Why You Should Care About the G.I. Joe Culture War
The publicity campaign for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is really turning into quite the piece of work by Paramount. And I mean that in all due respect for the wicked genius at play here, from vice chairman Rob Moore -- who defended his press-screening blockade by explaining "we want audiences to define this film" -- down to the infantry flacks who have carefully cultivated a tiny, influential critical base behind the scenes. See Exhibit A: The infamous Inner-Child Demographic (including one critic who magically changed his mind) that bumped Joe from an 80 percent positive score on Rotten Tomatoes up to a 91 percent score literally overnight. So tell me again, Rob: Which audience is supposed to define this film? And again, why do we care?
It's funny because before this, I often rolled my eyes at critics' complaints about studios not screening their films. "What an entitlement complex," I thought -- screenings are a privilege, not a right. I still think that, and I recognize a review-proof film when I see it.
But in the end, this isn't so much about critics as it is about the outer limits of studio cynicism. First of all G.I. Joe isn't review-proof; if it were -- like Transformers 2, The Ugly Truth and a handful of other critically reviled hits this summer -- then Paramount would have simply screened it and saved Moore the embarrassment of lies like the ones he told the L.A. Times: "Our starting point for this movie is not Hollywood and Manhattan but rather mid-America. [...] There are a group of people we think are going to respond to the movie who are normally not the first priority. But we're making them a priority."
Talk about an entitlement complex. Sorry, mid-America -- when Paramount goes blurb-fishing for its next Benjamin Button or whatever Oscar-season shit it wants the press to shovel, then things will go back to normal. Hopefully you'll be fine waiting for the next movie dumb enough for you to be "a priority."
And that's just taking Moore at face value. He could just as well be lying, as evidenced by the shenanigans still unfolding at Rotten Tomatoes. Remember, Paramount "want[s] audiences to define this film," but at some point in the last day Andrew Urban -- one of the chosen few reviewers Paramount recently tapped to comment on Joe -- flip-flopped his "rotten" score to a "positive" score. Add this to everything that happened on Tuesday, and critics' 91 percent approval rating seems to define plenty on its own.
So why should you care? It's just G.I. Joe, right? A popcorn movie for kids, a big commercial for Hasbro? Well, yes. It's also a milestone of calculated distrust -- in viewers and critics alike -- implying that bad movies are acceptable. As though actively endorsing and perpetuating some red-state/blue-state cultural apartheid for the sake of a $175 million piece-of-shit action movie is perfectly fine. As though it's too difficult to make something halfway watchable for that same price or less, or at least something Paramount doesn't have to fight a two-front culture war just to salvage for opening weekend. As though something like The Hurt Locker, for example, is too good for the very people the studio stoops to conquer with a movie even its own executives can't legitimately defend.
As though it's all right we've come to this. Pathetic.
· G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra [Rotten Tomatoes]