Back on August 18 a reader review hit Ain’t It Cool News saying, “By an hour and a half/forty five, the audience was getting restless. I could hear them squirming in their seats in front and behind me. The last hour is ultimately weighed down by a lot of repetition that has to do with the romance between Pitt and Blanchett.” That review alone seemed to be where it all began.
At that time the film ran around three hours long and since then cuts have been said to have taken place. Anne Thompson only three days ago said the film is “a little over two and half hours” long. That statement came at the same time 20 minutes of snippets of the film debuted at the Telluride Film Festival following which negative buzz originated from SlashFilm, FirstShowing.net and Hollywood-Elsewhere. I already weighed in with my thoughts on the negativity here and as recently as today Pete Hammond felt the need to talk more about it at The Envelope saying:
As always, Hammond’s word is worth nothing as he follows that somewhat understandable paragraph with this one:
Influenced by studios much Pete? What a joke.
It does appear there is trouble surrounding David Fincher’s film and it is the length and I can only assume it has something to do with how Fincher’s Zodiac earned an 87% from critics at RottenTomatoes and only translated to $33 million at the box-office after a $65 million budget. Yeah, it is about money folks.
SlashFilm came across a posting at The Playlist in which they reference an interview with Kevin Eastman, current editor and publisher of the “Heavy Metal,” magazine, talking with RBG Filter at Fan Expo in April 2008. “Heavy Metal” is a project Fincher was set to produce at Paramount until they dropped it back in July. Here is the snippet from the Eastman interview:
SlashFilm reports the budget on Benjamin Button may be upwards of $150 million and after only meeting half of the budget on Zodiac I can see why there would be some concern. However, I am not sure what they expected with Button, it’s an award contender and now that negative buzz has reached the film’s front that can only hurt its chances.
Only a week ago Kris Tapley was praising the Eric Roth Button script calling it “the kind of thing aspiring screenwriters should study.” Now, words and phrases such as “underwhelming,” “disappointment and concern” and “mediocre” are found amongst folks saying it “gave an idea of what the film will be, but wasn’t so compelling that it energized the room” and calling it “impressive,” “absolutely gorgeous” and finally saying, “Certainly there’s never been anything like it.” Can the Academy’s small brains figure out what they are supposed to do? Let’s face it, they don’t watch all the films up for nominations and critical perception seems to guide the way more and more these days.
Those looking at this situation thinking Paramount is just another studio out to ruin someone’s film consider the $150 million price tag and guess again. Benjamin Button has never been approached as anything more than an attempt to woo the Oscar elite and despite something of a meager push for Zodiac to reach that bar and failing I am sure there is some trepidation in moving forward with a 3+ hour film if it isn’t even going to satisfy the hoity-toity crowd.
So many people have been bathing this film with praise either based on the first trailer (featured below) or the script (a more reasonable source for praise). Altogether there isn’t enough to judge in my opinion but it is starting to seem like the damage has already been done.
You can stay up-to-date on Benjamin Button related awards coverage right here.