Why Do Critics Care If Audiences Hate The Movies They Like?

Published 4 years ago by , Updated August 20th, 2010 at 9:37 am,

anton critic Why Do Critics Care If Audiences Hate The Movies They Like?

You might remember that about a week or so ago we ran a piece asking the average movie goer why they care if critics hate the movies they like. It was a wonderful op-ed from our own Paul Young, who had grown frustrated with a seemingly increasing trend of movie fans slamming movie critics, simply because the critic had a bad opinion about a movie the fans loved.

Well, flash-forward a week and now it seems we’re having the opposite problem: critics are up in arms that movie fans didn’t turn out in droves to support a film critics felt deserved the box office profits to match their high acclaim.

The movie in question here is Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which was part of a three-way box office showdown this past weekend, facing off against the macho-man action throwback The Expendables and the chick-lit sensation turned Julia Roberts vehicle, Eat, Pray, Love. When the box office receipts were tallied, Expendables and Eat, Pray took the top two spots, while Scott Pilgrim came in at number five, despite being a film that was lauded by most critics for being unique, original and genuinely fun and enjoyable to watch.

In fact, if you check out Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll see that Scott Pilgrim was way ahead of its competition in terms of critical praise, sporting an 81% rating compared to The Expendables‘ 42% and Eat, Pray, Love‘s 38%.  At the current time, some of the very movie critics from around the blogosphere who helped establish that high Pilgrim rating are none too happy that the larger movie going audience seemingly ignored their collective praise of the film. And they haven’t been shy about voicing their displeasure.

02 scott pilgrim Why Do Critics Care If Audiences Hate The Movies They Like?

Since the weekend box office numbers have come in, you can practically feel the backlash coursing through the movie news community. Here are some of the more notable examples:

  • The Hollywood Reporter points out that Geeks are having a hard time proving their box office clout, lately.
  • Harry Knowles of AICN is not happy with THR‘s assessment, and wishes people would “wake up to Scott Pilgrim.”
  • Hitfix is tossing out the idea that Scott Pilgrim‘s underperformance could signal the doom of “inventive” comic book films.
  • Devin Faraci of C.H.U.D. warns fans to see Scott Pilgrim now, before they “regret ‘discovering’ it on DVD.”
  • Geeks of Doom is taking a more level-headed approach, reminding fans that one comic book movie failure isn’t the end of the genre.
  • While James Gunn is simply relishing the fact that director Edgar Wright made a movie that he (Gunn) thoroughly enjoyed.
  • Just search Scott Pilgrim on Twitter, and you’ll find any number of online movie personalities ready to blame everyone from Universal Studios to the Canadian Prime Minister for “marketing the film wrong.”

In my opinion, this is the point where the blurred line between movie blogger and movie critic becomes problematic: when you see this sort of (overly?) impassioned reaction to how a movie performs, from some of the same people who are looked to for an evaluation (and grading) of its quality.

On the one hand, for a movie blogger, it’s totally OK to let your voice be heard about…well, basically anything you want to discuss and think your audience will be interested to read. That’s basically what this gig is all about. Generally speaking, movie bloggers are also deeply passionate film fans, therefore  it’s easy to understand why they would want to proclaim it loud and proud when they find a movie they feel is unique and original and fun. People impassioned about movies want to see movies they can be impassioned about, and movie bloggers have a viable platform upon which to make that very demand of the movie industry: It’s one of the great perks of this job that I personally enjoy icon smile Why Do Critics Care If Audiences Hate The Movies They Like? .

However, movie critics have traditionally been something else entirely: a circle of people we trust to watch cinema and assess what they see, according to a set of criteria we expect them to be knowledgeable about – in this case the mechanics, history and medium of film.

