Game Corner [Spidey Month]: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (Xbox 360)

Easily Marvel Comic’s most recognisable and popular superhero, unsuspecting teenage nerd Peter Parker was first bitten by a radioactive spider and learned the true meaning of power and responsibility in Amazing Fantasy #15, which was first published in August 1962. Since then, the Amazing Spider-Man has featured in numerous cartoons, live-action movies, videogames, action figures, and countless comic book titles and, in celebration of his debut and his very own day of celebration, I’ll be dedicating every Friday of August to talk about everyone’s favourite web-head!

Released: 7 September 2010
Developer: Beenox
Also Available For: Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PC, and PlayStation 3

The Background:
Eager to capitalise on his success with the Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics editor and head writer Stan Lee conceived of Peter Parker/Spider-Man alongside Steve Ditko and the troubled teenage superhero first appeared in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15. A near-instant hit, Spider-Man quickly made the leap to cartoons, films, action figures, and a number of videogames as well as seeing numerous other incarnations in the pages of Marvel Comics. In 2010, developers Beenox brought together four distinct versions of Spider-Man, each with their own aesthetic design and playstyle, for Activision’s next Spider-Man game. The developers sought to have the bosses of the game be just as distinct, as well as including some first-person sequences to break up the action and employing the talents of many notable Spider-Man voice actors to pay homage to the character’s long history. Although the game received mostly positive reviews, in addition to some downloadable content (DLC), it was eventually de-listed after Activision lost the Spider-Man license.

The Plot:
During a fight between Spider-Man and Quentin Beck/Mysterio, the mythical Tablet of Order and Chaos is shattered into fragments, causing chaos throughout the multiverse and falling into the hands of some of Spidey’s most notorious foes. To retrieve the pieces of the Tablet, Cassandra Webb/Madame Web unites four versions of Spider-Man from across the multiverse: the classic “Amazing” Spider-Man, the grim and stoic Spider-Man Noir, Miguel O’Hara of the futuristic 2099, and the black-suited teenaged “Ultimate” Spider-Man.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a linear, mission-based third-person action title that has players battle a number of Spider-Man’s most iconic foes as four distinctively different versions of Spider-Man, each with their own unique appearance, levels, and personality. While some Spider-Men have slightly different abilities, combat styles, and gameplay, there are many fundamental gameplay mechanics which the four Spider-Men share: they all jump with A (and tapping A again in mid-air will perform a double jump), can land a fast strike with X and a strong attack with Y (and holding down either button performs a charge attack and an air launcher, respectively), and web or grab objects and enemies with B and you can mix and match these attack commands to string together a few basic combos. Naturally, you can web-sling by holding the Right Trigger; release the trigger and hold it again to perform successive web-slings or tap RT to perform a super handy web-zip to quickly dash to perches and platforms. Tapping the Right Bumper sees you fire off a quick web shot (which I found to be largely useless), you can press up on the directional pad to enable the spider-sense (which acts almost exactly like the “Detective Mode” from the Batman: Arkham videogames (Rocksteady Studios/Various, 2009 to 2015) and allows you to see through walls and obstacles to highlight enemies and collectibles), and you can also hold the Left Trigger to enter an “Evasive Stance” that lets you dodge and roll away from enemy attacks.

While the Amazing Spider-Man takes the direct approach, his Noir counterpart sticks to the shadows.

Each Spider-Man has a few different options available to them that make their gameplay a little different; the Amazing variant is a pretty standard Spider-Man with no additional abilities whose gameplay consists of a mixture of combat, web-slinging, and wall-crawling with some very light puzzle-solving thrown in for good measure. His Noir counterpart may not have any additional abilities but he plays considerably different from his mulitversal allies; for one thing, Spider-Man Noir’s world is rendered entirely in the moody black-and-white of the 1930s and, for another, he’s far more reliant on stealth. Again, like the Batman: Arkham games, Spider-Man Noir has to stick to the shadows and avoid spotlights and being spotted by gangsters, who will fill him full of lead if they spot him and briefly hunt him down unless you flee to the shadows. This means you have to stay up high, out of the way, and in the darkness, sneaking up on enemies or taking them down from a variety of positions with the B button. Spider-Man Noir does also get to engage enemies in direct combat but only in specifically designed sections; most of your time will be spent webbing up gangsters from the shadows, which is pretty fun but nowhere near as challenging or varied as in the Batman: Arkham games as Spider-Man Noir doesn’t have any gadgets or options to distract or toy with his prey.

Ultimate Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 have special abilities that are unique to them.

