Unwanted Children to the Ravencroft Institute. On the way, she uses her sonic scream powers to escape and attacks young police officer Patrick Mulligan. He shoots Barrison in the eye and suffers an injury to his ear due to her scream. Unbeknownst to Mulligan, who believes he killed her, Barrison is taken to the facility, which is hardened against her powers.
In the present day, Mulligan, now a detective, contacts Eddie Brock to speak to Kasady, a serial killer who refuses to talk to anyone other than Brock following their interview a year prior.[N 1] After the visit, Venom, Eddie’s symbiote, is able to figure out where Kasady has hidden the body of victims, which gives Brock a huge career boost. Brock is then contacted by his ex-fiancée Anne Weying, who tells him that she is now engaged to Dr. Dan Lewis, much to Venom’s displeasure.
Kasady, who was found guilty of his crimes and earlier sentenced to death by lethal injection, invites Brock over to San Quentin State Prison, where Kasady is detained on death row, to attend his execution. However, Venom is provoked to attack Kasady via insults towards Brock. Kasady bites Brock's hand, ingesting a small part of the symbiote. Back home, Venom, wanting more freedom to eat bad people, has an argument with Brock, and the two end up fighting until the symbiote detaches from his body; they go their different ways.
Kasady's execution fails when a red symbiote emerges and blocks the injection. He introduces himself as Carnage and goes on a violent rampage through the prison, freeing inmates and killing guards. Kasady and Carnage then make a deal: Carnage will help Kasady break out Barrison from Ravencroft, and Kasady will help him eliminate Brock and Venom. Mulligan calls Brock and warns him about the situation. In Ravencroft, Kasady frees Barrison, and they travel to their old children's home to burn it down.
Mulligan, suspicious of Brock due to his interactions with Kasady before Carnage emerged, takes Brock to the police station. Brock refuses to answer Mulligan's questions and contacts Weying as his lawyer. Brock reveals that Venom has separated from him and needs the symbiote to fight Carnage together. As Venom makes his way through San Francisco by hopping from body to body, Weying finds and convinces him to forgive Brock. She bonds with Venom and breaks Brock out of the police station. Brock and Venom make amends and bond again.
Kasady takes Mulligan hostage, and Barrison captures Weying after failing to find Brock. Barrison gives Lewis information on Weying's whereabouts, and he gives it to Brock. Kasady and Barrison plan to get married at a cathedral, where Venom appears and fights Carnage. Barrison seemingly kills Mulligan by hanging him onto a chain. Venom holds his own against his spawn, but he is eventually overpowered brutally by Carnage, and the latter decides to kill Weying atop the cathedral. Venom manages to rescue Weying in time and provokes Barrison to use her powers again; her sonic blast causes both symbiotes to separate from their hosts as the cathedral collapses and a falling bell kills Barrison.
Venom saves Brock by bonding with him before the impact. Carnage tries to bond with Kasady again, but Venom devours the symbiote, killing it. Kasady states that he only wanted to be Brock's friend, but Venom bites Kasady’s head off. While Brock, Venom, Weying, and Lewis escape, a still-living Mulligan's eyes flash blue. Brock and Venom decide to take a vacation while they ponder their next steps.
Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock and Venom: An investigative journalist who is the host of an alien symbiote, Venom, that imbues him with superhuman abilities. Director Andy Serkis described Brock and Venom's relationship as being in the "Odd Couple stage" in the film, with Venom trapped in Brock's body and just wanting to be the "Lethal Protector" which distracts Brock from work and putting his life back together.
Naomie Harris as Frances Barrison / Shriek: Kasady's love interest who can manipulate sound energy with her screams. Serkis described her as a damaged soul who has been living in isolation and has a dark side to her. Olumide Olorunfemi portrays young Frances Barrison.
Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady and Carnage: A psychotic serial killer who becomes the host of Venom’s spawn, Carnage. While in prison, Kasady refuses to talk with anyone besides Brock, who he considers to be a kindred spirit. Kasady looks different compared to his appearance in the mid-credits scene of Venom, which Serkis said indicates the passage of time between films. Harrelson was initially reluctant to provide the voice for Carnage and wanted Serkis to perform instead, but Serkis encouraged him to find the right tone for the character; Harrelson stated he was ultimately satisfied with how his Carnage voice came out. Jack Bandeira portrays young Cletus Kasady.
