Critics Have Little-to-Nothing To Do With Box-Office Success

When people say a movie is “critic-proof” it really doesn’t mean anything since reviews for movies have very little to do with determining whether or not the majority of people are going to go see a movie. With that said, what is published in David Germain’s AP story “‘Transformers’: Worst-reviewed $400 million hit?” means absolutely nothing. Especially the line reading:

“Critics and mainstream crowds often disagree, but Revenge of the Fallen sets a new standard for the gulf between what reviewers and mass audiences like.”

This line insinuates everyone that went to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen this weekend liked it. Of course, the article backs things up saying, “According to Paramount’s exit polls, 91 percent of the audience thought the sequel was as good as or better than the first Transformers, which received far better reviews.” That sentence is so loaded with misconceptions it’s staggering as it shows a complete lack of knowledge when it comes to movie watching.

Transformers is routinely referred to as “big dumb fun” and when it comes to “big dumb fun” there is a very short shelf life. Audience perception of a film is not generated in its opening weekend, it’s created over time. Germain goes on in his article to reference previous films that reached the $400 million domestic box-office mark as that is where he sees Revenge of the Fallen headed. He begins comparing the movie to the likes of The Dark Knight, Spider-Man, E.T. the Extra-terrestrial, Star Wars, Shrek 2 and Titanic. The matter in question here is will Revenge of the Fallen be able to sustain its dominance?

Last summer The Dark Knight remained at the top of the box-office charts for four consecutive weeks, Shrek 2 and Spider-Man only sustained two week dominance, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace lasted for three and the all-time king is Titanic with 15 weekends at the top of the box-office.

Let’s not forget the first Transformers, which Germain is so quick to point out received better reviews than Revenge of the Fallen. It opened at number one as well only to fall to #2 in its second weekend to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Will Revenge of the Fallen be able to withstand this week’s Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Public Enemies? The last Ice Age opened to $68 million and I would think this one would do the same or better. Can Revenge of the Fallen match that?

Germain already tells us Revenge of the Fallen is getting great word of mouth saying, “Even after its whopping $60.6 million opening day, Revenge of the Fallen was packing theaters, a sign that unlike critics, who mostly hated the movie, audiences felt they were getting their money’s worth and were giving the flick good word of mouth.” This is in despite of the fact online ticket retailers were quoting figures almost two weeks in advance of the film’s release saying showings were already sold out. Not sure how much word of mouth counts when people have already made up their mind to go see it, not to mention reviews weren’t even online yet.

Perhaps the most twisted part of the whole article is the following:

Critics “forget what the goal of the movie was. The goal of the movie is to entertain and have fun,” said Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount, which is distributing “Transformers” for DreamWorks. “What the audience tells us is, ‘We couldn’t be more entertained and having more fun.’ They kind of roll their eyes at the critics and say, ‘You have no idea what you’re talking about.'”

So you are telling me Paramount isn’t talking bad about their own movie? Shocker!

Here’s the deal, audiences were going to see this no matter what. Reviews only helped raise the awareness. Good or bad, it didn’t matter. Kids were just getting out of school and parents needed someplace to unload them. Transformers was already a familiar franchise and something parents could take their kids to see.

Of all the films Germain mentioned in his article, I wonder if he believes general audiences will look back at Revenge of the Fallen and compare it fondly to The Dark Knight, E.T. the Extra-terrestrial, Star Wars and Titanic. If you wanted to use another public meter of determining an audience’s perception of the film take a peek at IMDb and compare ratings for the first Transformers and those for Revenge of a Fallen, a film Paramount is trying to tell us audiences enjoy more than the first one (no account for short term memory considered).

The first Transformers currently sits with a 7.4 rating compared to Revenge of the Fallen‘s already lower 6.7 rating, and as most watchers of IMDb know these ratings typically start out high only to slowly fall and level off over time. Basically, as time wears on the general consensus for a film comes down to how it is remembered, not how much money it made one day ago. If it were the other way around Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would be considered the best film in the Indy franchise… not sure about you, but that isn’t exactly how I see things.

To the point, critics have nothing to do with how a film does at the box-office. They are merely a tool for awareness and conversation starters. Critics see a movie, audiences see a movie and the film is discussed and its place in history is decided down the line. Some films will always be seen by more people; it’s a fact that has nothing to do with reviews. The top spots at the box-office have always been reserved for the films that manage to appeal to the widest range of audience members. Revenge of the Fallen managed just that and just happened to not be liked by critics.

When I see people defending it the most common comment I see is something along the lines of “I think people expect too much” and “It’s based on a cartoon, what did you expect?” This sounds to me like a person that got exactly as much out of the film as critics did, but were able to accept its flaws while others could not. Totally fair, but when you have to admit a film is bad in order to tell people it’s good what is that really saying?

The consensus opinion at RottenTomatoes says, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a noisy, underplotted, and overlong special effects extravaganza that lacks a human touch.” I don’t think anyone will argue with that…

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