The most ingenious part of the marketing campaign for G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra—on which Paramount has spent an ungodly $150 million—ended up costing nothing at all: That would be the decision to not screen the bloated and sure-to-be eviscerated film for critics before its release tomorrow. Naturally this slap in the face to critical entitlement has ruffled some feathers, but in the process, it has helped Paramount get loads of legitimate free press and has insured that the bad reviews will get pushed under the rug come Friday afternoon or Saturday morning; it’s the ultimate win-win scenario for the studio. Which brings us to a larger question: Are we still supposed to be under the impression that movie reviews mean something to ticket sales?
Don’t get us wrong: Film critics are, and will always be, a vital part of the dialogue. But when it comes to going to the theater and paying for a ticket, the opinions of film critics really don’t account for much. Marketing campaigns and, then later, word of mouth, count for a whole bunch more to moviegoers than what a particular critic thinks. Sure, those effusive reviews that Star Trek received in May were nice (the film sports a nifty 95 percent Fresh Rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is even higher than Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire), but does anybody actually believe they can be credited for even a dime of the $254 million total gross? On the flipside, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which was skewered, is one of the ten highest grossing films ever, despite those hyperbolically bad reviews. Did critics stop anyone from seeing Revenge of the Fallen?
Of course not. Obviously then, the people predisposed to seeing G.I. Joe will see it, while those who aren’t, will not. As Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore told the Associated Press, “After the chasm we experienced with Transformers 2 between the response of audiences and critics, we chose to forgo opening-day print and broadcast reviews as a strategy to promote G.I. Joe. We want audiences to define this film.” The transparent nature of that statement aside—are we to believe that with nearly $400 million in domestic grosses, audiences didn’t define Transformers?—Mr. Moore clearly understands what critics mean to G.I. Joe, and, by proxy, to all summer blockbusters: Absolutely nothing. Instead of getting all huffy, critics should embrace this freedom and take the summer off. Go to the beach or on a trip. But whatever they do, just stay away from the multiplex.