I have to admit it – I read critics. The last thing I want to do is take one of my rare evenings off and spend it in a three-hour movie experience that disappoints. So before I decide to commit my time and money to a film, I read what is written, I look at the Tomatometer, and I try and make an informed judgment.
And that’s why Jurassic World may be the end of an era for critical film reviewers.
This story begins in the week before the Dino-Blockbuster was to hit theaters.
Reviewers – who get special early access to preview screenings – had their pencils sharpened. And the reviews were, to put it kindly – brutal.
The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis wrote: “There’s more flab than muscle packed on this galumphing franchise reboot, which, as it lumbers from scene to scene, reminds you of what a great action god Steven Spielberg is. Too bad he didn’t take the reins on this.”
Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern “Mr. Pratt’s charm is no match for the crude filmmaking or the stupid plot that keeps him running around in a constant state of artificial animation.”
The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday wrote: “The most enjoyable moments of an otherwise oddly joyless film actually belong to Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus, who steal the show in an especially amusing scene during a panicked evacuation.”
“It’s fun enough while it lasts, but somehow, finally, all too much and not enough. The problem isn’t that dinosaurs have ceased to impress us, but that dinosaurs alone are not enough to sustain us,” said Scott Foundas writing in Variety.
As I read the reviews my heart sank. I loved Jurassic Park, and certainly the Hollywood machine was counting on that. But how could Steven Spielberg allow his reputation and legacy to be tarnished so?
The decision was made for me. I wasn’t going to be robbed of my cash, my time, or my fond memories of dinosaurs just so the Hollywood machine could cash in my nostalgic chips.
The critics it seemed were angry at the product placements for BMW, the sexist storyline of Claire Dearing.
Said Marlow Stern in The Daily Beast: “Jurassic World is not good. In fact, it’s aggressively bad.” (LINK)
Says Marlow: Claire Dearing is the park operations manager. “Claire is so careerist, unfeeling, and apparently ‘unmaternal’ that she clacks her heels around barking orders in bangs and a white pantsuit, and when her two young nephews arrive on the scene, she’s so buried in her work mobile that she shoos them away.”
That did it for me, sexist, and overly commercial. I had given up – no DinoDollars would be clawed from my wallet.
Then, with a painful 59 out of 100 on metacritic – the film opened.
And as Scott Mendelson reported here Forbes, the numbers told a very different story.
Thursday Previews: $ 18.8 million. Totally unexpected, and a clue that all the critic’s negative reviews wouldn’t scare away early fans. Friday’s opening day numbers of $ 63.1 million where strong, making it the top Friday gross of all time. By Saturday ticket sales of $ 69.4 million and Sunday with $ 57.2 million made Jurassic World the top Saturday and Sunday grosses of all time. What matters here is that even after the critics slams, early audience came out happy, and shared their feelings on social media. On RottenTomatoes the gap is clear, audiences giving it an 84% thumbs up, while Top Critics have it just 61%.
Monday’s box office of $ 25.3 million and Tuesday’s $ 24.3 million showed continued strong box office as positive world of mouth grew.
In the end Jurassic World had a $ 296.21m seven day total – making it the highest seven day box office of all times.
So, what did I do in all this?
I read all the reviews, and after the Times biting criticism – I decided to take the risk and go anyway, fully expecting to be disappointed at the crass commercialism and sexist storytelling.
And then – I wasn’t. At all. I liked it. It was fun. The dinbansources were big and fierce. The action and popcorn no more (or less) than I was expecting. The product placements no worse than any one big summer action film. James Bond had a BMW logo in it – as well as Heineken Beer.
I came out entertained, and a bit concerned that the Critics may have made a critical mistake. They thought they were going to see a “film” when audiences understood implicitly that they were going to see a movie. A romp. A 90 minute journey into an escapist land of absurdities that didn’t need to make any political points or illuminate any world issues.
OK, sure – the storytelling was a bit soft, and there were some odd bits of editorial where it seemed like some logical links had been left on the cutting room floor. (Example: where did those matches come from?)
But what audiences understood, and the critics forgot, is that the expectations for a summer popcorn blockbuster are pretty simple. Take me to a fun place, don’t make me think too hard, and then bring me back to earth when the ride stops. Jurassic World did that -and did it well.
Is it high art? Nope. Is it Spielberg at his best? Surly not. But that wasn’t ever promised.
So the question here is – how did audiences ignore the scathing critical reviews and shell out $ 300 million. And what does that mean in terms of the value and role of critics going forward. Does social media and instant audience feedback make them obsolete?
It may be – like an evil scientist in the jaws of a Velociraptor – they are toast.
Steven Rosenbaum is serial entrepreneur, author, and filmmaker. His latest book, Curate This! is in print and ebook on Amazon.com. He is the CEO of Waywire.com (enterprise.waywire.com)
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