Last year was an interesting one for the film industry. First, ticket sales were the lowest they’ve been in 25 years at the U.S. box office. Second, the divide between critics and fans widened. And third, streaming services showed the future of the film industry will be in our living rooms, with the release of the blockbuster Bright.
It’s worth noting that all three of those points are linked in a way. In the past we’d trust reviews to see if it’s worthwhile seeing a film. Now, with the constant divide in fan and critical receptions, the average Joe would rather wait for a movie to drop on a streaming service than take a chance at the cinema theatre. Who suffers from this? The cinemas and studios do.
This is where David Ayer’s Bright changes the whole game.
The Bright Effect
Bright was Netflix’s first venture into Hollywood blockbuster territory. Costing a reported $90 million and bringing in big guns like Will Smith and Joel Edgerton, it was an ambitious effort. Almost like clockwork, though, the critics trashed it, with some calling it the worst movie of 2017.
The bad word of mouth was ominous, but many viewers pointed out that they were apprehensive of critical reviews considering the earlier disagreements over mother! and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Suddenly, critical consensus meant diddlysquat and people wanted to see the movie for themselves.
Fast-forward to after Bright‘s release and it was viewed 11 million times in three days, with a heap of praise coming from the people who watched it. While the critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes sits at 28%, its Audience Score is 87%, displaying yet another case of polarising views.
With such tremendous viewership numbers and fan reaction to Bright, a sequel was quickly announced. The critical consensus didn’t harm the film or the franchise one bit.
Critical Consensus Means Nothing
The critic versus fan war isn’t done any favours by either side, though. Take a gander at Twitter and you’ll see critics blasting fans for supporting “bad” movies and generally making dickheads of themselves by isolating their readership rather than engaging them. Fans also seem to think that many critics have it in for certain movies, possess hive minds, and are paid by Disney to give good reviews (where’s my cheque, Mickey?).
Reviews are merely someone else’s opinion, and reviewers do get it wrong, too. Look at cult classic films such as The Boondock Saints and Fight Club: both are perfect examples of incredible films that many critics just didn’t get when they were released. Now, it’s unfathomable to even think they could’ve been received so poorly.
Unfortunately, in the age of the Internet, the noise is amplified. As I’ve said before, due to the nature of how hits drive ad revenue, balanced opinions are often cast aside for the sake of hyperbolic reactions that bring in more traffic. Look at the review stating that the Bright is the worst film of the year – it’s an intentionally over-the-top opinion made for a headline. Seriously, in a year where we’ve received the likes of The Emoji Movie and Fifty Shades Darker, Bright is certainly far from the worst film.
The critics are Inferni #BrightNetflix
— David Ayer (@DavidAyerMovies) December 23, 2017
Do We Care About Reviews If A Movie Is “Free”?
If you had a Netflix account, you could’ve watched Bright without having to pay a fee. You could sit in your own home, with your own snacks, and watch a blockbuster without having to deal with other cinema patrons, traffic, popcorn queues, etc. Think about that for a second. It’s an invaluable experience.
It’s rather obvious why ticket sales are down. Streaming services are providing a host of good content for an affordable price, while the cinema-going exercise only becomes more expensive and you have to deal with everyone else’s bad upbringing.
So, does this impact how you view a film? I believe so. The first time I watched Logan, for example, there were two people next to me trying to make a baby. It soured my experience of the film and had I been reviewing it, I probably wouldn’t have seen the masterpiece it is after a second viewing in private.
Additionally, if something is “free”, in the sense that it’s on your streaming platform, will you care as much as if you’d paid for it? At the end of the day, if the movie’s bad, all you’ve lost is your time and not your money. Isn’t that a game-changer?
That said, there will still be a lot of people who rely on reviews to filter out the sheer amount of content out there. However, I imagine the trend to see the audience following the opinions of the people whom they value. Instead of following the consensus of something like Rotten Tomatoes, we’ll trust our friends, favourite websites, and reviewers more. And let’s face it: the 52-year-old film critic at The New York Times isn’t going to like the same films as the 30-year-old guy at Slash Film does.
We’re on the verge of a new age in how we view and discuss films. Some people are going to enjoy it and some won’t. All things considered, though, it’s best to keep the following in mind: learn to think for yourself and remember that there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Bright could very well be the catalyst for this change.