culture

Why Is ‘Venom’ a Hit in China? Thank This Video Depicting Venom as a Socialist Hero

The viral clip shows Venom promoting manners and urging viewers to join the Chinese Communist Party

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December 6, 2018

Sony’s eponymous anti-hero film Venom continues to make waves overseas, despite attracting lukewarm reviews from many critics and some viewers upon its initial U.S. release on Oct. 5. The film, starring Tom Hardy as investigative-journalist-turned-alien-symbiote Eddie Brock, garnered a measly 29 percent critic score on Rotten Tomatoes and a more impressive audience score of 86 percent. Yes, the film left a lot to be desired, regardless of Hardy’s duplicitous tour-de-force-Jekyll/Hyde performance.

 

Aside from its record-breaking opening weekend at the domestic box office, the film has been on a recent surge at the Chinese box office, partly due to a viral fan-made video.

 

After roughly one month in Chinese theaters, Venom has raked in $262 million, lifting it fractionally above Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom to become the No. 2 Hollywood title of the year in China and the seventh biggest overall. No small feat, these accolades may all be the result a comedic piece of social content depicting Venom as a socialist hero promoting safety and manners who wants everyone to join the Chinese Communist Party. Movie fans and bloggers are widely sharing this 68-second video across Weibo, one of the most popular social media platforms in China. Having accrued several million views and grabbed the attention of Chinese consumers, Venom may have just cracked the algorithm for being a success in both hemispheres.

 

Nothing about the film is tailored to Chinese audiences, it doesn’t feature any foreign filming locations, marquee Chinese cast members or any product placement. The fan-made video was simply enough to woo moviegoers and to open their wallets for their would be socialist symbiote. As the video spread, the legitimacy of its origins came into question. Although it was eventually confirmed that the studio was not involved with the video, it may have been inspired by how Sony decided to market the movie. Taken from the official Sony Pictures account on Weibo is a series of animated images (below) shared by Twitter user Darren Mooney that is built around one common theme: Wouldn’t it be nice if Venom was your boyfriend? I’m not endorsing “monster erotica,” but I wouldn’t mind having an alien symbiote known as the “Lethal Protector” as my friend. Invulnerability and shapeshifting have their perks.

No matter the country or region, box office success doesn’t equate to critical success or vice-versa. Just look at Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s most recent underwhelming outings: Skyscraper and Rampage. Nonetheless, there is more to be gleaned from Venom’s successes. Lacking the backing of Marvel’s superhero hype machine like Spider-Man: Homecoming, this Venom flick more than doubled its China box openings. The keys to success can simply be attributed to one basic marketing principle: know your audience, well, and create organic moments around them. Venom is tonally dissonant by all means, sometimes embodying an action film and other times straight comedy. Yet, the film appears to have resonated with Chinese fans in theaters and across social, which honestly may be due to the movies disjointedness.