Both Spider-Man 2099 and Ultimate Spider-Man make use of the Left Bumper; since he’s wearing the bestial black suit, Ultimate Spider-Man can build up a “Rage” meter by attacking enemies and, when it’s full, pressing LB sees him fly into a rage and attack enemies faster and with more powerful tendril attacks. In this regard, Ultimate Spider-Man seems to be more geared towards combat but, in practise, I found his gameplay mostly the same to his Amazing counterpart but with the added bonus of a useful attack buff. Spider-Man 2099 can utilise LB to activate his “Accelerated Vision”, which briefly slows down time and allows him to better dodge and react to incoming attacks and obstacles, and this meter will automatically refills over time. Spider-Man 2099 also has to endure a number of freefall sections that see you holding A to dive faster towards a target and use B to grab them and X to punch them all while avoiding debris and other obstacles.

Annoying first-person segments and rescue missions mix up the gameplay.

Other than that, the four Spider-Men share the remaining gameplay mechanics: this means you’ll be mashing B on certain walls and objects to rip them down or toss them at enemies and bosses, rescuing and protecting civilians and scientists by fending off enemies, swinging over to them, picking them up with B, and carrying them to a safety point; and taking part in some awkward first-person punching sequences. These appear during the majority of the game’s boss battles and see you using the two analogue sticks to punch or dodge, which is an interesting mechanic to add in but ultimately seems like something that could have been restricted to just the Amazing Spider-Man to help him stand out from the others. Other challenges include web-slinging away from danger (sometimes towards the camera, which can be very disorientating), web-zipping to enemies perched above, destroying certain objects, or activating or deactivating generators. Each level generally repeats these sections at least three times; if you have to rescue three civilians in the early part of a level, you can bet that you’ll be rescuing five a little later on, for example.

The game’s not especially difficult but can be long and tedious at times.

When not in combat or an action situation, each Spider-Man’s health will slowly regenerate, though you can also replenish it with Gold Spider Emblems scattered throughout each level. Occasionally, you’ll find water, acid, or electrified pits that will cause an instant respawn; other times, if you fall or fail a web-sling, you can recover with RT to save yourself. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions has three difficulty settings (Easy, Normal, and Hard), though the game isn’t massively difficult on Normal. Hard mode obviously results in more durable and aggressive enemies, and mixes up their placement and how many hits will defeat a boss, but there are many checkpoints and respawn points sprinkled through the game’s levels, which can get quite long and tedious as you progress. Additionally, like many Spider-Man videogames, mechanics such as wall-crawling and web-slinging can get a bit janky in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions thanks to the controls bugging out when on walls and ceilings and the camera proving unreliable and jerky at times.

Graphics and Sound:
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimension’s levels are entirely linear; there’s no free roaming or overworld to be found here, which is fine as that can be a little daunting, and instead you’ll explore a variety of levels that can be both large and intimidating and narrow and claustrophobic. When in wider, more open areas, your options for exploration are largely limited by walls (both visible and invisible) and gameplay objectives that constantly push you forwards. Still, there are at least a wide variety of locations on offer; you’ll scale Osborn Tower in the city, a disused desert mine, a ruin-filled jungle, and a hydroelectric dam amongst others. Primarily, the game leans towards a vibrant, quasi-cel-shaded style, especially for the Amazing and Ultimate Spider-Men, though not to the extent where it looks like ugly 2D characters monstrously rendered in 3D as in other games.

The game is full of visual variety in its levels, graphics, and characters.

Where the game really shines, though, are in the Noir and 2099 levels; the Noir levels are rendered entirely in monochrome, with sporadic use of colour only appearing when using the spider-sense. The heavy shadows and stark contrast of white on black immediately makes these sections stand out not just from the rest of the game but also its closest competitors, the Batman: Arkham titles, and reminds more of MadWorld (PlatinumGames, 2009) and Frank Miller’s Sin City comics and films (ibid, 1991 to 2002; ibid and Rodriguez, 2005; 2014). Similarly, the 2099 levels are an explosion of futuristic neon and technology; indeed, I found the 2009 levels to be a bit of a sensory overload and a bit difficult to digest, making it tricky to know where I was supposed to go since every level was so bustling with lights, metal, and colours. Still, it’s a great way to make each Spider-Man’s locations even more visually distinct from each other, though there was maybe a missed opportunity to mix things up a bit later in the game to have, say, Spider-Man Noir in the 2099 world.

The graphics hold up really well but it’s the voice work that really makes the game shine.