During the long development of the 2018 film Venom, the character Carnage was expected to appear as an antagonist. During pre-production on that film, the creative team decided not to include the character so they could focus on introducing the protagonists, Eddie Brock and Venom. Director Ruben Fleischer felt that leaving Venom's most formidable villain for a sequel would give the franchise a place to go and would be a natural next step, so Carnage's alter-ego Cletus Kasady was introduced in a mid-credits scene at the end of the first film with the intention of featuring him in a sequel. Fleischer wanted to cast Woody Harrelson in the role, feeling there was a natural connection between the character and Harrelson's performance in Natural Born Killers (1994), and asked Harrelson while the pair were discussing a sequel to their film Zombieland (2009). After meeting with Fleischer and Tom Hardy—who portrays Brock and Venom—for dinner, Harrelson agreed to take on the part. Harrelson described his decision as a roll of the dice since he was unable to read a script for the sequel before signing on to the first film. In August 2018, ahead of Venom's release, Hardy confirmed that he had signed on to star in two sequels.
At the end of November 2018, Sony gave an October 2, 2020, release date to an untitled Marvel sequel that was believed to be Venom 2, which would place the film in the same release timeframe as the first Venom; box office analysts believed by then that Venom had been successful enough to guarantee a sequel would be made. A month later, Venom writer Jeff Pinkner confirmed that a sequel was happening, but he was not involved in writing it at that point. Fleischer reiterated this, saying that he could not discuss a sequel but he saw the first film as Brock and Venom "coming together. So there's a natural evolution from that to [a sequel where it is] like, okay, now what's it like to live together? It's like a bromantic sort of relationship." In January, Kelly Marcel signed a "significant" deal with Sony to write and produce the sequel after also working on the script for the first film. This marked the official beginning of work on the film for the studio, and was revealed alongside confirmation of Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, and Amy Pascal returning as producers. Hardy and Harrelson were also expected to return for the sequel, along with Michelle Williams in the role of Brock's ex-fiancée Anne Weying. No director was confirmed for the film, with Sony considering replacing Fleischer due to his commitments to Zombieland: Double Tap (2019), though he still intended to be involved in Venom 2.
By the end of July 2019, Sony hoped for filming to begin that November and had met with several candidates to replace Fleischer as director since he was still completing work on Zombieland: Double Tap at that time; directors the studio met with include Andy Serkis, Travis Knight, and Rupert Wyatt. Sony was also interested in Rupert Sanders directing the film, but that "didn't work out". Serkis confirmed at the start of August that he had discussed the project with Sony and it was "potentially something that might happen", shortly before he was officially hired to direct the film. Serkis was hired partly due to his experience working with CGI and motion-capture technology as both an actor and director. Soon after his hiring, Serkis said Hardy had been working closely with Marcel on the screenplay which was "centered around their take"; Marcel explained that she and Hardy spent months developing ideas for the film, which is the first time he received a story credit on a project, before she then spent three months writing the screenplay herself; the film is primarily inspired by the comic book story arc "Maximum Carnage" (1993) and animated series story arc The Venom Saga (1996). Fleischer said he was happy to let Serkis take over the franchise following the negative critical reaction that the first film received, believing reviewers had unfairly treated the "crowdpleasing movie", potentially due to biases against Sony and towards Marvel Studios' rival superhero films. By the time Serkis was hired, Hutch Parker had joined the sequel as a producer. A friend of Sony Pictures chairman Tom Rothman, Parker previously served as a producer for several Marvel-based films produced by 20th Century Fox.
In September 2019, Reid Scott was expected to reprise his role as Weying's boyfriend Dan Lewis from the first film. The character Shriek was also expected to appear as the film's secondary villain and a love interest for Carnage. Many different actresses were looked at for the part, before Naomie Harris was cast in the role in mid-October.Stephen Graham had also joined the film, as Detective Mulligan, by the end of the year. Tolmach said there was a chance the sequel could be rated R following the success of the R-rated Joker (2019), as well as previous successful R-rated comic book films such as Deadpool (2016) and Logan (2017). However, Tolmach cautioned that the PG-13 rating of the first Venom had led to box office success and they would not be looking to change the franchise's tone simply because it had worked for others; the sequel ultimately received a PG-13 rating. Tolmach said the biggest lesson learned from the first Venom was that fans loved the relationship between Brock and Venom, and the sequel would focus more on the two characters together because of this. Chinese production company Tencent Pictures co-financed the sequel after previously doing the same for the first film.
Post-production for the film began shortly before many film productions were forced to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Serkis beginning work editing the film in London with the editorial department. Once post-production had to be shut down, the film's editor returned to the United States and began working with Serkis remotely to finish editing the film. Actor Sean Delaney revealed in early April 2020 that he had a "very small blink-and-you'll-miss-me role" in the sequel.
