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This time was supposed to be different. After a curiously miscast Topher Grace soured fans on Venom’s big-screen debut in 2007’s Spider-Man 3, Sony rebooted the character and cast Tom Hardy (Tom Hardy!) in the role for this Friday’s solo symbiote movie. The movie is the launch of a brand-new franchise for the studio, with Hardy signed up for three installments in total.
And the result—well, apparently this second go-around isn’t much better than Eric Forman’s attempt over a decade ago.
When the review embargo on Venom lifted this week, the movie was slammed by critics as being a near-mess of so-bad-it’s-almost-good proportions, punctuated by some choice reactions from critics that might be better than the movie itself:
I’m *fascinated* with VENOM. The cast seems to all know they’re in a darker superhero movie, except Tom Hardy who is basically remaking Jim Carrey’s Liar Liar. I kinda loved watching this movie, in a Rocky Horror type of way. At one point Tom Hardy and Venom make out.
— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) October 2, 2018
.@phillipstribune says "Venom" is a mess, "but wow, is it ever a fun, fascinating mess."
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) October 3, 2018
— Collider (@Collider) October 3, 2018
Tom Hardy's performance in #Venom is either Johnny Depp in the first PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN or Chris Klein in STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI. Either way, it's not boring.
— Scott Mendelson (@ScottMendelson) October 2, 2018
— Johnny Oleksinski (@JohnnyOMG) October 3, 2018
So those are the professional reviews—brutal, right? Well the story takes a turn to the absurd, because as the social media reactions started coming in from average viewers, people noticed two things: many of them were overwhelmingly negative and there seemed to be a disproportionate number of Lady Gaga fans ripping the movie.
What’s the connection? Well Gaga is one of the leads in this Friday’s A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper, which is in direct competition with Venom for your box office dollars. These bot-tastic reactions all use similar language, and some are outright copy-and-paste jobs pointing people away from Marvel’s Lethal Protector and towards the loving embrace of Gaga and company. Here are some of the reactions that eagle-eyed fans collected:
Beware of fake #Venom movie reviews. There are people trying to promote Lady Gaga's #AStarIsBorn and are fabricating negative reviews. Look out for bots and only trust proper and regular reviewers. pic.twitter.com/v9xznuN5R7
— JJ ? (@marvel_maniac_) October 2, 2018
The conspiracy theory is plain: Lady Gaga fans, so loyal to the cause, put together an attack on Venom in order to get more people to see A Star Is Born this weekend, resulting in more money and a slightly larger mansion for Gaga in the process.
It might sound far-fetched, but we’re not 72 hours removed from a study stating that Russian trolls put together a coordinated campaign to sow discourse in the United States by creating controversy over Star Wars: The Last Jedi reviews. So don’t think that a ragtag group of guerilla Gaga fanatics are above this type of behavior.
So according to the current state of social media, Venom is either 1.) a mess of Catwoman proportions 2.) a fascinating misfire that needs to be watched as a car crash-y curiosity or 3.) the victim of Big Gaga™ and her loyalists.