While the game’s music isn’t much more than the standard superhero fare of rousing horns and tunes, the voice acting is absolutely top notch! Each Spider-Man is voiced by a notable and popular Spidey voice actor from his many cartoons, which saw not only Dan Gilvezan’s return to the character after a twenty-five year absence but also the return of Christopher Daniel Bares, who voiced the Spider-Man I grew up with in the nineties cartoon. Neil Patrick Harris is easily the best of the four, though; he always makes for a fun and fitting Spider-Man and his delivery really sells the character’s many quips and witticisms. Stan Lee narrates the start and end of each chapter and Nolan North even reprises his role as Wade W. Wilson/Deadpool, who steals the show in his oil rig-turned-reality show by constantly berating and taunting Ultimate Spider-Man and breaking the fourth wall at every opportunity. The in-game graphics are brilliant; levels and enemies are as visually distinct as the four Spider-Man and the game runs very fast and smooth (when the camera isn’t freaking out on you). The cutscenes are equally impressive, if a bit inconsistent as they’re comprised of the in-game graphics, higher quality cinematics, and partially animated sequences, but they tell the story well enough and are always fun to watch.

Enemies and Bosses:
There are a number of goons to pit your spider-powers against in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions but, for the most part, once you’ve faced the first wave of enemies in the first level, you’ll encounter the same troupes again and again but in new skins. You’ll find regular enemies who come at you with their fists and melee weapons (baseball bats and swords and such), gun-toting enemies who either chip away at your health or blast you full of holes when playing as Spider-Man Noir, shield-carrying enemies who you must zip towards and hop over with A to attack from behind, and larger enemies who will put up a block that you need to break with your air launcher attack. Other enemies include smaller versions or duplicates of the level’s main foe that can generally be taken out in one or two hits but swarm all over you, larger enemies that toss out grenades or seeking rockets, and all manner of zombies and genetically-engineered monstrosities. One aspect I really enjoyed was that enemies can actually attack and harm each other, which is incredibly helpful when swarmed by foes, and you can also throw objects such as barrels and flaming debris at enemies to help whittle them (or, at least, their health) down.

The Amazing Spider-Man battles Kraven, the Sandman, and the Juggernaut for the Tablet pieces.

Each level is structured around locating, pursuing, and/or confronting one of Spider-Man’s villains and retrieving a piece of the Tablet from them; thus, each level concludes in a boss battle but you’ll actually battle each boss a number of times throughout each level. The first boss the Amazing Spider-Man comes up against is Sergei Kravinoff/Kraven the Hunter, who leads you on a merry jaunt through the jungle, shoots at you through his sniper rifle, and initially battles you inside of a caged arena. Here, you’ll need to dodge and evade his jumping strikes and counterattack in response, web-zip to the convenient columns to avoid the floor spikes, and finish him off with some first-person punching. In the second battle, he’s much stronger and faster thanks to the Tablet fragment but the strategy remains the same; take advantage of the spawning columns to avoid his attacks and strike as and when you can but don’t linger in one area for too long or he’ll knock your ass down. Later, you’ll have to pursue Flint Marko/The Sandman through an abandoned mine, using your web pull to drench his raging sand tornado and battle his gigantic form within the mine itself. Here, you must trick him into slamming his fists into water carts to muddy them up and make them vulnerable, then toss barrels at his face to defeat him. Afterwards, he draws you within his chaotic sandstorm and his personality begins to unravel; you must web-zip around the floating debris avoiding his giant fists and tossing water barrels at his face so you can deal some real damage and put him down once and for all. Finally, you’ll battle and purse Cain Marko/The Juggernaut in a construction site, through the city, and in the wreckage of Osborn Tower; initially, you simply have to avoid his charge attack to cause him to ram into specific towers and beat on him when he’s lodged in the ground, but his later empowered form sees him add a whole bunch of annoying ground pounds and smashes to his repertoire. Still, as long as you dodge away and stay away from his powerful grapple moves, it’s not too difficult to avoid his attacks and projectiles and put a big beating on him when prompted.  

Spider-Man Noir’s bosses can be a bit tricky, confusing, and mundane, respectively.

In the train yard, Spider-Man Noir follows Joseph Lorenzini/Hammerhead and it’s in the first fight against him that you might hit a considerable difficulty wall; Hammerhead uses a huge Gatling gun to keep you at bay whenever his lights (or the spotlights in the arena) spot even the slightest part of you. After taking cover behind walls, you must wait for Hammerhead to rotate away and run around behind him, staying wide and in the shadows, and press B when prompted to put a beating on him but the game doesn’t make this very clear and Hammerhead spots you way too easily. In the second fight, you have to avoid his machine gun fire and toss barrels at him to force him to blow up a piece of machinery with his rocket launcher, then zip up to the higher platform as he fires wildly into the fog to do big damage with a takedown, and then avoid his head-on charge to finish him off. Later, Spider-Man Noir pursues Adrian Toomes/The Vulture through the grimy streets and confronts him in a large warehouse; the Vulture is another annoying and confusing boss as he darts around slicing at you and tossing knives and you’re encouraged to use the spotlights to blind him and deal big damage but it’s unnecessarily random and difficult to get him into position to actually utilise this mechanic. When powered by the Tablet fragment, the Vulture’s claws and bite need to be avoided in first-person and then you go through the previous battle again but this time he also tosses Molotov cocktails at you (which you can cause him to drop to damage him instead). Finally, Spider-Man Noir tracks Norman Osborn/The Goblin to a warped fairground and has a number of first-person encounters with him before finally facing him inside the circus tent. The Goblin isn’t really all that, though; simply web towards him and jump over him to attack the glowing weak spot on his back, then zip up to higher ground when the lights go out to hit a takedown, before fending off his goons (or causing the Goblin to attack them himself) and avoiding the swipes from his column and pummel him when he’s stuck in the ground.

