TUCSON, Ariz. — "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is as uncomfortable to watch as a stand-up comedian who is bombing, knows he's bombing, yet keeps plowing through his act.
Sweat drips from his brow, his jokes echo off the walls, and everyone in the audience looks around awkwardly.
The film is a sequel to the surprise 2018 smash, an exciting story peppered with humor to success. The sequel goes all-in on the humor aspect but amounts to a comic book action movie version of "The Odd Couple."
Director Andy Serkis has trouble managing the awkward tone and would have done well to have instituted better quality control when it came to CGI.
The animation -- which would have looked brilliant in an animated film or video game -- does not fit in well with the color scheme and stands out awkwardly.
Things are at their worst when Venom and Carnage engage in their climactic battle, which amounts to an extended cut-scene with no skip button.
Tom Hardy plays investigative journalist Eddie Brock, content with sharing his body with the alien symbiote Venom.
This flesh-hungry beast unleashes rampages of destruction at will. Venom has destroyed his career and love life -- his fiancee Anne (Michelle Williams) has ditched him.
Still, he tries to reach relevance by interviewing serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson).
That interaction ends in Venom spawning Carnage, an even nastier version of Venom that transmits to Cletus, as an unrepentant psychopath and has daddy issues directed at Eddie/Venom.
People, this is why you still need to mask up for safety.
Hardy, who wrote the story along with screenwriter Kelly Marcel, has himself partially to blame for the awful dialogue he spouts -- much of it bizarrely shouted at the alien camping out inside his body.
Those scenes of Hardy arguing with a cartoon are annoying enough, but things get far more grating when Cletus's girlfriend, Frances (Naomie Harris), appears onscreen.
Her superpower is loud, obnoxious shrieks, and whenever she uses it, you feel the pain of everyone around her, courtesy of the booming theater speakers. Have your earplugs at the ready.
The most appealing part of the movie was the end credits scene, which points to the franchise crossing paths with the mainline Marvel Cinematic Universe in a way fans have always clamored for.
The "Venom" franchise thus finds itself at an uncomfortable crossroads. Both the glimmering past and future overshadow this film, sinking their poison-tinged fangs into a disappointing present.
RATING: 2 stars out of 4.
Viewed Thursday night at Harkins Arizona Pavilions.
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