Sony confirmed in April that the film was scheduled to be released on October 2, 2020, and was intended to keep that release date despite the pandemic. Later that month, the studio moved the film's release to June 25, 2021, after that date became available due to other COVID-19 related delays. Sony also announced the film's title as Venom: Let There Be Carnage, an alternate title considered being Venom: Love Will Tear Us Apart, after the Joy Divisionsong of the same name. Serkis felt the delay would give more time to improve the film's visual effects, and would help ensure that audience members would be comfortable with going to see the film in theaters. In March 2021, the film's release was moved back again to September 17, 2021, and then moved a week later to September 24. In August 2021, amidst SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant surges in the United States, the film was delayed again to October 15, 2021. By the end of the month, Sony was reportedly considering delaying the film to Morbius's release date of January 21, 2022, following continued Delta variant surges and low box office returns for films released earlier in August.Variety reported that the studio was not planning to move the film again at that time, but Deadline Hollywood described plans to change the film's release date as "the worst kept secret in Hollywood". Following the box office success of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in early September, Sony moved the film's release date forward two weeks to October 1.
Serkis was excited to adapt the comic book version of Carnage for the screen, and explained that the symbiotes were designed to reflect their hosts, so he differentiated Venom and Carnage by reflecting Brock and Kasady, respectively, through their designs, abilities, and movements. Serkis worked with dancers and actors on a motion-capture stage to help define the movements of the two characters, and compared Venom to a quarterback who used brute force. For Carnage, Kasady's psychotic personality is shown through idiosyncratic and off-kilter movements, as well as being able to turn into mist and create "all manner of tendrils". Serkis compared fighting Carnage to fighting with an octopus. In September 2021, Serkis confirmed the film's runtime being shorter than its predecessor, explaining that he wanted the film to be a "real thrill ride", not "hanging around too much exposition".
Marco Beltrami was revealed to be the composer for the film in December 2020, after previously composing for several Marvel-based films produced by Parker. In September 2021, it was revealed that Eminem would be returning to compose a new song for the film, titled "Last One Standing", in collaboration with Skylar Grey, Polo G, and Mozzy.
After announcing the film's official title in April 2020, Sony also released a short teaser featuring the official logo for the film. Many fans of the Venom comic books criticized the title, with some wondering why the comic book storyline title Maximum Carnage was not used. Sam Barsanti of The A.V. Club also thought Maximum Carnage would have worked better, or even Venom 2, and negatively compared the official title to films like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)./Film's Ethan Anderton acknowledged these criticisms, but felt it was a great title given the first film was "surprisingly goofy". Vinnie Mancuso at Collider agreed, calling it "the perfect title for a beautifully stupid franchise". He said it suggested Sony "knows the kind of property it has on its hands". Tom Reimann, also at Collider, described the teaser as Sony "proudly showing off the logo of the new film as if the title isn't completely insane".
In March 2021, Serkis said a trailer for the film had not yet been released due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Sony waiting until audiences could see it in theaters. The film's first trailer was released in May, with Ryan Parker of The Hollywood Reporter describing it as "intense with some movements of levity". Parker highlighted Harrelson's improved wig compared to the first film, as did Collider's Rafael Motamayor, and Corey Chichizola at CinemaBlend. Chichizola praised Harrelson's performance and presence in the trailer, and expressed excitement at the brief shots of Venom and Carnage, with Michael Kennedy of Screen Rant noting that the first trailer for Venom had received negative responses for not featuring Venom in it and this trailer avoided that problem by showing both of the sequel's symbiote characters. A second trailer was released in August, with Sam Barsanti of The A. V. Club highlighting the expanded footage of Carnage as well as the continued focus on Brock and Venom's chemistry. Lauren Massuda at Collider concurred with Barsanti on both points, and felt Harrelson had "taken the spotlight" of the second trailer. Based on the trailers, Massuda felt the sequel appeared more intriguing and mature than the first film, while Screen Rant's James Hunt opined that the sequel "already looks much better" than the first film in terms of tone, character, and visual effects. On September 20, 2021, character posters for the film was released; the following day, a silhouette of Anne Weying's "She-Venom" form in one of the posters was revealed to have been traced from fan art by DeviantArt artist spaceMAXmarine, originally published on October 9, 2018.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage had an early screening for fans in London on September 14, 2021, and was released in the United States on October 1, 2021 in Real D 3D and IMAX. In August 2021, Sony and CJ 4DPlex announced a deal to release 15 of Sony's films over three years in the ScreenX format, starting with Let There Be Carnage. The film was originally set for release in the U.S. on October 2, 2020. It was delayed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, moving to June 25, 2021, September 17, September 24, and then October 15, before being moved back up to October 1, due to the Labor Day box office success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021).
