Yesterday 20th Century Fox sent out a release condemning Roger Friedman‘s two-day-old review on Fox 411 of the illegal Wolverine work print — a review which has since been taken down but is still accessible here.
“We’ve just been made aware that Roger Friedman, a freelance columnist who writes Fox 411 on Foxnews.com — an entirely separate company from 20th Century Fox — watched on the internet and reviewed a stolen and unfinished version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” the release said (according to Hitfix’s Drew McWeeny). “This behavior is reprehensible and we condemn this act categorically — whether the review is good or bad.”
Friedman downloaded the work print last Wednesday night and yes, praised what he saw (particularly David Benioff‘s “streamlined” screenplay). He said the uncompleted special effects “didn’t take away from the film at all” although “a couple of times it was possible to see the harnesses on the actors.”
If Wolverine ends up suffering serious damage from the piracy (and I say “if”), it’ll be due to the pre-release online buzz and not from any prospective revenue loss due to people who’ve seen it online not paying to see it in theatres. The word so far has not been ecstatic — let’s face it — and Friedman probably reasoned he was doing 20th Century Fox a favor by posting his thumbs-up reaction.
He decided to review it, he wrote, because “the cat is out of the bag and the genie is out of the bottle” and therefore, he felt, the questions of legality were moot because “there’s no turning back.”
He said that “obviously someone who had access to a print uploaded the film onto this website, [which] begs several questions about security. Time to round up the usual suspects! Let’s hope by now it’s gone.”
I have an acute aversion to illegal downloads in all senses of the term — ethical, practical, aesthetic, political. Friedman shouldn’t have gone there, but, as noted, he probably had a notion that his positive reaction to the film would have some kind of upside effect and that Fox resultantly wouldn’t freak out. But they did.
The curious thing is that all of this broke yesterday when the Friedman piece in question was up as of early Thursday morning. You’d think 20th Century Fox would have gotten its response out that same day…no?
The correct phraseology when it comes to cats and bags, by the way, is “cat’s in the bag and the bag’s in the river.” That’s straight from the typewriter of Clifford Odets in his rewritten screenplay for Sweet Smell of Success.