Are critical film reviews damaging the motion picture industry more than providing a valuable service?

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Another global catastrophe in Independence Day Resurgence and I don’t mean the alien invasion.  (2016)

I would love to tell you that ID4 – 2, Resurgence was a kick ass balls out sci-fi action picture in the grand tradition of other event films of recent years but I can’t.  Because I haven’t seen it.  In fact, I have only seen two movies in the theater in 2016.  Deadpool being one, Civil War the other.  both of them turned out to be first rate, action films.  Not a particularly good attendance record for the first 6 months of 2016 considering I had very high hopes of seeing no less than 10 major releases in theaters this year.  The ones on my list were:

Deadpool, Batman v. Superman, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, ID4-2, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad, The Magnificent Seven, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Doctor Strange and one to grow on….Rogue One.  (That’s  I added an 11th holiday bonus.)

Lately the news out of Hollywood has been both encouraging and ultimately disappointing with news of some re-makes making me excited like the Denzel Washington lead, Magnificent Seven.  Others not so much like the Ghostbusters re-tool.  I will touch on that  again in a minute.

I was very excited about ID4-2 even without Will Smith who frankly, has not made the best decisions with his career the last five years or so.  Hopefully his turn in Suicide Squad later this summer will return him to his usual greatness.  But getting back to ID4-2, I actually did want to see this film and perhaps I still will but again, bad word of mouth has killed another film for me.  Wired, Rotten Tomatoes, Cinemablend and Entertainment Weekly just to name a few have trashed it with EW going so far as to call it, “soulless and unremarkable”.   Moviegoers around the globe rely on critics to give them a better perspective on available movie options in a glutted market of big budget epics vying for your entertainment dollar.  But the question I have is, are they doing more harm to film making than good?  I don’t have a complete picture on an opinion yet but I am considering how I personally am affected.  A great example is the aforementioned Ghostbusters reboot Kevin Feige has coming out in a few weeks.  There has been so much negative press surrounding it from die hard fans upset over the path they took bringing it to the screen, to insider critics who indicate that even after a series of painful re-shoots a few months back, the final product is still a lackluster mess.  Even the biggest Ghostbusters site online, Proton Charging – Planet Ghostbusters, has spent an inordinate amount of their time telling people to chill out on the negativity while printing article after article about why the movie will be great.  Do they protest too much?  I don’t know.  Can too much press be a bad thing after all?  Time will tell on the GB reboot.

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When I saw this in the trailer… they officially lost me –  Ghostbusters (2016)

I guess the ultimate point of this rant is to ask the question, “are critics ultimately harming the film industry by their honest and unbiased critical opinions?”  I know most of us including myself would say of course not.  But a part of me says that they will and they do.  This is the part of me that sees the studio planning and development system for what it is and believe me it is not a creative art house for out of the box film makers with fresh, wild ideas.  No, it is a profit driven industry using formulas and plot arcs driven by income potential and governed by a moneyed elite who control what films are made, how much they cost and who makes them.   Batman vs. Superman was expected to join The Force Awakens in the billion dollar club and dammit, it should have.  Bad critical reviews are not going to fix the mess director Zach Snyder made of the DC CU with Man of Steel and its follow up.  It would only have taken a matter of 48 hours for word to circulate how disappointing the movie was to average filmgoers as well as comics aficionados.  But in the  film world, opening weekend is about the most important financial indicator as to how profitable a film is going to be.  Early critical pasting of major event films like this one can serve both a positive and negative effect.  Ultimately Snyder is getting clipped for this mess and hopefully the Justice League movie will learn from previous mistakes.  But what about those inventive, creative and ultimately unique film ideas that are not sequels, remakes or reboots?  Films like Dark City, Mad Max Fury Road or even major hits like District 9?  (Fury Road is different as it was funded outside the studio system like an independent film.)  Large budget independent films like these – some financed  by studios, others not, might be less inclined to get green lit if others of their kind  don’t show profitability.  Could we be suffering a creative loss because of it?

Independence Day 2 made an estimated $41 million at the box office this weekend coming in a distant second to Finding Dora which was not in its opening weekend.  This dismal showing at the box office was no doubt at least in some small part influenced by the miserable 33% from Rotten Tomatoes and other critical drubbings.

I do not advocate the removal of critical reviews or suppressing the truth about how crappy movies are.  I only ask the question, do these reviews now flooding the internet, television and mass media weeks or even days before a film opens serve to hurt the film industry more than they help audiences make an informed decision?  Do they keep studios from taking gambles in favor of playing it safe?  Would it hurt for critical reviews and other such insider tidbits to be withheld until after opening weekend?  I don’t know.  I’m only asking the question.  It looks though like Independence Day 2 will be joining Batman vs. Superman on my Netflix que sometime later in the year.  Reviews for X-Men Apocalypse were none to flattering either.  I refuse to look at any reviews for Star Trek Beyond until after I have seen it on the big screen.  I have to draw the line someplace.