Posted in Discussion, Film, Review

Should We Listen to Pre-Release Film Reviews?

When it comes to high budget, highly anticipated films, we are anxious to know if all the hype is worth it. Whether to spend our hard-earned time and money, on the next ‘sure to be game changing’ cinematic experience. When first reactions hit the internet, we hold our breath in anticipation of the ultimate answer. Is it good?

As we approach the tail end of 2017, we reach the point where some highly anticipated films, are right around the corner. From Marvel’s Thor Ragnarok, to the star powered Murder on the Orient Express. DC’s long-awaited Justice League, and Steve Carrell and Emma Stone lead Battle of the Sexes. On top of the that, the cultural juggernaut that is Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and even the nostalgia filled Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You? As media consumers, and franchise fans, find ourselves anxious, and primed with day one tickets in hand. Hoping and praying for a film that lives up to our expectations. Often, especially with the likes of Justice League, a few lucky fans will get pre-screenings, weeks, or even months before hand. Followed by the much beloved, and exciting press screenings, a few weeks before the films hit theatres. When coverage hits the newsstands, and the internet at large. We find ourselves scrolling through pages and pages, hoping to learn that we are in for the experience of our lives, on the big screen.

However, should these pre-release reviews be taken to heart? Should we listen to them?

Take for example, the release of Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice in March of 2016. A few days before the films released, the internet was franticly diving from one review to another, trying to discern the truth from biased opinion. Was the film going to be everything we hoped for? While many of the reviews did lay into the film fiercely, there were outliners that praised the film as “an impressive start to a new superhero movie franchise”, commenting on how it’s “genuinely exciting for the evolution of this new DC Comics cinematic world in the coming years”. See Business Insider UK for full review. This divide in reviews, granted, causes greater discussion online before the film’s release. But also brings into question the reviewer’s actual opinion on the film. While it’s 100% possible that those that gave the film glowing reviews pre-release, do genuinely see the film in a different light than the others. It’s also possible that they are doing it for more selfish reasons. Namely, getting their name, magazine, or website into the film’s good books. Creating a favourable connection with the films production company for future releases, or trying to get their name on the films poster or new trailers.

An example from this site, is that of the 2017 horror film, Wish Upon. During the press screening for the film, most people in the room during the film, groaned or laughed at points when we were supposed to feel fear. With one reviewer even walking out mid-way through the film. Brief discussions after, gave the general consensus that while some enjoyed the poorly executed scenes as a source of comedy, and others found the whole thing to be a boring mess. Most people in the room, consisting of a variety of ages and backgrounds, agreed that the film was below average. Many of the reviews from independent outlets echoed this on the day the reviews were due for release. Our review can be read here. However, looking at the well-known, and often trusted film site and magazine, Empire, gave the film 4/5 stars, summing up the film briefly. With Empire being a more trusted site by many, it brings to mind the question as to whether or not this was the reviewer’s genuine feelings towards the film. Or the magazine wanting to keep a good connection with those involved with the film?

With the very recent release of Blade Runner 2049, many news outlets and reviewers, were quick to label the film as a “blockbuster”, or “a modern masterpiece”. While the film is certainly stunning, very well done, and well worth it’s run time. It became somewhat worrying to see how quickly many sites and reviews, jumped to the phrase “masterpiece”. Those that referred to it as a blockbuster before release, maybe shocked to find that the film is in fact underperforming at the box office. Many people rely on pre-release film reviews to shape whether or not they will see an upcoming film. Especially those with a limited income. So, the question still stands. Should we take pre-release reviews with a grain of salt?

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