I can't remember a time when we didn't know every little thing about a major film months or even years before its release. We live in a day and age where movie coverage is mostly an effervescent stream of lackadaisically corroborated "scoops" designed to sate our ravenous desire for knowledge of the ins and outs of every major blockbuster. I'd seen most major parts of Avengers: Age Of Ultron way before seeing the final product, I heard all about the troubled production of Fantastic 4 months before the film ever hit theaters, and now I'm seeing far more of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice than I ever wanted to. That movie, more than any other in recent memory, seems to sway public opinion between "This is awesome!" and "This movie will suck" with each and every trailer that is released.
I bring this up because a trend I'm noticing more and more in this age of readily available information is that the invisible specter of "public opinion," based mostly on pre-release reports and scoops, seems to subtly jade and replace individual opinion like a slow-moving parasite. When the "buzz" is overwhelmingly positive, you're almost willed to love it. On the other hand, when the buzz is negative or mired by controversy in any way (see: Fantastic 4), it becomes nigh on impossible to appreciate any part of the film as you are preconditioned to think it's bad.
I had a particularly eye-opening moment recently when watching the premiere of the new season of Teen Wolf (don't hate it's a massively underrated show). A few episodes in, I realized I had no idea if I liked the new season or not because I've been so used to already having an idea of whether something is good or bad based on the "buzz." In this moment of individual reflection, I had the rare opportunity to generate my own opinion of the season, free from the cranial poison of public opinion. I decided that I really liked the new direction, then went on the internet to gauge the general reaction and found it to be decidedly mixed. Had I known that's how people felt prior to watching it for myself, I probably would have felt much less enthusiastically about it and noticed far more of its flaws.
Yet another prime example of this phenomenon was a recent poll of sorts that I conducted with the help of many passionate geeks like myself here on Moviepilot. I represent what I thought was an infinitesimal minority that genuinely enjoyed 2011's Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds. I honestly have never understood why it is so aggressively and thoroughly thrashed by fans and critics. It wasn't perfect, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I expressed that unpopular opinion, asking what others thought and if they could explain to me why it has such a bad reputation. What followed was an outpouring of opinions that ran almost entirely contrary to the established "public opinion" of Green Lantern. I was expecting a few people to say they thought it was okay, but most people actually expressed a similar opinion to mine, in that they enjoyed it and weren't sure themselves why it gets such a bad rap. Take a look for yourself:
This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about; we all tend to buy into whatever opinion is being pushed into the public milieu and slowly have our own thoughts hijacked in the process.
Now I'm not arguing that public opinion is wrong or that we shouldn't pay attention to what other people think. Obviously, as human beings, we're conditioned to feel comfortable as part of a group and we yearn for, to varying degrees, validation and ratification of our thoughts and opinions from our peers. All I'm saying is to be cognizant of the subtle influence of "the buzz" on your own opinions and try to go into things relatively blind so you can form your own opinion. Ideally, that means not viewing any trailers, clips footage, or set photos either but that's just a whole other challenge my body isn't ready to tackle yet...