Dark Doctrine: “The Big Bad Wolf”

One of the more curious things in movies is the ‘CinemaScore’, an exit-poll service which essentially measures audience satisfaction with a film. It isn’t so much a measure of quality as it is one of expectations met.

That’s why critically acclaimed films like “The Help” and “Marvel’s The Avengers”, along with less regarded films like at least two Tyler Perry vehicles, all scored an A+. On the flip side, a ‘C’ is generally considered disastrous. Often it goes to bad films, yet occasionally acclaimed films like “Boogie Nights,” “Drive,” “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Hanna” all scored Cs.

Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” scored a C+, and now his latest effort “The Wolf of Wall Street” sits right alongside with a C.

This has led to a large online debate regarding why ‘Wolf’ scored so low as it was quite upfront in its marketing about being a wild, sex and drug-fuelled celebration of greedy capitalists overindulging themselves.

Some appear to have objected to the film for its basic appeal. That’s kind of understandable – watching smarmy yuppies snort through mounds of cocaine, screw hookers and generally get a lot more fun out of life than most of us office slaves does not exactly sound like a fun prospect at Christmas. Why bother seeing DiCaprio shoving a candle up his ass when we can do that ourselves in the comfort of our own homes?

There has also been issues with the moral of the story, which is that it pays to be a white collar criminal. Scorsese’s shies away from showing DiCaprio’s Belfort character suffering any consequences for his actions until the end, and even then it’s less than two years detention in a swanky country club – not exactly fair punishment for destroying the lives of thousands. Meanwhile Kyle Chandler’s FBI agent, one of the few empathetic characters, is portrayed as the sucker caught in a daily office grind he’ll never escape.

Others have had problems with the basic film itself as its episodic nature and extended three hour runtime have come under fire for issues of pacing and bloat. Critics haven’t come to a unanimous consensus, most seem to have liked but there’s a vocal opposition as well which has led to a fairly good (but not awards calibre) 77% and 7.6/10 score on Rotten Tomatoes along with a 76/100 on Metacritic.

Does the CinemaScore matter? It matters to studios in the most important way – money. An A+ CinemaScore is a good indicator of a long, prosperous theatrical run with excellent repeat business. A low CinemaScore means the film is unlikely to get good word of mouth (and thus will disappear quickly). Though pulling in an impressive $9 million on Christmas Day, Paramount will likely be watching the film closely in coming days to see if the domestic box-office revenue truly is sustainable.

For those who have seen it, why do you think audiences may be rejecting the film? For those who haven’t, what is it about what you’ve seen in the film’s marketing that’s turned you off? Have your say in the comments below.