A critic is meant to watch, to assess, and traditionally that’s where it is supposed to end. A movie critic – as I’ve always understood the job title – is not  supposed to then criticize the audience for not responding to a movie in the manner the critic(s) felt appropriate. A critic should not step in to point fingers or assign blame to those within the studio system they think failed to sell the movie properly.  In my opinion, critics should not be wrapped up in the marketing or box office processes at all; a critic should only be concerned with his/her primary task: assessing the work of art and conveying that assessment to the listening audience. This has always been the relationship between a critic and his/her audience – and frankly, it’s a relationship that has worked well.

critics ebert smithey white Why Do Critics Care If Audiences Hate The Movies They Like?

The problem today, as I’ve stated, is that the line between what constitutes a movie critic and what constitutes a movie blogger is too blurred – or perhaps the old role of the critic is simply evolving into something new. I don’t think anybody really knows for sure where the line is drawn anymore…

Head over to a site like Rotten Tomatoes and you’d get the impression that the movie critic community has quadrupled in the last five years. Why? Because today more people are able to “publish” their opinion about a movie online, and if they do that at least fifty times a year, it qualifies them for a state critics association, which therefore qualifies them as critics,  according to Rotten Tomatoes‘ standards. Many of these same “new critics” also run movie blogs, which extends their opinion well beyond the vacuum of criticism, to a point where they are continuously engaging with and reacting to the same movies they must eventually criticize. It’s a fine line to walk, as we at Screen Rant know: we too have maintain the critic/blogger balance every day.

Head over to Metacritic and you’ll find the standards for movie criticism to be vastly different:  only the boys and girls writing for the big trade publications (traditional homes of the  “professional critics”) are to be found. You won’t see many of those “professional critics” letting their passions flare all over the Web, or writing piece after piece dissecting the performance of a movie they reviewed. Even Armond White, who wrote scathing reviews of popular movies like Toy Story 3 and Inception (and received much flack for doing so), isn’t on his blog page throwing a fit becaus those movie were ultimately box office successes that many people enjoyed. It would seem Metacritic has a very different definition of what a professional movie critic is, and those perceived as “bloggers” don’t yet fit the bill – perhaps because of the very same issues I’m addressing here.

Why do I care about any of this? I care because despite the obvious point that I am part of  this sphere of professional movie bloggers, I do still have a certain respect for the old-school pedigree of professional critics. I’ll probably read Roger Ebert‘s work until the man has no more to offer (won’t always agree with him, but I’ll read); I also happen to value traditional professional criticism for what it is: an educated, experienced and insightful opinion which should be engaged. Not necessarily agreed with, simply engaged, as has been the tradition up until now. If blogger-critics (“blitics?” “croggers?”) continue a trend of taking swipes at the moviegoers they claim to serve it’s the business of criticism which will ultimately suffer, as people are driven away from what they perceive to be “bullies” rather than “critics.” I’m pretty sure nobody really wants that.

professional movie bloggers Why Do Critics Care If Audiences Hate The Movies They Like?

Some of the big names in the movie blogosphere (plus Edgar Wright, director of 'Scott Pilgrim vs the World').

If the sort of passions we’ve seen flare over this Scott Pilgrim issue are left to rage unchecked, the image that is created for the blogger-critic community  is  that of a pointy-eared geek stuck on his laptop, “geekgasming” over everything he thinks is great to an almost fetishistic degree. And, personally speaking, I’d rather not have people know that I’m like that in real life icon wink Why Do Critics Care If Audiences Hate The Movies They Like? .  As one of the people trying to find his way on the path that runs between movie blogger and professional critic, I want people to trust in my opinion – to trust that I am person worthy of carrying on the next generation of movie criticism. I’m sure that most movie bloggers who do this for a living would agree with that sentiment – the trick is, actually earning that trust while staying true to the very thing that got us doing this in the first place: great movies and memorable experiences inspired by cinema.

It’s great to have passion about something and it’s great to want something you love to be the best that it can be – but a good critic always keeps sight of where their opinion should end. Something that us bloggers might want to consider.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is in theaters now. Check out our official Scott Pilgrim review to see what we thought of it.

