Just a few days ago a pretty significant controversy erupted over The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It began when The New Yorker’s film critic David Denby announced that he would be breaking the review embargo imposed on the film by publishing his review this week (yesterday, to be exact). He was able to see the film when Sony agreed to a last-minute screening of the pic after the New York Film Critics Circle moved up their voting deadline in order to be the first out the gate in the awards race. Uber-producer Scott Rudin (The Social Network, No Country for Old Men) was naturally upset, and you can read his email exchange with Denby (along with Matt’s thoughts on the matter) here.
That about brings us up to speed, and now director David Fincher has weighed in on the matter. Hit the jump to see what he had to say.
“Embargoes … look, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t show movies to anybody before they were released. I wouldn’t give clips to talk shows. I would do one trailer and three television spots and let the chips fall where they may. That’s how far in the other direction I am. If I had my way, the New York Film Critics Circle would not have seen this movie and then we would not be in this situation. I would be opening this movie on Wednesday Dec. 21 and I would have three screenings on Tuesday Dec. 20 and that would be it.
That’s where [Rudin] and I get into some of our biggest fights. My whole thing is ‘If people want to come, they’ll come.’ But they should be completely virgin. I’m not of the mind to tell anybody anything about the movie they are going to see. And that kind of thought is ridiculous in this day and age. But by the same token, when you agree to go see something early and you give your word – as silly as that may sound in the information age and the movie business – there is a certain expectation. It’s unfortunate that the film critic business has become driven by scoops.”
I’m with Fincher 100%. It’s exceedingly rare that audiences are able to go into a film knowing little to nothing about it. We’ve seen the four trailers, we’ve seen the 12 different TV spots each showing a little more from the film than the last, and we’ve seen every single damn character poster (yes, even the dog). We go into the movie with an expectation of tone, character beats, hell we’re even sitting there waiting for precise moments we remember from the trailers.
But alas, moviemaking is a business. Unbeknownst to most moviegoers, studios will spend hours mapping out the entire trajectory of a film’s buildup towards release:
“This is not about controlling the media. If people realized how much thought goes into deciding at what point can we allow our movie to be seen, they would understand. There are so many other things constantly screaming for people’s attention. I started shooting this movie 25 days after I turned in The Social Network. We have been working really hard to make this release date. And when you’re trying to orchestrate a build-up of anticipation, it is extremely frustrating to have someone agree to something and then upturn the apple cart and change the rules – for everybody.”
The thing that’s most frustrating to the casual movie fan is the fact that by the time the movie actually opens, you may be so worn out from all the “buzz” that it’s impossible to go into the pic with an open mind. The strict embargo times the “releasing of the Kraken buzz” to a date much closer to the film’s eventual release. At the end of the day, though, Fincher believes that the success of most movies depends not on marketing, but on actual human response:
“Ultimately, movies live or die by word of mouth anyway. All that other stuff doesn’t matter. Nothing against film criticism. I think film critics are really valuable. But the most valuable film critics are usually those people who come see a movie with their Blackberry and then text their friends ‘It sucked.’ or ‘It’s awesome. You should see it.’ You know what I mean?”
Head over to the Miami Herald to read Fincher’s full comments on the matter. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo opens to the Blackberry-holding public on December 21st.