14 Movies That Were “Not Screened For Critics”

THE FANTASTIC FOUR Few have yet seen the new movie adaptation of Fantastic Four – including the cast – and those that have only got to see it at the last minute to stop negative reviews flooding the internet and press. Fantastic Four star Miles Teller – he plays Mr Fantastic – admitted earlier this week that would probably first see the film along with the general public and , “Rarely are films of this size critically well received…” He added that he hoped that audiences will understand that, “we did try to do something more than soulless, popcorn action.”

It doesn’t sound promising, does it?

Besides, we all suspect that when films are withheld from critics until the last minute it usually means that the film company thinks it has a turkey on its hands. It’s a dangerous tactic. Sure, there’s damage limitation by preventing negative publicity before the film is even released, so they may get a few more bums on seats. On the other hand, these days, once the internet gets wind that a film will be “not screened for critics” that generates a negative buzz all of its own.

Here are a few of the more notorious examples of films “unseen by critics”. Most did go on to be almighty flops though there are a few notable exceptions… And occasionally film companies are right; some films aren’t made for critics.

1 The Avengers (1998)


This cringeworthy adaptation of the ’60 TV show starring Ralph Fiennes as Steed and Uma Thurman as Mrs Peel was a watershed moment in the history of “not screened for critics”. It marked the moment when a new internet-savvy audience realised that a film company was panicking at the knowledge they were releasing a dud. Warner Bros, apparently unaware of this new breed of online-fuelled cynicism, very publicly announced that it was premiering The Avengers without previews not because  the film was crap but because the studio wanted the public and press to “discover the film together”. They did. They discovered together that it was a pile of steaming excrement.

2 Exorcist The Beginning (2004)


The negative buzz surrounding this cursed attempt to milk he Exorcist franchise began well before the film’s release. It had one of the most fraught shoots ever, with original director Paul Schrader (American Gigalo) being fired and the film being reshot from scratch by Renny Harlin (Cutthroat Island) from a substantially rewritten script. The studio decided not to show previews to critics because, they said, critics had already made their minds up to maul the film (well, they had seen Cutthroat Island, let’s be fair). The film tanked.

3 The Adventures Of Pluto Nash (2002)


A monumentally unfunny Eddie Murphy comedy that was withheld from critics on humanitarian grounds. After all, if people paid to see this drivel, then that’s their look out. But to force poor defenceless critics to endure it… that’s just evil.

4 GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra (2009)


Paramount’s reason for not showing this hollow but flashy action flick based on a toy range was a reaction to the reaction to another hollow but flashy action flick based on a toy range that Paramount had released. “After the chasm we experienced with Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen between the response of audiences and critics, we chose to forgo opening-day print and broadcast reviews as a strategy to promote GI Joe. We want audiences to define this film.” If by “define this film” Paramount meant “make it a box office success” then the men in suits had the last laugh.

5 Date Movie (2006)


Seltzer and Friedberg’s conveyor belt of spoofs such as Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet The Spartans, Disaster Movie etc, are the very definition of “some movies are not made for critics.” They’re not really made for 99.99% of audiences either but they consistently make money by being cheap enough that the 0.01% who do keep going back to see them make them profitable. And that 0.01% are barely literate anyway, so what’s the point in reviews?

6 Æon Flux (2005)


It wasn’t only the critics who were kept from seeing this hamfisted adaptation of the cult cartoon TV hit. The ’toon’s creator, Peter Chung wasn’t allowed to see it either. He had to watch it in a public cinema, and wasn’t impressed with what he saw: “Seeing it projected larger than life in a crowded theatre made me feel helpless, humiliated, and sad.”

7 Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)


Paul WS Anderson keeps making Resident Evil films (as writer, producer and occasional producer). They keep making money. They keep receiving critical kickings. So by the fourth entry in the series he thought, “What’s the point?” and released it without preview screenings. And who can blame him?

8 I Frankenstein (2014)

MAILMASTER __Subject: I, Frankenstein On 2014-01-20, at 3:06 PM, Barnard, Linda wrote:  IFKS_124.jpg   2012_04_24_IF_0182_R.JPG   IF-SG54.jpg   IFKS_211.jpg  Solo shots of Adam (Aaron Eckhart) Adam (Aaron Eckhart) and Terra (Yvonne Strahovski) in I, FRANKENSTEIN. Photo credit: Ben King Linda Barnard Movie Writer The Toronto Star thestar.com 416-869-4290  IFKS_124.jpg  2012_04_24_IF_0182_R.JPG  IF-SG54.jpg  IFKS_211.jpg

By the time I, Frankenstien’s release date was moved back for a third time to a January premier, critics smelt a turkey. January’s when film companies launch films they have no faith in. So it was no surprise when this incoherent and dreary update of Mary Shelley’s monstrous creation to a kind of stitch-punk, gothic superhero was kept from reviewers’ eyes until the day of release.

9 RIPD (2013)


Bet you’d forgotten all about this one, yeah? Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds as ghost cops? Ringing any bells? No? Not only were critics denied preview screenings but they could “enjoy” it in practically empty cinemas once it was released, as Universal seemed to have lost so much faith in the film that there was barely any marketing to accompany the launch.

10 Underworld Evolution (2006)


This is pretty much a “ditto Resident Evil” scenario. Female-led, action-horror franchise proves review-proof. Who needs critics?

11 Big Momma’s House 2 (2006)


Martin Lawrence in an old-lady fat suit. For a second time. And no new gags. Critics hated it. Audiences disagreed. It made $27.7 million opening weekend in the States. Critics began to experience mass existential angst.

12 Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie (2014)


The UK TV sit com was regularly savaged by critics but was a massive hit with the viewers. So creator and star Brendan O’Carroll reasoned that the film version might benefit from a critics’ blackout. He was right. While word of mouth was distinctly iffy, the film was a box office hit, and the second highest grossing UK film in the UK market that year.

13 Psycho (1960)


Okay, these last two are a bit different. Alfred Hitchcock didn’t want critics seeing Psycho in case they didn’t like it, but in case they gave away the massive twist. He even bought hundreds of copies of the novel the movie was based on to prevent people reading it. And, hey, it was all great PR for the master of not only suspense, but of creating a buzz as well.

14 Snakes On A Plane (2006)


Snakes On A Plane with Samuel L Jackson and some snakes – on a plane – was made deliberately to be a “so good it’s bad” experience with its tongue firmly in mouth. So not screening it for critics was all part of the big meta gag.



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