Film: Oh, it's had very good 'word of mouth'

No critic will be allowed to see The Avengers before its release. Just how bad is it?

WHILE AT the Warner Bros offices a few weeks ago, I happened to ask whether the company were planning any press screenings of The Avengers, given that the picture was scheduled to open in mid-August. "We haven't got a print yet," a press officer told me, which was neither unusual nor suspicious. When I telephoned the distributors last week, I got the full story.

"Warner Bros has taken the decision not to show the film to the press."

Oh. Is it that bad?

"Actually, the film has had extremely good word of mouth."

I laughed - extra hard for emphasis. Although no critic has yet seen the film, anyone could tell you what the various anonymous insiders and rumour-mongers are saying about The Avengers. None of this matters, of course. The trick with blockbuster movies is to plant the idea of them in people's minds as early as possible, and in this respect, the Avengers film has performed spectacularly. Its trailer seems to have been playing in cinemas for decades, and its key images are imprinted on my mind just as intended: a cat-suited Uma Thurman framed inside a glaring red telephone box; Ralph Fiennes duelling with a village bobby and a milkman; Sean Connery sashaying around in a kilt. Whether it will be any good or not is irrelevant. People know about it. People want to see it.

Around the same time that the trailers start appearing, a wave of dissent usually gathers momentum. The Avengers was no exception: there were plenty of rumours about on-set troubles and script hitches, probably passed on from a friend of a cousin of that woman who did Uma's nails.

But it is highly significant and potentially destructive for Warner Bros to take the step of forbidding critics from passing early judgement on a film. And not just any film. The Avengers is Warner Bros' big summer movie - in other words, the company's only chance to compete on a major level with its rivals.

The reasons for this are twofold. The relative failure in blockbuster terms of Godzilla has forced distributors to realise that a film with the backing of both widespread product awareness and merchandising opportunities is not necessarily a surefire hit. Godzilla was panned by critics and suffered from bad word of mouth early on in its release.

The other reason relates directly to Warner Bros. As reported in the US film magazine Premiere, the company had a comparatively bad 1997, and consistently failed to yield a blockbuster success. Conspiracy Theory and Contact were disappointments, but the biggest sting was caused by Batman & Robin, which was such a disaster that the company is rumoured to have ordered a complete makeover of the franchise before another instalment is shot.

Warner Bros has obviously concluded that it would rather have a moderate- to-good opening weekend, then see the takings fall off in the wake of critical responses, than risk an immediate critical assault that could jeopardise initial box-office receipts. The company realises that by removing critics from the equation, it is drawing adverse attention to The Avengers and suggesting an inherent inferiority in it compared with the season's other movies, all of which the country's critics have been free to view in time for release.

This embargo is effectively saying: The Avengers is too weak a product to be able to compete on normal terms. In the light of anything but the most cursory examination, it will wither and die. Or, in the euphemistic words of the press office: "We want the public to see the film first."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport