Columnist explains the gap between general audience and critic opinion through the lens of “Venom”
I like to say that a critic judges a movie with scores and critiques while an average viewer judges a movie with his or her pocket book. Most of the time, these two measures coincide: A movie with a high Rotten Tomatoes score tends to make more money than one with a bad score. That being said, sometimes these two forces—the critics’ views and the audience’s—are at odds, and no recent movie illustrates this as well as the recently released blockbuster Venom.
Before I start talking about that smash hit (or failure, depending on who you’re talking to), I should outline why differences exist between critical reactions and those of the average person. It simply comes down to differing expectations—a professional critic looks for technical aspects and elements like character development, while the average audience member simply wants to enjoy him or herself. I believe that this is the reason for the near 60 percent divide that Venom has on Rotten Tomatoes.
From a purely critical viewpoint, Venom is a terrible movie. The emotional beats are hackneyed at best. The film simply moves from one plot point to the next and tries to tell the viewer how to feel with sad music and clichéd story elements. Basically, the movie would be just as moving if the director held up a cue card reading “THIS IS SAD” every time he wanted you to feel emotional. Furthermore, the movie is rushed, leaving no time to think about events or what they mean for the story overall, with Venom literally leaping from scene to scene at times. Most importantly, the characters are simply bland. The villain, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), is so two-dimensional that he could have been pulled straight out of a cartoon. Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), the film’s love interest, does nothing except simply exist, and Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) seems to move wherever the plot needs him regardless of his wants or needs as a character. None of these characters change or evolve as the movie progresses. For instance, Eddie, the main protagonist, simply shifts from a vigilante journalist to a vigilante journalist with superpowers. From a critic’s point of view, it’s just a bad movie, and I agree that this movie deserves nothing more than a 29 percent rating.
Despite these failures, I have to admit that Venom is incredibly enjoyable, especially when watched as a normal audience member. The action is simply fun, with explosions throughout, exciting special effects and inventive scenarios, such as an entire fight that takes place in the clouds of gas released from smoke grenades. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t feel the need to bog itself down with phony messages. Venom knows what it is—a superhero movie with a talking alien-symbiote—and doesn’t try to be anything more, which is not a negative in this case. Finally, the movie is just plain funny. Even Venom, the aforementioned space-parasite, has plenty of one-liners that leave the audience in stitches. As a simple audience member, I can’t say I hated this movie. In fact, I thought it was awesome, and I find myself agreeing with the 87 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
In the end, though, this dissonance is nothing to get angry about: It is simply a difference in perspective. It proves you shouldn’t always look at the critical score to determine how much you’ll enjoy seeing a movie—simply see whatever sounds enjoyable!