Critics or Audience: Whose Opinion Do You Trust? : “Venom” and Other Recent Films Show a Baffling Divide in Approval

tomhardy-photoBy Erin Caine

Lifestyle Editor

Naturally, moviegoers showed up in droves to the Hollywood superhero flick of the season, “Venom,” starring Tom Hardy.

Though the film easily topped the box office (even over the much-praised Lady Gaga remake of “A Star is Born”), film critics almost universally panned it. According to Rotten Tomatoes, “Venom” holds an embarrassing 31 percent average rating amongst critics.

In his review, Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film a “tone-deaf, uneven, and maddeningly dumb clunker that never settles on an identity, all the way to the closing credits.”

By contrast, the average audience score for the film is an enthusiastic 88 percent. One audience reviewer gave the film four out of five stars and said, “Professional critics are too full of themselves. They expect an action flick to be Oscar[s] level, when literally nobody else does.”

The divide in opinion may point to a flaw in the movie rating system on which most moviegoers have come to rely, where numbers and stars say all. It seems apparent that general audiences and professional critics have different standards for what qualifies as worthwhile cinema.

The reviews for Jennifer Garner’s recent “Peppermint” action film sports an even harsher rift in opinion. While audiences seemed to enjoy it enough to give it a respectable 77 percent, critics rated it barely in the double digits at 10 percent.

In her review of the film, Vulture’s Emily Yoshida said, on Garner’s role as a vengeful vigilante killer, that the “methodology of Hollywood’s ‘Extreme Makeover: Gender Edition’ is broken.”

Although formulaic plots and transparent gimmicks seem to put critics off, those tactics are the ones that are encouraging people to go to the theaters these days. There’s a certain esteem, for instance, in showing up at midnight premieres to final installments or to much-anticipated reboots of beloved franchises.

The familiar is comfortable, and normal viewers don’t have to deeply analyze what they’re watching for a living. And, of course, while casual moviegoers probably see only a few movies a year, film critics typically absorb a lot more content.

It may be suffice to say that a movie like “Venom” is a “weird, atonal, campy mess” to critics, and simply an entertaining ride for audiences.

One only has to look at the long history of “cult classics” in movie culture, generally made up of films that were critically panned or met with ambivalence when they were released—such as the pinnacle of glitzy camp, “Rocky Horror Picture Show”—but later gained celebrated status amongst dedicated fans.

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