Because Ruben Fleischer’s Venom was missing a number of major elements of Eddie Brock’s antiheroic origins from Marvel’s comics (see: Spider-Man), there was a significant chunk of time when the public’s feelings about the movie ranged from apprehensive to outright hostile. But then the movie finally hit theaters and—surprisingly(?)—it made bank at the box office.
Venom is far from the first film that managed to outperform everyone’s financial expectations despite receiving generally tepid reviews from critics. Venom’s not a total trainweck of a film, but it’s also not a film that has all that much to say. It’s a big-budget, slimy action movie with some intensely sexual undertones and a few fight sequences that’ll make you go: “Hmm. Sure, why not?”
But from Fleischer’s perspective, the press didn’t ultimately give his film a fair shake and in a recent interview with Fandom, he explained that if there’s one thing he would like to change about Venom, it’s the way critics received it.
“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,” he said. “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.”
There’s a lot to unpack here, but let’s start with the silly bits first. The only way Fleischer could have changed critics’ reactions would be if he’d made a different movie. Regardless of what a director’s intent with a movie is, once it’s out in the wild, it becomes a piece of art that’s meant to be consumed by people who bring their own opinions and perspectives to the table the shape their conclusions about what they’ve just seen.
What’s perplexing about Fleischer’s statement is that while Venom was panned critically, the movie did gangbusters at the box offic—and, perhaps more importantly, the larger public’s response to the movie was overwhelmingly positive despite the negative reception from critics (it’s getting a sequel, too). While Venom was lacking in the way of narrative substance, fans brought their own personal fondness for Eddie and Venom’s homoerotic friendship into the theaters with them, which made it possible for the fandom to appreciate Venom despite the fact that the movie really only threw them scraps to chew on. Defensive as it is, the director’s comment about people’s allegiances to studios is interesting, if only because of the way people quickly formed their own narratives about Marvel and Sony’s brief split that led to some accusing Sony of “hurting” Spider-Man by pulling him out of the MCU.
What people were expecting from Venom was a movie that couldn’t hold itself together because so much of the story that we associate with the character simply wasn’t on the screen. In the end, that’s more or less what we got, but what Fleischer seemingly didn’t expect was that the public would be extremely fine with that. What the public’s less fine with are successful directors who still have the time to gripe about things like this when they can count their money and continue to get films greenlit just fine.
Venom 2, to be directed by Andy Serkis, doesn’t have a release date as of yet.
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