Venom director Ruben Fleischer has some theories on why the movie received so many negative reviews from critics. Based on the Spider-Man villain first introduced in 1984, Venom casts Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, a journalist who's invaded by an alien symbiote and finds himself transformed into a hybrid super-entity. Despite Spider-Man himself not making an appearance, Venom was a blockbuster for Sony with $856 million at the global box office (indeed, Venom set the record for the biggest-ever October opening when it came out in 2018, but has since relinquished that mark to Joker).
Given those box office numbers, it’s safe to say Venom was a huge success with audiences around the world, and Sony were obviously thrilled the movie was a hit after their struggles to sustain the Spider-Man franchise before the character was finally handed off to Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios. Critics however were not as keen on Venom’s brand of dark-tinged comic book action, and the film currently holds a dismal critics' score of 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie’s audience score by contrast stands at a very strong 80%.
Speaking to Fandom, Venom director Fleischer offered his own theory as to why critics failed to embrace the film, while audiences fell in love with it. When presented with a fan question asking what he would change about the movie, Fleischer instead went after critics, saying:
“If anything, I would have changed the critics’ reaction to it. I was really bummed that people didn’t like it because it’s a crowdpleasing movie and I’m not sure if there was just blowback against Sony or people just worship Marvel. But I was really surprised that the critics [were gunning for it] because audiences really enjoyed the movie. And so many people who’ve seen it just appreciated that it was a fun superhero movie. So I was a little surprised. I don’t know what they were expecting.”
Fleischer also added that he is glad to now be walking away from Venom, as he’s handing off Venom 2 directing duties to Andy Serkis. Venom 2 will also feature Woody Harrelson as Carnage (as was set up in the first film’s mid-credits scene), as well as a returning Hardy, who also helped out on the movie’s script, and Michelle Williams. Of course, fans just want to know if there will ever be a Venom/Spider-Man crossover movie, and Fleischer interestingly said in the same interview with Fandom that he believes such a team-up will eventually happen.
As Fleischer reinforced in his remarks, the divide between critics’ and audiences’ perceptions of comic book movies continues to be a big subject of discussion, and it seems Fleischer is one of those who believes critics simply do not appreciate the “crowd-pleasing” aspects of such movies, while general audiences are more in tune with the entertainment value the movies offer. Martin Scorsese of course would argue that movies like Venom aren’t cinema at all, but ultimately, the argument may be moot as comic book movies undoubtedly dominate the box office right now, meaning Hollywood will continue to focus on making them. Only when box office numbers begin to flounder will the tide shift.
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