The author of this piece focuses on the issue of “spam” reviews, often negative ones, presented online regarding published -or about to be published- works.
In this case, the focus is on Goodreads.com but it could well apply to movie review sites like rottentomatoes.com as well.
Because the internet isn’t all that well regulated and people can post reviews on works they haven’t necessarily seen or read or heard, there is a danger that a group of people might post an overwhelming amount of (often negative) reviews about a work simply because they don’t like what the author/director/actor/singer is doing or has done versus present an honest opinion of the work itself.
Ms. Alaimo notes a couple of books dealing with potentially “controversial” topics but it doesn’t have to be so. I recall a few years back when the female-centric Ghostbusters was released and a corner of the internet lost their collective minds feeling that the film was somehow slamming masculinity simply by existing in this form.
Negative and positive reviews of a product, obviously, can play a huge role in whether it succeeds or fails. By posting large amounts of negative reviews, a group of people could ensure that a work fails.
But what if they haven’t read the work? What if they’re upset with what the work is about and doesn’t conform to their world-view?
This is the rub, I suppose. When a website like Goodreads.com, which is devoted to offering readers a chance to critique a book, devolves into questionable reviews, then what purpose does it serve?
Is there an answer?
I noticed on Amazon.com (which owns Goodreads, it should be noted), reviews of novels may have a “Verified Purchase” label which indicates the person reviewing a novel has indeed bought it.
However, this likely only applies to people who purchase said novel through Amazon itself, be it a Kindle work or a physical copy, and doesn’t necessarily apply to someone who might have bought it elsewhere -such as through a bookstore or second hand shop- and were so impressed (or perhaps depressed!) by the work they felt the need to offer their opinion on it.
For example, I love the novel The Far Cry by Fredric Brown. So much so that I went out of my way to write a positive review of it on Amazon.com even though the copy I have was bought years before at a second-hand bookshop and therefore my review didn’t have the “verified purchase” label.
c’est la vie
Either way, there is no easy solution here. The effort it would take to weed out “legitimate” reviews from those that aren’t seems almost impossible to do, and the shame is that perhaps some books that could or should be successful may not be, and vice versa.
Haven’t seen it, thus no review, but it is a topic worth writing about… at least to me.
The Flash movie has been through some …uh… challenges, hasn’t it? It was first announced way back in, I believe, 2014 and went through several different creative teams before finally being made.
Unfortunately, star Ezra Miller went through some challenges of his own, running afoul of the law in different parts of the country and seeming to really -how do I put this kindly?- go out of his mind. There are accusations involving assault, disorderly conduct. He’s had restraining orders filed against him, he…
You know, if you’re curious, People Magazine offers…
Either way, in the past year or so before the release of The Flash film, even his most vociferous critics have to admit he’s been keeping a low profile following issuing a public apology and hasn’t gotten himself into any new scrapes with the law.
Between that time and now, the first trailers for The Flash film were released and, I have to admit, they impressed the hell out of me…
It seemed to impress many on the internet as well. I found people who were blown away by the trailer and eager to see it. Then came postings by the likes of James Gunn and Tom Cruise who saw the film early and talked about it being great. It got a little silly, I admit, as people started posting bogus “reviews” by famous people who stated they loved the film.
Still, there was every reason to believe it would do well in spite of Ezra Miller’s controversies. At the very least, people wanted to see Michael Keaton return to the Batman role, no?
To say the film, now two weeks from being released, has underperformed is hardly an exaggeration. Its limping towards maybe making a little north of $90 million in domestic box office during its run (not a great figure at all) and its draw has sharply diminished since its first weak release, falling a precipitous 70 plus percent from week one to two.
I’m still curious to see the film, but I can’t help but wonder what confluence of elements took what seemed like a sure-fire box office success and instead made it look like a failure.
There are likely many elements that came into play, and perhaps one or two or a combination of them all led to this.
The first thing to consider is the most obvious: Perhaps people aren’t that willing to help a movie that stars an actor as controversial as Ezra Miller is. I think that one requires no elaboration.
The second thing is perhaps the DC movies are still viewed far more critically and for a variety of reasons. The Zack Snyder films were mercilessly panned (I’ve noted before my feelings regarding his films, in particular Batman vs. Superman, but suffice it to say there is a history here!). The DC “universe” of characters is about to be rebooted by James Gunn and, perhaps, people aren’t all that interested in seeing stories involving “dead end” versions of characters.
There’s also the reality that on the CW network they’ve had many years of The Flash TV show and, again perhaps, people simply had their fill of the character and weren’t quite as willing to spend another couple of hours with him.
I also feel there is this: The Flash’s trailer gave us so many wonderful surprises, including Micheal Keaton and Ben Affleck and a certain Super character… that perhaps audiences’ anticipation of the film centered on what surprises there were to be found.
Unfortunately, the day the film was released pretty much all those surprises were posted on websites like TikTok or YouTube and suddenly any surprises audiences were going to have were eliminated. While one would hope people would see a film above and beyond what “surprises” it offers, the reality is that maybe a combination of not really wanting to see Ezra Miller or having their hunger sated with the Flash TV show meant the surprises were pretty much all people were interested in and when they were revealed… what was the point of going?
There’s also this potent possible combination: Superhero fatigue and/or the fact that cinemas are still struggling post-COVID to get the audiences back.
I feel superhero fatigue is a very real thing and, frankly, by this point maybe it should be. There are an awful lot of superhero films being released (and that’s not counting the TV shows!) and perhaps people are starting to get bored of these works.
Regarding the later point about cinemas post-COVID, there have been exceptions. The Tom Cruise Top Gun sequel did spectacularly at the box office and there have been films here and there that have performed well. But in general it does appear that Hollywood is struggling to get people back to wanting to see films in theaters.
This has been exasperated by the many streaming services out there. The Black Adam film, for example, didn’t do all that well and it showed up relatively quickly on HBO Max (now called Max). Why bother going to the theater to see a film if you know it will show up very soon in a streaming service? My understanding is The Flash will be released to digital media next month so, again, why bother going to the theater to see it if you just wait a couple of months and see it in the comfort of your home?
Regardless of whether one, two, or all these elements were at play, the bottom line is The Flash movie appears to be a big time underperformer.
Did it deserve this fate?
Since I haven’t yet seen it, I don’t know. But I do worry about the future of cinema.
Nothing is written in stone and what might once have been a tried and true form of entertainment might well disappear with the passage of time and changing tastes.
It’s been an awfully long month for me, being very busy with all kinds of things that have, frankly, been exhausting and trying.
On Saturday, June 24th we had the -incredibly- second year anniversary since Champlain Towers South half-collapsed, taking with it 98 people, including my parents.
It’s both hard to believe that so much time has passed and equally hard to believe we’re still dealing with estate issues and other elements cascading from this tragedy. I can’t help but think the relatives and friends of the others who passed away are likely dealing with similar issues and… my heart goes out to them.
It’s been a rough road and those wounds don’t hurt quite as sharply as they did back then… though they still hurt like hell.
Let’s hope for the best in the remains of this year.