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TAGS: eat pray love, scott pilgrim, the expendables

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  1. I’m sorry Vic I know it’s off topic but those 65mph guys piss me off. Seriously it’s called a fast lane for a reason. Lol sorry to lach on to a small part of your post but those guys are a big peeve of mine.

    • Heh, yeah, I don’t like left lane speed “hall monitors” either.

      Vic

  2. Meh, I don’t mind at all. The critics/bloggers I pay attention to are those who for the most part, share my tastes in movies and opinions on the quality of HW films in general so I don’t get offended at all when they “lash out” at the audience and usually agree with them. lol Plus, I just find it hilarious.

  3. @Vic

    Dude, whats up with all this trash talk on TF2… I though we were done with this lol jk. I don’t care what that dude says (eventhough i’ve never really been a fan of critics) i’m glad this site exists and doesn’t show any sign of going away because of its “popularity” or whatever. I don’t comment as much (blame it on maybe future wife) but i visit/read from this site daily.

    P.S: While reading one of your replies to the “troll” that one specific line (i’ll be damned if…) i was kinda swept up by the moment and kinda hit the table hard saying “you tell’em Vic!” not knowing i was surrounded by much much older folks… I think i nearly gave one a heart attack.

    • LOL, thanks, Jago.

      Even though I’m from New Jersey and I still have that angry streak running through me, I really try to be reasonable in responding to people even if they’re aggressive – because sometimes it’s just a temporary thing for them and they mellow out after a calm response (we all get mad from time to time).

      But when it’s obvious that someone is just being a troll or a jerk, I end it.

      Vic

  4. Vic
    I just read what michael wrote and i felt like slapping him. Well done once more man :D

    • ricky, go rent Ishtar!!!

      • whats ishtar anthony???

  5. There really is no line…
    If there is why are you following that line?

    Going to a movie is really just walking into some dump with AC, sitting down and killing a few hours. If your extremely lucky the film will be worth your time.
    Whotf, scans sites like Rottontomates and what was the other one Metacritic?, so they can then make that all encompassing life altering choice between, Eat,Prey,Love, Scott Pilgrim, or Expendables.

    Anyone that’s doing that is a Mountain Dew drinking, consumer Iphone robot slave, controlled by the latest showbiz fad or online trend.
    ^
    ^
    O and btw! Kofi, you said: “In my opinion, critics should not be wrapped up in the marketing or box office processes at all”

    True, and maybe you’ve stumbled onto the real point/conclusion of your article without realising it…

    “They” are part of the marketing. They don’t receive direct checks but they are compensated in other ways. Especially N Finke and grossely overrated Harry Knowles?!. :-)

    • LOL nice 790 :)

    • harry knowles = an orang-utan fused with jabba the hut :D

      you could say its just like competitive sports, where someone is payed off to move towards a certain direction (team, fighter etc)

  6. Hey I’m new to this site and I’d like to say I liked the piece, I just wanted to throw in my two cents and say that I feel a critic is human and sometimes they will let their personal feelings get the best of them and its ok to me, if a review isn’t helpful read others. As for people not understanding why the sudden uproar about SP, I feel like I’ve been hearing everyone from critics to the average joe complain about all these sequels and remakes and some are saying it because they believe it and some like to jump on the band wagon which is eveident, when finally an original piece of work is released whether is be adapted from a comic or not, they style of this movie is completely different yet those same people who cry for something new and down with the remakes dont see it. It frustrates me, I’m not a fan boy of SP, but I loved it. I’m not pushing people to see it, but my fear is that after this fails we wont be seeing anything like it for a long long time and thats whats getting me angry and probably most of these critics who are tired of all the crap that is out.

  7. Skida
    Nice to have you here :D

  8. If (michael jon axl). Is still reading, and really believes hard working film crews dreams are crushed because of poor reviews, he’s obviously never worked on a Martin Lawrence film.

    I can tell you personally that Mr Lawrence, barricades himself and his posse behind a covered fenced shrouded perimeter. While he stays in his million dollar RV, equipped with everything, his servant minions sit outside and watch disgusting rap videos on a 6x12ft. exterior plasma screen. They act as liaisons/thugs between the crew and production staff.

