While Venom was certainly a box office hit with a whopping $856 million worldwide box office haul, the film failed to make a positive impression on most critics—and director Ruben Fleischer took notice. The long-in-the-works Marvel Comics adaptation from Sony Pictures finally came to fruition with the Zombieland director at the helm, and he enlisted Tom Hardy to star in what was essentially a blockbuster that flirted with darker tendencies, but was mostly happy just being splashy and big and kinda dumb fun.
When Venom hit theaters last year, critical reception wasn’t super warm. It currently stands at only 29% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and while Rotten Tomatoes isn’t the most precise gauge of how “good” a movie is, the overall picture was that critics didn’t love Venom.
During a recent interview with Fandom, Fleischer was asked what he would have changed about Venom if given the chance, and he singled out the critical reception:
“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.”
I completely understand being bummed that critics didn’t like your movie, but I think it’s unfair to say the reviews were negative because of “blowback” against Sony or “Marvel worship.” Those same critics were mixed on plenty of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and in the very same year critics hailed Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as one of the best films of 2018.
Venom, frankly, was just not as satisfying cohesive a viewing experience as some other “dumb fun” movies. It’s possible to create a “crowdpleasing movie” that also works well on basic narrative, character, and emotional levels (see: Edge of Tomorrow, John Wick, Shazam!, etc.). But despite some bright spots (namely Hardy’s performance), Venom just wasn’t quite there.
The idea that critics are “gunning for” certain movies is pretty silly in my opinion. If I’m going to spend two hours out of my day watching a movie for review, I want to have a good time. I don’t go in hoping that it’s bad. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like wasting my tome and I really enjoy seeing bad movies
Venom 2 will be different in at least one regard: Fleischer’s not directing it. He moved right into finally making Zombieland 2 (a “crowdpleasing movie” that’s getting good reviews, by the way), and Andy Serkis is now in line to take the helm of the Venom sequel. For his part, Fleischer says he was happy to step away from the follow-up:
“I was kinda happy to let somebody else take over. And I’m excited to see what he does with it.”
And while Fleischer isn’t involved in the Venom sequel at the moment, he did note that it’s his belief that eventually Sony will be bringing Tom Holland’s Peter Parker into Venom’s world:
“That’s where it’s all going to lead,” he reveals. “And that’s the exciting thing, because we changed the origin of Venom … in the comics, he evolved from Spider-Man but because of the Marvel-Sony thing we weren’t able to that. And so the thing I think it’s building towards, and will be exciting to see, is when they actually do confront each other.”
Indeed, reportedly one of the reasons that Sony shied away from allowing Venom to be Rated R was so they could increase the chances of being able to incorporate Holland’s Peter Parker at some point. Holland’s iteration of the character exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is PG-13 only, so getting Marvel Studios’ sign-off for a crossover would hinge on ensuring that the Venom movies don’t severely infringe on their storytelling process or plans.
We’ll see where that all leads, but it sounds like Fleischer is pretty done with Venom at this point. Will Serkis’ sequel be better received, or is Sony happy to just stick with what works and count their money? We’ll find out when Venom 2 eventually hits theaters.