For whatever reason, and honestly, in this case it beats me, audiences just seem to flock to certain films. The Western gross is certainly not a huge surprise. What is more surprising is the gross that registered in China. In the last decade, as Western films have increasingly impacted the Chinese market and found willing audiences, one thing is evident – the Chinese audience have their tastes, and they are blind to film criticism. They just see something that piques their interest and they go to watch it, and often in big groups. It’s a big communal experience to go and watch some simple escapism. It’s seen a decline in interest for the traditional period films, in place of American blockbusters, or domestically, jingoistic war films like Wolf Warrior. Even Jackie Chan has turned to science fiction and higher concept to try to stay relevant to the young Chinese audiences.
Still, Venom’s impact there is a surprise. It’s not a film that lacks humour (intentionally or not) but Brock is one of the darker Marvel characters and not a definable hero by any stretch. The Chinese market has tended to be attracted to bright, colourful monster movies from the U.S, or the Fast franchise. Particular worldwide action icons remain popular their still too, like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger (well, their best returns of late have been in China, whereas domestically they’ve been VOD premieres or bombs). Tom Hardy doesn’t strike me as having a strong Chinese following.
Again, this is the magical unpredictability of cinema. Blade Runner 2049 is my favourite film of the last few years. It has a lot of elements in place that should have made it a commercially viable film. You could say the same of the original of course, but somehow, it just bombed, despite there being a ream of excellent promotion (it had some epic, grandiose and visually spectacular trailers). There is of course, a big difference between Venom and Blade Runner 2049. Where Venom is primarily aiming to offer pure escapism, without digging deeper and demanding the audience to invest more, Blade Runner 2049 wants more attention. It wants you to dig, and to enrapture yourself in the world, and to be challenged philosophically. Venom is dumb as a bag of spanners, but as we’ve seen in the blockbuster era, people all over the world love a bit of that. Furthermore, when a film is made to satisfy entertainment needs foremost over emotional content, and audiences are quite happy with this, the critical consensus will be irrelevant. It won’t stop audiences flocking to a franchise or concept that twangs their interest.
Are you surprised by Venom’s success? Did the critics get it wrong? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has three features due out on DVD/VOD in 2019 and a number of shorts hitting festivals. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see here.