New York Times film critic A.O. Scott took to Twitter last night to lambast the way studios treat critics as scapegoats when a major tentpole movie flops. Scott's comments likely come in the wake of Disney's holiday box office disappointment "The Lone Ranger," which underperformed this weekend and was chopped to bits by many critics.
Scott's already much-retweeted polemic unspooled in five tiers yesterday via @aoscott:
1. Studios go to great pains to engineer critic-proof movies but will still point fingers at "the critics" when those movies fail.
2. Accusations that critics are "out to get" x or "in the tank for" y project HWood cynicism onto those least cynical about its products
3. Critics are marginal to the studio tentpole business except, occasionally, as scapegoats.
4. Incoherence of idea that bad reviews sink some big movies while others succeed *despite* bad reviews.
5. The initial judgments of critics is often wrong, or at least overruled by history. Same is true of audiences.
Vulture writer Bilge Elbiri replied, "A critic wants to see a bad movie about as much as anybody wants to have a bad day at the office" in response to the notion that studios think critics are out to get them. To which @aoscott wrote: "Critics are much LESS cynical about movies than many of the people who make and market them. Less political too."
Studios now go to exhaustive lengths to keep a lid on things with embargoes or denying early press screenings entirely. Why blame critics? Because they're an easy out, and because studios think they're all curmudgeons. Surely the critics aren't to blame for the box office failure of "The Lone Ranger."
Along with "After Earth" and "White House Down," this marks the third major flop of the summer. Audiences are tiring of these big-budget, overwrought tentpole productions and they're satisfying their content cravings elsewhere. A.O. Scott's succinct diagnosis arrives as a breath of fresh air.