Ultimate Spider-Man’s bosses were probably the most fun and varied for me.

Ultimate Spider-Man’s first foe is Max Dillon/Electro, who he battles and pursues through a hydroelectric power plant to a huge dam; the first fight is quite annoying as Electro blasts at you with a huge laser and protects himself with an electrical field but the second bout is initially quite confusing as Electro teleports across generators and shields himself from your attacks. Soon, he drops to the floor and sends electrical blasts your way, but these leave him exhausted and vulnerable to your attacks. After fending off his electrical minions and draining his health, he’ll use the Tablet fragment to grow to gigantic properties and become invulnerable, similar to the Sandman fight. To defeat this giant Electro, you need to use your webbing on his hands to cause him to damage the dam behind him while avoiding his laser beams. When the fight switches to the other side of the dam, you’ll need to survive against the enemies he spawns and avoid his fists on an increasingly-small platform until prompted to web his head so the breached dam can finish him. While on the oil rig, Spider-Man is forced to take part in Deadpool’s warped reality show; this inevitably leads to a showdown between them that sees Deadpool teleporting around, slicing at you with his swords, and shooting at you all while his devoted fanboys rush in to join the fight. When he’s standing with a B prompt above his head, don’t web-zip over to him or else he’ll just teleport away; instead, rush over and approach from the ground to best him. After outrunning a tidal wave, you’ll battle him inside a caged arena, where he uses the Tablet to duplicate himself and rains explosive punching bags between rounds. However, simply evade these, and his attacks, and target each of his duplicates in turn and he’ll soon go down, but the final battle against Carnage is particularly striking since the creature has ransacked the Triskelion and corrupted its inhabitants into bloodthirsty monsters! In the first fight against Carnage, it leaps about the remains and wreckage of Quinjets and Helicarriers swiping and skewering you with spikes, but is perfectly susceptible to your attacks and can be dealt big damage by web-zipping it into the conveniently-placed furnaces nearby. In the second phase, Carnage encases itself in a bulbous, tentacled shield that some mechs will destroy with flamethrowers; this leads to a first-person sequence and Carnage blasting spikes, maniacally hopping around the place, and it draining your health to replenish its own if it gets hold of you!

Spider-Man 2099’s bosses tend to be very samey, tedious, and chaotic.

Spider-Man 2099 first butts heads with the Hobgoblin during a freefall sequence that sees you pummelling him and smashing him through obstacles. When you hit the ground, Hobgoblin hovers out of reach and tosses pumpkin bombs at you that you must grab with your webs and throw back at him to down him for a beating. After being empowered by the Tablet, the Hobgoblin conjures gargoyles to distract you and adds a bombardment of bombs to his arsenal, but the strategy remains the same; he’s just faster and more aggressive and you have to finish him off with a mid-air, first-person pummelling. O’Hara’s second boss is Kron Stone/The Scorpion, who leaves explosive, acidic eggs and spawns smaller versions of himself; the Scorpion initially charges at you and tries to smash you with his tail, but if you evade these attacks he’s left vulnerable to a beating and you can easily toss his eggs at him when he takes the high ground to spit acid at you and use B to beat him down. When powered by the Tablet, things are mostly the same but there’s also a large pit in middle of the room that Scorpion pounces at you in and fills with acid; however, throwing eggs at him will cause him to take a dip and be left wide open for a beating. Finally, O’Hara has to fight through Doctor Serena Patel/Doctor Octopus’ elaborate facility, avoiding her mechanical arms in freefall and trashing her gigantic Mecharms before confronting her at the heart of the complex. Here, you need to web pull three generators to lower her shield while avoiding her lasers, then jump over her energy shockwaves to do damage on her. When she powers up, she scuttles around fully shielded and firing lasers across the ground, but you can easily trick her into offing her own minions and defeat her by tossing their explosive cores at her.

All four Spider-Man take it in turns to whittle down and defeat Mysterio in the finale.