In April 2021, Sony signed a deal giving Disney access to their legacy content, including Marvel content in Sony's Spider-Man Universe, to stream on Disney+ and Hulu and appear on Disney's linear television networks. Disney's access to Sony's titles would come following their availability on Netflix.
As of October 15, 2021[update], Venom: Let There Be Carnage has grossed $156.2million in the United States and Canada, and $43.9million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $200.1million.
In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside The Many Saints of Newark and The Addams Family 2. While Sony was estimating a $40 million debut, box office analytics predicted it could gross as much as $65 million in its opening weekend. The film grossed $37.3 million on its first day, including $11.6 million from Thursday night previews, beating the $10 million made by the first film and marking the second-biggest total since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, behind Black Widow's $13.2 million. In its opening weekend, Let There Be Carnage debuted to $90.1 million, the best opening of the pandemic, as well as besting the first film by $10 million. The film fell 64% in its second weekend to $32 million, finishing second behind newcomer No Time to Die.
The review aggregation websiteRotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 61% based on 212 reviews, with an average rating of 5.50/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A sequel aimed squarely at fans of the original's odd couple chemistry, Venom: Let There Be Carnage eagerly embraces the franchise's sillier side."Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 47 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale, the same as the first film, while those at PostTrak gave it a 76% positive score, with 65% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Writing for RogerEbert.com, Christy Lemire gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and praised Hardy's "gung-ho physical performance". Kristen Page-Kirby of The Washington Post praised the film, commenting, "It's fast, it's fun, and buried within is a genuinely sweet story about friendship and self-acceptance." Tim Grierson of Screen International said that Serkis' direction "keeps the rambunctious proceedings relatively taut, making room for operatic action and a sneaky emotional undercurrent that pokes through the broad comedy and comic-book grandeur." James Mottram of the South China Morning Post gave the film a score of 4/5 stars, writing that the film "is simplified, more focused and even more intimate than its predecessor – employing only a handful of characters and a remarkably stripped down narrative." Clarisse Loughrey of The Independent also gave the film a score of 4/5 stars, describing it as "a love story written in blood, sweat and the slime of half-eaten brains." Tim Robey of The Daily Telegraph gave the film a score of 3/5 stars, writing: "Venom: Let There Be Carnage is refreshingly nuts, and benefits from being a whole 45 minutes shorter than its predecessor." Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal wrote that the film "manipulates its audience with all the tentacles it can deploy, most of them cheerfully ridiculous."
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times was more critical in his review of the film, giving it a score of 2/4 stars. He described the film as being "marginally better than the original, with a firmer commitment to the comedic angle and Tom Hardy clearly having a lot of fun", but added: "this vehicle runs out of gas halfway through the yawner of a climax." John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "The film does develop the chemistry between the titular alien and the human he's forced to inhabit while inside Earth's atmosphere. But the distinctiveness of this buddy-movie bond is often drowned out by giant set pieces of CG mayhem that feel exactly like those found in the good guys' movies." Brian Lowry of CNN described the film as "a mind-numbingly tiresome sequel, filled with uninspired comedy and a CGI monster fight that seems to drag on forever." David Sims of The Atlantic described the viewing experience as being "like going to a nightclub and having someone scream the plot in your ear over a thumping bass line". Kevin Maher of The Times gave the film a score of 1/5 stars, describing it as an "abominable sequel".
William Hughes at The A.V. Club believed the mid-credits scene would overshadow the rest of the film, saying "in the span of about 120 seconds, the most externally interesting thing about Sony's latest big superhero blockbuster... [is] its connection to a whole other studio's library of films". He continued that the two Venom films were "at least genuinely interesting and weird... propelled by a devotedly odd performance" from Hardy, but ultimately felt Let There Be Carnage would become "little more than 'the one where Venom gets pulled into the MCU'". Barry Hertz of The Globe and Mail praised the film's mid-credits scene, but described the rest of the film as "ugly, cheap and dumb-but-not-good-dumb" and "a throwaway kind of trashy nothingness".
In August 2018, Hardy confirmed that he was signed on to star in a third Venom film. In September 2021, Hardy stated that he was "deeply invested" in the Venom films, while acknowledging that the future may include elements of the multiverse. Serkis also stated that Spider-Man will eventually cross over with the Venom films, though he believed there were additional films that needed to take place first, and that he would like to return as director on a sequel, while that other supervillain residents of Ravencroft may factor into additional films. Hardy and Serkis also expressed interest in featuring the symbiote dragon Grendel in the third Venom film.