‘Benjamin Button’ and the Curious Stories Surrounding Him

Photo: Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros.

SlashFilm has been something of a spearhead when it comes to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the strange stories surrounding the production.

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:

Voracious movie bloggers, with a need to be first rather than right, took shots at the film over the weekend on the basis of the modest Telluride peek. They would be advised to hold their reviews a few months until the other 2 hours and 25 minutes can be seen.

As always, Hammond’s word is worth nothing as he follows that somewhat understandable paragraph with this one:

Despite the doubters, one key studio honcho (and academy member) not connected with the film told us on the basis of what he saw and his personal knowledge of Eric Roth’s (“Forrest Gump”) script that he thinks “Benjamin Button” is easily the one to beat for best picture.

Influenced by studios much Pete? What a joke.

Photo: Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros.

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:

“We developed it for Paramount in January… And it was time for them to make a decision [about going forward with the project] and they were at odds with Fincher over another project, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’ [because] they wanted him to reduce the running time… and so they said, ‘Until you step up to do what we want you to do with Benjamin, we’re not going to greenlight any other of [your] movies.’ And David said, ‘Fine, fuck you, I’m going to set up [Heavy Metal] somewhere else,’ so we jumped over to Sony and set it up there.”

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.

Photo: Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros.

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.

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Weekend: Nov. 14, 2019, Nov. 17, 2019

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