Once all of the bosses are beaten, the levels cleared, and the Tablets recovered, all four Spider-Man are thrown into a dimension of pure chaos as Mysterio uses the completed Tablet to become a gigantic, all-powerful God. First, you have to web-zip across floating, fragment platforms as Spider-Man Noir; there are no enemies to fight but you must make sure to avoid the light or else Mysterio will fire projectiles your way, and then simply press B when prompted to web pull his head into a rock. Ultimate Spider-Man then has to fend off a whole bunch of illusionary goons and then destroy the floating orbs after they’ve conjured an illusionary version of a boss, which hurts Mysterio, before quickly web-zipping across the wreckage when Mysterio destroys your platform and then hitting another web pull. Spider-Man 2099 has the easiest time in this fight as you simply have to freefall past Mysterio’s projectiles and magic obstacles to grab and pummel him, but the Amazing Spider-Man has to endure a gruelling gauntlet against a whole bunch of monsters while avoiding Mysterio’s projectiles. Once the enemies are cleared away, you can use the web pull to send a rock flying at Mysterio and must then web-zip to another, smaller platform and repeat the process until he’s downed for one last smash of his helmet to defeat his aspirations for good.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you explore the various levels in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, you may be disappointed to find that there aren’t any power-ups to find beyond the odd health-restoring Gold Spider Emblem. However, every level contains a number of challenges that make up the “Web of Destiny”; while most of these are unavoidable and story-based, many others are optional an easily missed unless you check the Web in each level. You may have to complete certain sections under a time limit, defeat certain enemies in certain ways, or perform certain moves a number of times in order to clear the challenges but the reward is some extra “Spider Essence”.

Collecting Spider Essence allows you to upgrade your abilities and unlock new costumes.

As you clear defeat enemies and bosses, clear levels, and complete these challenges, you’ll be awarded with Spider Essence, which essentially acts as a combination of currency and experience points and can be spent upgrading your health and regenerative capabilities, and unlocking new costumes and attacks, all of which make the game even easier and more chaotic as you plough through enemies with a longer health bar and additional strikes. You can also acquire additional Spider Essence by finding Silver Spider Tokens and Hidden Spiders in every level, which also count towards completing the Web of Destiny, so it pays to give each area a quick scan with your spider-sense for any collectibles.

Additional Features:
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions has forty-two Achievements on offer, with the vast majority of them popping as you play through the story and take down the game’s villains. There are also Achievements for completing the Web of Destiny, unlocking all the upgrades, and finding every Spider Token and Hidden Spider, which adds some replayability to the game. Other Achievements pop when you defeat up to five-hundred enemies, complete the game on each difficulty (which are stackable), maintain Ultimate Spider-Man’s Rage mode for a full minute, and perform a combo of up to two-hundred hits but there aren’t too many fun or quirky ones that ask you to go off the beaten track. Otherwise, that’s about it; you receive either a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Medal and unlock character models and concept art after clearing levels and there were some additional costumes for those who pre-ordered the game back in the day but there’s not really anything else to come back to besides any Achievements you missed. It might have been nice to include a boss rush or a survival mode, or as mentioned earlier mix and match the Spider-Man in a free play mode, but the Web of Destiny will keep you pretty busy for a few hours, I’m sure.

The Summary:
I’ve wanted to play Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions for years; sadly, I missed out on it when it first released, and the game has become very expensive and hard to come by since then. Thankfully, I was able to snap it up and finally get to grips with it and it was actually a pretty good way to spend a few hours. It’s not especially long or difficult, at least not on Normal mode, and can probably be finished in a day if you play non-stop from morning the late evening but there’s a fair amount to come back to once you’re done. Fittingly, the four Spider-Men are the main highlight of the game; each one looks, sounds, and plays a little differently from the other and it’s fun to go nuts with Ultimate Spider-Man’s rage and then stealthily stalk gangster as Spider-Man Noir. Splitting the game into individual levels helps to keep things interesting and fun, but levels do tend to drag on and enemy and boss variety doesn’t really hold up under close scrutiny. Most of the bosses boil down to winning one of those annoying first-person sequences, pursuing them through the level, battling their first form (usually with hit-and-run tactics, using their own attacks against them, or taking advantage of them getting stuck) and then fighting their Tablet form, which is either a giant version of the boss or a faster, more powerful version. A janky camera and awkward wall-crawling and web-slinging can make the game frustrating but these are recurring concerns in Spider-Man videogames and, overall, I found the game to be pretty fun and entertaining for the voice acting and visual variety alone.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you played Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions? If so, what did you think to it? Which of the four Spider-Men was your favourite? What did you think to the way the game handled the four Spider-Men and the different playstyles? Which level and boss battle was your favourite (or most frustrating)? Are you a fan of Spider-Man teaming up with his multiversal incarnations?? Which Spider-Man videogame is your favourite? Whatever you think, sign up and leave a comment or let me know on my social media and check in next Friday for more from Spider-Man Month.

