COMMENT: Are cinema-goers finally listening to film-critics again?
There is an opinion about film-critics that is only partially true.
Not every film-critic worth their salt only gives five-stars to foreign-language dramas or whatever happens to have arrived in from Cannes this week. There are some film-critics who genuinely enjoy big budget blockbusters and can appreciate them for what they are without turning up their noses at the first glimpse of CGI.
There has also been a bit of an opinion that some movies will be "critic-proof", no matter how low a Rotten Tomatoes score they're given, but this summer has proven that even the most well-publicised movie can fall flat on its face.
You don't have to look very far down the biggest box office hits of all time to find examples of films that just about every critic ripped apart, so there has been a bit of ongoing history with films like these getting sequel after sequel simply because they keep making more and more money.
Similarly, there have been some very good blockbusters, which received fair-to-good reviews from critics, which still went on to not do particularly well with the cinema-going public. Edge Of Tomorrow, Tomorrowland and John Carter all come to mind as recent examples.
But this summer, things are changing. Some big "critic-proof" blockbusters are under-performing or flat out flopping, and the one thing they all have in common? Critics hated them. And on the flip side, films that have done exceedingly well, film-reviewers have been throwing stars at them like ninjas. So are the general cinema-going public finally paying attention to what film-critics are saying again?
Let's look at some examples:
- Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge (or Dead Men Tell No Tales, depending on where you're reading this). The last entry in the PotC series was On Stranger Tides, which opened to $90 million and went on to make over a billion worldwide. Salazar's Revenge is by far the worst-reviewed entry in the series to date with 29% on Rotten Tomatoes, and opened to a "disappointing" $62.9 million. While that still sounds like a lot of money, and while more and more of these movies are making their money internationally, the standard way of telling if a movie is a success or not is if it makes the budget back in the United States. Salazar's Revenge reportedly cost $230 million to produce (without advertising or marketing), and currently stands at $128 million in the States, and stands practically zero chance of making the budget back in the U.S. alone.
- King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword. The $175 million production opened to $15 million, and currently stands at $38 million there and $130 million worldwide. It has a score of 28% on Rotten Tomatoes.
- Ghost In The Shell. Opened to $18 million, currently grossed $40 million in the U.S., against a $110 million budget. Rotten Tomatoes score: 45%
- Baywatch. One of the cheapest "blockbusters" of the summer only cost $69 million to produce, but opened to a disappointing $18.5 million in the U.S., where it currently has made just shy of $48 million. The second-worst reviewed movie that The Rock has been the lead in (after The Tooth Fairy) scored just 20% on Rotten Tomatoes.
But then on the flip-side, we've got:
- Wonder Woman. We know it's early days yet, but box office analysts were expecting the movie to open to around $65 million. Instead, it opened to over $100 million, and the $149 million production has already made $205 million in the U.S. alone after just one week. Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
- Split. Coming from the director of The Happening (18% on RT) and After Earth (11%), hopes were not high. So when Split scored 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, we knew he had turned things around. The $9 million production was expected to make $20 million in it's opening, but it wound up making over $40 million, and went on to bank almost $277 million worldwide.
- Get Out. The breakout hit of 2017, the one that was fueled by the 99% Rotten Tomatoes score to a unique level of success. Horror movies practically never fail at the box office, but this $4.5 million production opened to $33 million and went on to make over $247 million worldwide.
- Logan. Even after the lackluster The Wolverine and X-Men: Apocalypse, the fact that critics were saying at the time that this might be the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture had everyone drooling to see it. The $95 million production made $88 million in the first weekend (compared to 2013's The Wolverine, which cost $120 million and made $53 million in the first weekend), and topped out over $610 million worldwide. Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%
This trend looks set to continue, with Tom Cruise's The Mummy scoring just 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the $125 million production had opened to $32.2 million in the States, which despite inflation and increased ticket prices, is still less than 1999’s The Mummy ($43.3 million), 2001’s The Mummy Returns ($68.1 million), 2002’s The Scorpion King ($36.1 million), or the one that NO-ONE saw, 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor ($40.5 million).
Now, there is an argument to be made about these Rotten Tomatoes scores in the first place - they average out positives and negatives, so a film that gets 6 out of 10 from every critic can get a 100% on RT, but if they get a 4 out of 10 from everyone, the film could wind up with 0% - which can give a skewed version of reality.
Is The Mummy one of the worst movies of the year? No. Is Wonder Woman good enough to be ranked alongside The Dark Knight? No.
But if the Rotten Tomatoes score is seeing a positive and negative effect on movies, then the whole idea of "critic-proof" blockbusters will be a thing of the past, bad sequels to bad movies will not be put into production in the first place, and great movies will get the audiences they very much deserve.
We can live in hope.