    If anyone needed to speak to Mr Martin Lawrence, they had to go through one of those losers. And don’t even think of making eye contact. You might get beat up.
    ^
    Nobody on that crew gave a damn if the film was going to be accepted as high art,,,it was a Martin Lawrence film.
    Matter of fact they were outspoken on how they hated it/him/the film/him some more, etc.

    Did Mr Martin Lawrence, freak out over the crews ambivalence? He never even knew there names, and couldn’t even hear there complaints from inside his RV Green Zone.
    ^
    I work on shows all the time that I never even watch,,, why because they suck!!! Its only a gig to me. 8-)

    • Hey 790

      I’ve been in similar positions here in Australia. Not always bad and certainly not to the same level of experience as you have stated with Mr Lawrence, but in some of the TV and Film work I’ve had the privilege to be involved in, I’ve come across guys from various departments who really couldn’t give a s*#t about the show or film they were working on. To them it’s just a job.

      I always strive to do the best job I can regardless. For them if that was a reflection on whether the type of show or film sucked or not, I don’t know.

      There are some people working in film crews who are just plain outright obnoxious, rude and egotistical when really there is no need to be.

      I missed all the excitement with (michael jon axl). Time zone difference will do that, but from what I’ve read he sounds quite bitter and twisted.

      • are most stars like that 790? not that martin is a star, i personally find him unfunny and just well, he’s a plain ol’ jackass(my apologies vic)his humor sucks, his movies sucks even worse, why anyone in hollywood gives him the time if day is beyond me

  9. Thats one of the things I love about this site! Watching the thread wned its way through the day and then seeing a bozo like Michael jon show up with one foot already on a bananna peel…in reference to the whole left lane dealie…the guy probably insists on his right to ride a moped on the freeway…

    Good riddance

    • i dont think he could afford a moped, maybe a suped up razor with a lawnmower motor attached

  10. Wow your being such a hypocrite you sit here and cry about critics insulting films and giving there opinion but yet you come here and bash everyone on top of giving your opinion that no one wants to hear as if your above every one. Your doing exactly what your crying about mike.

  11. Mike if you don’t like Vic or the site just don’t come to it. The rest of us are here because we like the site and respect it. Don’t act as if your here to defend the people your not looking out for anyone but your fragile ego. Your only here to make your self feel good. So who are you standing up for because who ever it is believe me they don’t need or want you to. No one who reads this site wants you to protect them from the big evil reviewers.

  12. I agree with this more than I suspected I would. Both sides need to relax a little- the movie goer has a right to disagree with a critic’s views, and a critic has a right to form an educated opinion.

    I’m a blogger (mostly about my own difficulties in trying to be published, but I review movies from time to time), but I avoid pushing my opinion on others. I say my piece and move on quietly.

    Great article, Kofi

  13. I don’t care if others, whether their critics or not, don’t like the films I do. Everyone has different opinions. Hell, I loved both ‘Transformers’ films, most people don’t. I think TDK is over-rated (but stll great), but most people don’t.

  14. The “one” thing they nailed in the Transformer films is the way the robots morphed into bigger badder things. It truly was “more then meets the eyes”, but everything else was sub par. (Imo)
    ^
    ^
    Welcome back Mr Kot-tair,,, ;-D

    • LOL

  15. Hmm…this is kind of a double edged sword. I do think critics should focus on the the art at hand. But let’s take music for example if the record company doesn’t pay for a good production and the album isn’t of best sound quality but excellent song writing should that not be accounted for? Idk, just a thought. By the way scott pilgrim bombed cause it looks f*#king retarded. It looks like an insult to real musicians.

    • Scott pilgrims cool yo.

  16. I used to be an avid reader at AICN, but these days that site has declined rapidly, trying to read one of Harry Knowles reviews is like trying to analyse a 2 year olds crayon drawing. He has taken to trying to force his often ridiculous opions on anyone and everyone. (anyone read his Nightmare On Elm Street review? it’s hillarious for all the wrong reasons, plus this is the guy who doesnt like Inception!)

