Note: When I originally posted this, I hadn’t made it clear that my issue with this film is not the film’s premise itself, but rather that the filmmakers are selling it by claiming this fiction to be fact. After very several thoughtful comments by readers — particularly by Phil H — I’m adding this note, and am clarifying the distinction.
Yesterday I obliquely criticized the forthcoming film “Anonymous”, which is based on the inane so-called “Oxford” theory that Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets were written not by him, but rather by the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere. This is one of those nutty fringe theories that falls apart like tissue paper as soon as you look at the facts. “Keeping the faith” requires the theory’s small but fanatical band of adherents to carefully and pointedly avoid looking at the vast body of evidence that confirms Shakespeare’s authorship. Effectively, subscribing to this particular conspiracy theory is the scholarly equivalent of repeatedly slapping your hands against your ears while loudly shouting “Wah wah wah!”
By claiming their film to be fact, the filmmakers effectively ask the audience to act like idiots. Of course lot of politicians do essentially the same thing, making false statements that are easily verifiable as such. Yet we’re not talking here about politics — which, after all, merely asks citizens to place their liberty, their safety and the fate of their children into the hands of total strangers. No, when we talk about big-budget Hollywood films, we’re talking about something far more powerful — money.
Is it possible that peddling a movie as fact that is based on the silliest possible premise is a deliberate economic decision? Perhaps deep down most people actually enjoy being insulted, and are drawn to movies as a way to be talked down to and patronized. Maybe, behind the scenes, Orloff and Emmerich and their producers actually had design meetings to figure out the most insulting way to sell a movie, knowing that potential viewers would be drawn to a film that offends their intelligence, spits them in the eye, gives them a big slap upside the head, and essentially shouts “You are an idiot” to their collective face.
I guess we’ll find out soon. The film officially opens on October 28, and the box office doesn’t lie.