Talking Movies: Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Talking Movies

Released: 15 October 2021
Director: Andy Serkis
Sony Pictures Releasing
Budget: $110 million
Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, and Stephen Graham

The Plot:
Over a year after the events of Venom (Fleischer, 2018), investigative journalist Eddie Brock’s (Hardy) struggles to adjust to life as the host of the alien symbiote Venom (which grants him super-human abilities in order to be a lethal vigilante) are further complicated when serial killer Cletus Kasady (Harrelson) is imbued with a spawn of the symbiote and becomes and begins a reign of terror as the maniacal Carnage.

The Background:
Originally depicted as a simple black costume acquired by Peter Parker/Spider-Man on an alien world, Venom eventually became their own character when the costume was revealed to be alive and bonded with the unhinged Eddie Brock to torment Spider-Man. Since their debut, Spidey-Man’s dark doppelgänger has become one of Marvel Comics’ most popular anti-heroes and one of Spider-Man’s most recognisable foes. So popular are Venom that they’ve made regular appearances in Spider-Man videogames and cartoons and were awkwardly shoe-horned into Spider-Man 3 (Raimi, 2008) for an impressive, if rushed, big-screen debut. Although the idea of a live-action Venom film had been doing the rounds in Hollywood since 1997, the idea only gained significant momentum after this film and eventually culminated in the frankly unprecedented casting of Tom Hardy in the title role for what became a commercially successful solo film despite mixed reviews and questions as to its relations to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Development of a sequel began in 2019; although Ruben Fleischer was unable to return, Andy Serkis took over directing duties and worked closely with Hardy to develop the film’s script. Although popular Venom antagonist Carnage was nixed as the main antagonist of the first film, Woody Harrelson appeared as the character’s human host as a tease for the sequel and took a gamble by signing on for the sequel before a script was even written. Although Venom: Let There Be Carnage was delayed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Serkis aimed to use the additional time to help spruce up the film’s visual effects and Hardy confirmed that he was signed on for a third film. Upon release, Venom: Let There Be Carnage was met with mostly positive reviews; reviews praised the madcap nature of the relationship between Eddie and Venom, while also criticising some of the film’s over-the-top moments, and the film has currently grossed over $352 million worldwide.

The Review:
After coming to terms with his newfound relationship with the alien symbiote known as Venom, Eddie Brock ended Venom in a pretty good place: he was determined to get back to written journalism,  and win back the heart of his old flame, Anne Weying (Williams), and reached a compromise with the symbiote where the creature would be allowed to live within Eddie’s body on the provision that it only attacked, killed, and, crucially, ate bad guys. Venom: Let There Be Carnage walks the characters back a little bit and finds the two not operating as a lethal protector, but once again largely at odds with each other.

Eddie is feeling burdened by Venom’s constant need to feed and desire to take out bad guys.

This is primarily because Eddie has been placating the symbiote with chocolate and live chickens rather than letting it ate the brains of bad guys; frustrated at being held back by Eddie’s morals, the symbiote frequently lashes out at him and demands to be let loose, but Eddie continues to exert his control over the alien parasite to avoid attracting undue attention. This gives the movie a very prominent “odd couple”/“buddy cop” feeling as Venom is basically an oversized toddler who just wants to go out and have a good time and doesn’t see why they have to hide themselves. A constant, nagging voice in Eddie’s head, Venom continually tries to give Eddie advice and push him into giving into his violent urges, which weighs heavily on Eddie; he seems to be absolutely burdened by the responsibility of housing and pacifying Venom, who represents his inner desires that he suppresses in order to live a simple life out of the spotlight. Venom resents Eddie’s hesitation in holding them back and wants to be out there, stalking bad guys and letting itself loose, rather than being cooped up in Eddie’s body and apartment. Still, Eddie’s concerns are largely validated; Detective Patrick Mulligan (Graham) is incredibly suspicious of Eddie, not just because he always happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and the unexplained events of the first film, but also because he’s the only person that notorious serial killer Cletus Kasady will talk to and Mulligan believes that Eddie is holding back information purely to bolster his own journalistic career.

Mulligan is convinced that Eddie’s holding out on him, while Eddie laments losing his chance with Anne.

