This last week, Baywatch and Pirates of the Carribean 5 landed in cinemas and have gone on to flop – hard. So amusing was this that Hollywood hotrod Dwayne Johnson took to Twitter – declaring that critics were wrong and fans LOVED his latest film, “What a disconnect. People just want to laugh and have fun.” he declared. Indeed they do Dwayne, which is why they aren’t paying to see your awful movie.
This isn’t the first time this discussion has come up. Last year Ben Affleck tried to throw similar shade when Batman vs. Superman was busy being scolded by critics. That critical mauling arguably played a part in that movie failing to break its anticipated $1 billion Box Office total. It happens a fair amount when a movie scores a low rating over on Rotten Tomatoes, the excuses get wheeled out while the causes are quietly shuffled into the shadows.
It’s being reported by Deadline that “Insiders close to both films blamed Rotten Tomatoes” for their respective performances. There’s even talk of movie studio’s ending the practice of early screenings for critics, effectively cutting out reviewers all together. If they can’t shut the critics up, they might as well lock them out so they can’t be heard on the all-important opening weekend. My response to that sentiment is simple; stop making crappy films.
Blaming critics for a movies poor performance at the box office is akin to blaming the lamp-post you just drove your car into. Just because you can throw blame elsewhere doesn’t hide the fact you caused the crash in the first place. When a general conscientious forms that your movie isn’t all that good, it’s not a conspiracy. Heck, there are plenty of examples of movies (Looking at you Transformers franchise) that were critically mauled going on to do immense numbers at the box office.
Yet when these movies fail, the discussion swings to blaming critics. Pirates 5 and Baywatch are actually two great examples of this in action. Both are from established franchises and in both cases, neither were particularly demanded by audiences. Their existence presumably came about when executives were thinking of movies to fill out their schedules. With so little creativity or appetite for the movies, it’s no wonder that reviewers weren’t keen to hand out big scores. Likewise, why should audiences want to see these movies?
In an era where sequels, prequels, sidequels, reboots and re-imaginings are the order of the day – people don’t want to spend ever-increasing amounts on watching garbage. They want to be entertained and have a good time; not be trapped in a half-arsed attempts to capture more money with minimal effort. If audiences want it, they’ll go and see it. Critical response doesn’t stop people turning up to Transformers whenever it rolls out. It doesn’t stop them checking out Jason Bourne and Suicide Squad (Even as critics slated them out the gate).
Critics are a marketing tool that movie makers have always used to great effect over the years. Heck, Wonder Woman’s stock has risen sharply in the last few days as reviewers tripped over themselves to hand the movie great scores. They create hype for positive movies, and sites like Rotten Tomatoes only serve this hype. The problem is that studios want to have their cake and eat it. They invest hundreds of millions into projects that shouldn’t be anywhere near that amount. You can’t be surprised when audiences treat minimal effort with minimal time.
Rotten Tomatoes isn’t perfect, far from it. It’s use of score aggregation is questionable – and it can cause negative feedback to occur. But realistically that’s not the reason these movies fail. When you’re throwing so much money at TV adverts, posters, billboards, Youtube ads and all those expensive trimmings – you can’t be surprised if an audience that didn’t particularly want to see a Baywatch movie in 2017 doesn’t show up for it. Blaming critics is an easy way out, and it’s very cheap.
It also doesn’t help that cinema ticket prices are so high now. Audiences are more savvy now than ever with their money. Slick marketing campaigns can only carry a movie so far before the truth is revealed. Suicide Squad in 2016 highlighted this – the hype around that first trailer was almost deafening when it landed. Bad movies bomb because people feel let down, and they don’t want to be tricked. With the costs so high and audiences so fatigued by bland offerings across the board, why should they show up?
Perhaps if people like Dwayne Johnson and the studio executives paying him actually put that money to good use, audiences would be game to come and pay