In the wake of New Line’s ill-fated decision not to hold any advance critics’ screenings of its web fire-stoked Snakes on a Plane — definitive proof that, with tongue-in-cheek apologies to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the passions of the blogosphere are neither a dump truck nor “a series of tubes” leading directly to lasting zeitgeist relevance and/or commercial lucre — there is the fact that this week’s two widest film releases were not screened for reviewers. That’s right: no advance word on Jason Statham’s streamlined, head-cracking action flick Crank (above), from Lionsgate, or Warner Bros.’ The Wicker Man, a remake of the 1973 film of the same name starring Nicolas Cage and directed by respected indie auteur Neil LaBute.
So what does that mean? Don’t write the obituary for critics just yet. So Hollywood collectively doesn’t really respect us all that much. Big whoop. Did they really ever? And do they respect anyone or anything except their own congratulatory awards shows and bottom lines? (If you said “audiences,” please take two steps back… and punch yourself in the groin.) This latest bout of advanced screening aversion only speaks to their desire to exert more control over their product and its reception, and framed within this context it should be entirely expected. The next battle will be fought when studios start to realize that traditionally more pliable and coercible Internet press are less and less beholden to either conventional notions of “run dates” or fully fleshed-out critical appraisals. Instead of a handful of critics groups screening a film in long-lead fashion, it only takes a hard-blogging friend of a studio projectionist to go online and tap out a few poorly constructed sentences about how Film X “totally sucks.” For more on this phenomenon, click here, for my feature piece explication from FilmStew.