Still a far cry from having his own, regular journalism show on television, Eddie endures Cletus’s repeated requests to talk to him primarily to help get his life back on track and to bring some relief to the families of Kasady’s victims. However, he comes across as being a selfish, self-serving reporter since to reveal the truth to Mulligan would mean his imprisonment, at best, and him and the symbiote being shipped off to some governmental facility somewhere. Venom’s near-perfect visual recall and artistic ability help Eddie to identify where Cletus has buried a number of his victims, instantly making Eddie an overnight celebrity and condemning Kasady to a lethal injection. Eddie’s exhilaration at his career turnaround is short-lived, however, when Anne reveals that she’s now engaged to the kindly Doctor Dan Lewis (Reid Scott); heartbroken at having lost his former love, tensions between Eddie and Venom finally come to boiling point, resulting in an amusing physical confrontation between the two that sees the symbiote separating itself from Eddie and heading out to live its own life. This results in a pretty amusing little side story where Venom jumps between multiple, unsuitable hosts, using them up one at a time as it tours through the colourful city streets and seeks out enjoyment. Being separated from Eddie causes Venom to slowly starve and realise how much it took Eddie for granted, while Eddie’s life generally improves without the symbiote weighing him down. This is where Anne plays her most prominent role; she doesn’t have as much to do as in the first film but makes for a great mediator between Edie and Venom, interjecting in their domestic dispute to bring them back together and force them to admit how much they need each other.   

Kasady and Shriek’s relationship is taken to the next level when he obtains his own symbiote.

The two are soon forced to make amends, however, when Kasady suddenly sprouts a symbiote of his own; an absolutely crackpot murderer, Kasady feels a connection with Eddie due to believing them to be very similar people, with comparable backgrounds. Heavily abused as a child and with a long history of violence, Cletus is seemingly out of his mind and completely unremorseful of his actions, which have condemned him to death. During his final interview with Eddie, Kasady suddenly snaps and takes a bite out of Eddie’s hand, consuming a part of the symbiote which violently bubbles to the surface while he’s receiving his lethal injection. Dubbing himself Carnage, Kasady goes on an absolute rampage throughout the prison, killing several guards and breaking free of his confinement; he quickly comes to an understanding with his newfound alien partner that sees them joining forces to destroy their “father” and to reunite Kasady with his old girlfriend, Frances Barrison/Shriek (Harris), a Mutant sporting an ear-piercing scream who was the one source of light in Kasady’s life as a child. Of course, like Venom in the first movie (and also this one), Carnage is somewhat hampered by the film’s 15 rating; in the comics, Kasady is one of the most extreme and brutal villains from the “Dark Age” of comic books, slicing and dicing people on a whim and causing… well, carnage…with no rhyme or reason and entirely for the thrill of it. The entire point of the character was to be a more extreme version of Venom so that the symbiote could shift into more of an anti-hero role but, in the movies, Eddie is a far more stable and much nicer guy than his comic book counterpart, and Venom repeatedly states its desire to protect people from bad guys, meaning that the two are already much softer than in the comics. Still, Kasady remains as nutty as his comic book counterpart, but also far more focused; he genuinely loves Frances and wants to not only reunite with her for a killing spree but also protect her from harm, a weakness not shared by his Marvel Comics incarnation. His motivation for targeting Eddie also stems from a need to feel a genuine connection with someone, which is a far cry from just desiring senseless slaughter, but the abilities of the symbiote certainly dial all of Kasady’s worst impulses up to eleven. While bloodshed is kept to a minimum and there’s little in the way of the slasher-villain antics of his comic book counterpart, Carnage quickly amasses a pretty impressive body count and certain looks completely unhinged thanks to some top-notch CGI and being augmented to be larger and more unhinged than its “father”. With Carnage going on a tear and endangering lives, Eddie and Venom are reunited by Anne and forced to once again realise that they need each other to survive and to be special, and come together once more to confront their progeny and establish themselves as a lethal protector.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Director Andy Serkis definitely ups the ante in terms of the film’s presentation and the balance between action and humour; flashbacks to Kasady’s past are rendered using both younger actors an crudely-drawn animations to depict some of the younger Kasady’s more violent acts, which all helps to add to the character’s unhinged state of mind. The banter and dialogue between Eddie and Venom is one of the highlights of the film; Venom is constantly popping out and threatening to eat people’s heads or berating Eddie for being “weak”, and its tentacles are often whipping around mashing together food or causing mischief, which was very amusing. Thanks to having spent the majority of Venom’s runtime establishing Eddie and Venom as characters, Venom: Let There Be Carnage doesn’t have to worry about being shackled by the restraints of an origin story for them and we get to see Venom in all their glory pretty soon into the movie, which is great but does result in a bit of a rushed beginning to the film where it seems like it’s going to be a mindless, jump-cut-heavy action film but, thankfully, Serkis soon gets the film’s pacing under control and focus on the evolving dynamic between Eddie and Venom.

