I think what Scorsese was saying about the box office is that it’s the later audiences, the ones that didn’t see it in theaters, that assume if a movie didn’t make a lot, it’s not good material. Even movies that are total bombs are caught in this crossfire. They either become something that’s fun to hate, or they become cult hits, or they’re simply buried. It’s movies that fall in between huge hits and big bombs that suffer the most, the ones that are so easily lost in the shuffle. Once the initial judgment is passed, it’s just accepted. You’re either going to agree with the assessment, whether you’ve seen it or not, or take the alternate approach.
Which is certainly true of anything. But we’re talking about RT because it’s become increasingly controversial. It kind of proves the whole effect. And some truly disturbing conclusions can be made. For instance, good reviews are probably easier to fake than you’d think, and so are bad ones. That’s why it’s so controversial, among DC fans, that DC moves seem to automatically draw bad reviews, and Marvel movies, or at least Avengers movies, good ones. Twenty years ago, when Disney was struggling again, it couldn’t, ah, buy a good review. But now it gets them for everything? Why, because the product is really so much better than it was twenty years ago? It’s still incredibly Disney. That’s the most reliable thing about Disney. But apparently slap a new label on it, and the results are that different?
And the RT effect is basically the internet effect, that impulse to aggregate experience even when you don’t realize you’re doing it. The internet is the great illusion of individuality, writ large. We say RT has no effect on our movie choices, and yet the last time we talked about this, a lot of us admitted to consulting RT tabulations. This is not a condemnation of the folks who responded that way, but an observation on how this all seems to work.
Invariably, when people talk about their favorite movies, they talk about the stuff they’re absolutely sure other people are remembering fondly, too. There’s nothing wrong with that. Quoting stuff is awesome! But there’s a real fear that this is the only stuff that’s going to matter, that the true art of film is going to be lost in the process. Not art as in art film. Popular filmmaking. Which will become even more homogeneous and safe because of it. The very thing everyone’s complaining about. With no idea how it’s happening…