There have been countless bad movies released, and most of the time they’re often forgotten and never looked at again by the majority of moviegoers. But every now and then, a bad movie comes along that still manages to be incredibly entertaining and built a special following. One of the best examples of this is 2003’s The Room, Tommy Wiseau’s “masterpiece” that is considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. With Venom now in theaters, I firmly believe that the movie will fill that same kind of ‘so bad, yet so enjoyable to watch’ hole for the superhero movie genre that The Room has filled for 15 years.
Going into Venom, there were two things I wanted: for the character’s introduction to be handled better than it was in Spider-Man 3 and, as I want from most movies, to be entertained. On that first front, Venom somewhat delivers. Make no mistake, Spider-Man’s absence from the movie is definitely detrimental, but given the material available to work, this version of Eddie Brock’s origin story was overall handled better than how his transformation into Venom was shoehorned into the Web-Slinger’s 2007 flick. On that second front, Venom definitely succeeded, but make no mistake, this is still a bad movie.
From plot issues to horrible dialogue (Eddie Brock at one point talks about the symbiote being “up his ass”) to most of the characters being uninteresting, Venom is messy, absurd and often incoherent. Compared to most of the other superhero movies released nowadays, it just doesn’t measure up. Venom is currently ranked at 31% on Rotten Tomatoes among critics, which is a fair assessment, but if you look over, you’ll see that it has an audience score of 88%, which isn’t too surprising. Because for all Venom‘s faults, I still had a fun time watching it, just like I, and many others, have had with The Room.
The Room has become so notorious that most people going into the movie know it’s going to be awful, and the few who haven’t heard of The Room will soon learn that it’s poorly made across the board. But nevertheless, it’s fun to watch just this trainwreck unfold and quote its ludicrous lines (“Oh hai, Mark!”). There’s a reason why it’s often screened as a midnight offering, and last year’s The Disaster Artist (adapted from Greg Sestero’s book of the same name) explored the making of the movie. I doubt Venom will be screened like this in the future, but like The Room, it will be more amusing to watch in crowds that know it’s bad. Serving alcohol during such screenings will also help.
So if Venom is such a terrible superhero movie, then what makes it so entertaining? What saves it from being completely abominable? Easy: the relationship between Tom Hardy‘s Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote. I don’t know if director Ruben Fleischer intended for Venom to feel like a comedic, body swap movie or if it happened by accident, but Hardy definitely pulled out all the stops to make Eddie Brock’s bond with the symbiote weird and hilarious. At times it feels like he’s participating in a different movie than the rest of the cast.
Without Tom Hardy’s bonkers performance and the back-and-forth banter between human and symbiote, Venom would not be worth watching at all. Sure this Venom looks better than Topher Grace’s from Spider-Man 3, but you can see that in the trailers. Venom‘s charm as a whole lies in the ridiculous dynamic between the two protagonists. If given the choice between this Venom movie and one that more faithfully adapts his origin, I would obviously pick the latter, but that’s not to say I didn’t have a good time watching the former, just a lot of people have had with The Room.
One other thing that’s working in Venom‘s favor is commercial performance. The Room was barely a blip on the box office charts when initially released, whereas Venom is a bonafide smash in that department. At the time of this writing, it’s made over $378 million worldwide, and it hasn’t even opened in China, one of the most important movie markets. So needless to say that Venom will catch way more eyes than The Room, and Sony is likely discussing green lighting a sequel now. Will Venom 2 be any better than its predecessor? The film buff in me definitely wants it to be higher quality, but I also wouldn’t mind another round of ‘it’s so bad, it’s hysterical’ entertainment.
Look, I’d be lying if I said I’ll frequently re-watch Venom in the years to come. But if I do catch it on cable or watch it while hanging out with friends, I won’t cringe from it like I would with 2015’s Fantastic Four. Like The Room, Venom benefits from not being taken seriously at all, so once you set aside the notion that it’s effective filmmaking, then you can go in and have fun. In that way, it actually reminds me of 1997’s Batman & Robin. As a traditional Batman movie, Batman & Robin fails miserably, so much so that it put the Caped Crusader’s film series on ice for nearly a decade. But looked at a through purely comedic lens (think Batman ’66 ratcheted up a few notches), then you can at least derive some enjoyment from it. Venom is the same sort of deal.
In another universe, maybe the Venom movie ended up a proper cinematic reunion between the eponymous character and Spider-Man. Maybe it was a horror movie akin to John Carpenter’s The Thing. But we got this version, and frankly, I’m just glad I found parts of it to enjoy, just like others have found with The Room. If that’s what it takes to live on in people’s memories, better that than being a total dud.