The conflict between Eddie and Venom forms a central element of the film’s plot.

Since we know who these characters are, much of the time spent with them is focused on showing how tension between the two are growing. This is primarily so that Eddie can lose his “powers” midway through the film and the two can relearn just how dependant they are on each other, but also allows the film the time to flesh out Kasady’s character and backstory, something he sorely needed. I actually disliked how Kasady was just tacked onto the end of Venom as a mid-credits teaser; it kind of came out of nowhere and probably left a lot of audiences unfamiliar with the characters confused as to why Woody Harrelson was sitting in a cell and sporting a bizarre wig. Personally, I would have had a recurring element of Venom be Eddie trying to gain an audience with Kasady in order to turn his career around, and only be granted this by the end, just to help foreshadow their meeting a bit but Venom: Let There Be Carnage definitely makes up for this. Harrelson seems to be having the time of his life, chewing the scenery and stealing the show as the unhinged Kasady, a madman who writes postcards and letters in a bizarre script and brags about how many people he’s killed. He was a psychopath even before acquiring his symbiote, and joining with Carnage simple allows his sordid ambitions to be completely free from any mortal restraints.

The effects do a brilliant job of bringing Venom and Carnage to life and making them visually distinct.

The relationship between Kasady and Carnage is as different from the comics as the one between Eddie and Venom, too; in the comics, Kasady and his symbiote form a perfect union, a symbiosis so complete that they refer to themselves as “I” instead of “we” and the symbiote even merged with Kasady’s blood, making them functionally inseparable. Here, the two converse independently like Eddie and Venom and come to a mutually beneficial arrangement very quickly, meaning that there is no conflict between the two like there is between Eddie and Venom, which allows the character to fulfil its criteria of being the most violent impulses of Venom dialled up to eleven and completely off the hook. Carnage’s threat is also accentuated by the fact that its actually bigger and much more versatile than Venom, which is also a welcome change; unlike Carlton Drake/Riot (Riz Ahmed) in the last film, Carnage is so much more visually distinct, being red, rippling with tentacles and malice, and sporting so many different abilities that even Venom is hesitant to go head-to-head with it because of how violent and dangerous the “red [ones]” can be. This results in some far more impressive and visually interesting action and fight scenes; indeed, Venom looks better than ever, all glossy and shiny and ferocious, and the effects used to bring the symbiote and its tentacles to life look much more impressive this time around. Carnage, especially, looks fantastic; I love how its so visually distinct from Venom, which really helps make their fight scenes easier to follow and far more vicious than in the last film; Kasady’s transformations are didtsurbing and violent as well, and just about the only thing I disliked about Carnage was that its voice was a little low (I always imagined Carnage to just shriek like a madman).

The Summary:
My expectations for Venom: Let There Be Carnage were quite low, to be honest; I enjoyed Venom but I think it was a major misstep to do the character’s story without involving some version of Spider-Man. The film just about pulled it off, but I still feel like critical elements of the character were (and continue to be) missing as a result; still, it was a pretty decent, if somewhat flawed, little action piece that was only hampered by its rating. I knew all along that Venom: Let There Be Carnage wouldn’t be rated any higher than a 15 as it just makes business sense to help it make the most money it possibly can, so I was fully prepared to see a more neutered version of Carnage but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. The odd couple dynamic between Eddie and Venom was brilliant, as was their banter and their tumultuous relationship in general, and it’s great seeing Tom Hardy’s physicality and dedication to these characters on show. The special effects were far better this time around as well; I may not like that Venom is lacking their iconic spider-symbol, but they look phenomenal here and there are far more scenes and action sequences of Venom this time around, which I greatly appreciate as a long-time fan of the character. Woody Harrelson absolutely stole the show as Cletus Kasady and Carnage, though; sure, the character is notably altered and he’s not tearing hapless innocents apart with reckless abandon, but I think this is the closest and most accurate portrayal of the character that we’re ever likely to get and they did a great job of accentuating Kasady’s madness and the ferocious nature of his symbiote. In the end, I expected Venom: Let There Be Carnage to be little more than just more of the same of the last film but it ended up being so much more and something far closer to the Venom I grew up reading in Marvel Comics.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Have you seen Venom: Let There Be Carnage? If so, what did you think to it? Did you like the relationship between Eddie Brock and Venom and their odd couple dynamic? What were your thoughts on Celetus Kasady and Carnage? Were you happy with the action and pace of the film and how do you feel it compares to the first movie? What did you think to the mid-credits teaser and where would you like to see the character go in the future? What are some of your favourite Venom and/or Carnage stories from the comics? Sign up to leave your thoughts on Venom: Let There Be Carnage down below or comment on my social media with your opinions.