The Girl With The Violated Embargo

More Dragon Tattoo hullabaloo —

It seems The New Yorker has violated an “embargo” issued by Sony asking all critics to refrain from discussing the movie until December 13.

What to make of this?

It seems I’m in the popular majority that thinks it’s stupid.

Apparently, according the piece on this “broken silence” in Vulture, the review is positive, but that shouldn’t matter. If you’re going to screen a film, Sony, then you’re going to have to expect people to talk about it.

Studios can be cagey about screening their films. Movies they think will get bad reviews (and rightly so) usually don’t get screened in advance, so audiences seeing them on opening day go in blind.

But this is the age of the internet. Information travels very, very quickly. Even a week-long embargo is more than enough time for everyone to hear what David Denby of The New Yorker has to say about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Also, this is an internationally-bestselling novel that already has a Swedish film based on it. Yes, we’re all curious about how good David Fincher’s version will be — potentially Oscar-worthy? — but no early reviews are going to change that. By reacting like this, Sony only looks like they have something to hide. And that “something” would seem to be that the movie isn’t that good.

I don’t actually think that’s the case. I’m betting that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo will be a solid thriller, if nothing more. A worthy adaptation of an enjoyable novel, maybe on par with the very solid Swedish version, or maybe even a little better. A worthy successor to Se7en (you can tell I’m a real film aficionado because I spell it like that).

I believe every studio has a right to politely ask reviewers not to comment on a film until such-and-such date. (I think Roger Ebert self-enforces a rule not to publish any reviews until the eve of the movie’s release.) And I also believe that reviewers have a right to ignore the request, if they really want to. It’s just a damn movie review, after all, and it’s gonna get out there sooner or later. Maybe it would have been “nice” to respect Sony’s silly embargo, but this is the “feel bad movie of Christmas.” What did you expect?

(I don’t really concur with Nikke Finke’s assessment of Scott Rudin as a “baby,” however. I, too, was pissed when The Social Network started losing to The King’s Speech thanks to Harvey Weinstein’s hype machine; I, too, was kind of a baby about it.)

Besides, the general public doesn’t read movie reviews anymore, anyway. It always irritates me when someone sees something obviously crappy like Jack & Jill or Immortals, then complains about wasting their money on something terrible. If you care so much about your precious $13, why not look at Metacritic before you go to the theater? Reading snippets from 30 major film critics’ reviews will give you a good overview of what’s bad and good about a movie; even if you “don’t normally agree with critics,” as is many people’s excuse for not reading reviews, 90% of the time you’ll get a decent impression of whether or not a certain film is worth your time. It doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily like the movie just because most critics did, but at least you’re going into it informed. Then, if you hate the movie, you have something to complain about.

So what’s the big deal? I don’t know how many New Yorker readers are really going to see The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo anyway. There’s a lot of sexual brutality and violence in the story, and the soundtrack is by the guy from Nine Inch Nails. Also: I don’t know if you’re aware, but the heroine has a big-ass dragon tattoo on her back. How many New Yorker subscribers are into big-ass back tattoos? I’m guessing: none.

It’s already awards season. (Too early, I think, but what can ya do?) That means everyone’s already weighing in on the best and the worst of the year. Boo-hoo. It’s a free-for-all out there, and as much as studios may want to control the hype (or lack thereof) surrounding their big holiday releases, they don’t. We do. As soon as people see it, people talk about it. There’s no use resisting. It’s part of the process.

And just be grateful people are publishing reviews and talking about your damn film at all! Do you know how many films out there only wish they had enough advance buzz to warrant an “embargo”?


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