Venom was awesome. Tom Hardy gave an all-in performance that neatly captured the weird horror/comedy vibe of the character, the action scenes made creative use of the symbiote, the relationship between Venom and Eddie Brock was the bromance of the year (they even smooched!) and c’mon, that scene where he climbs into the lobster tank at the restaurant is hilarious.
And yet it received a thumping from critics, who called it “infantile,” “maddeningly dull” and “a hot mess,” leaving it at 29% on the Tomatometer. Fortunately, audiences knew better, with the film eventually exceeding expectations and ending up clawing in $856 million at the box office.
So, what gives? Was the critical community just predisposed to hate the movie or is there something else at play? Well, director Ruben Fleischer recently discussed the pic in an interview with Fandom and was asked what the one thing he’d change about Venom is and said the following:
“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 crowd-pleasing 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.”
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It’s worth remembering that many movies now considered all-time greats opened to dreadful reviews. Psycho, Fight Club and The Shining all got negative reviews, and while I don’t put Venom in anywhere near the same league as them, it’s worth remembering that opinions can evolve over time. In addition, there’s a kind of inertia in review scores: once the trend is established that a film is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ many critics will avoid going against the received wisdom.
Whatever the case, I agree with Fleischer that Venom absolutely did not deserve the reaction it got. Let’s hope that when Venom 2 hits cinemas critics will treat it a little more fairly.