    I like Screenrant the best, mostly because the reviewers are fair and usually avoid any kind of bias, giving an opinion and then letting us make up our minds.

    Unless of course it’s Kofi, who has been known to take a real exception to certain films (Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man 2 spring to mind).

    When we all voice our opinions on the films and tv we have seen on here, doesnt that make us all critics in a way, and we are the ones studios should be trying to please.

    As for the reason Scott Pilgrim failed at the box office? Well, there are a number of obvious factors, the source material isnt well known to the general public, it was barely promoted ( I never saw a trailer in the cinemas once), there are no big cast draw in there at all. Plus hearing the words “based on the graphic novel or comic” is getting a little tired.

    Also one bad comic book movie can kill the genre for a time, Batman And Robin, it took them over a decade to get Batman back on the big screen, and the whole genre suffered. But now there is such an influx of such films that the bad ones just fade away into obscurity or infamy.

  17. I stopped reading reviews when the San Jose Mercury New’s reviewer wrote about Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, saying something in the effect of “I think the author’s Original intent was more (Hans) Blix than (George) Bush” he went on to compare the two towers to the world trade center and claimed Tolkien wanted to promote peace with the book, not a war between industrialization and rural traditions. I mean the guy managed to tie in Saddam and The search for WMD to Lord of the Rings for goodness sake!

    From that moment on I ignored Reviews and just go on gut instinct, so far I am batting 1000.

    • Stone K,

      Nothing wrong with that, bud.

      Vic

  18. It all comes down to this: Everyone’s a critic. So what makes the guys getting paid for their opinions more valued than our own? Not a thing. I’m quicker to peruse the masses’ opinion than that of a single individual who may or may not think the same way I do.

  19. I depends Anthony. Its been a while since I’ve done any real work on films. Its mainly been tv and live shows the last few years. I guess I’d say that Kurt Russell was prob the coolest film actor I met, Jim Carry was also oddly enough pretty down to earth. Michael Keaton was cool. I was very lucky to meet John Ritter before he died he was prob the nicest actor I’ve ever met.

    Martin Lawrence on that film was the tops when it came to on set royalty. It was laughable. I mean the money spent keeping him in this green zone had to be hundreds of thousands. It wasn’t even a big budget film.
    Anyway, maybe that’s why don’t see him headlining anymore. :-)

    • @ 790

      It seems we have a similar background of sorts. Just curious to know which department you worked in. Mine has always been the camera dept, but I started out recording and mixing music in a couple of recording studios.

      I wish there was more film work in my neck of the woods, but as of late I’ve been doing a bit of TV, corporate video and wedding videos for cryin out loud. :-)

      Man you’ve met some cool actors. Ones I’ve met aren’t as famous. :-)

  20. I saw expendables in favor of Pilgram because i wanted the effects of watching expendables in theater. For me movies like Pilgram dont offer anything special by watching them on the big screen. I want to see the effects and hear the booms when at a theater.

  21. @Mag, I wish I could disclose what dept I work in but its very specialised.

    If I were to divulge what dept, I worked on say the Martin Lawrence film people in my industry would be able to find out who I am. So don’t really get into that, its also partly why I use 790 as a handle.

    I’ve turned a lot of folks in this town, onto SR and in doing so kinda screwed myself in that area.

    But I don’t mind answering other questions on the topic.

    • 790, kurt russell happens to be my favorite actor..its a tie between escape from new york, and big trouble in little china as my favorite films from him :)

  22. Yeah I was lucky to meet him in his trailer on the set of Escape from LA,,,

    One reason I love that film.

    That entire film was shot at night. Meaning the workday started at around 7pm and ended at like 4am. Everyone eventually got sick because of the schedule and the heavy rains at the time. Wasn’t because of the Plutoxin virus. Lol

    Guys a huge football fan, :-)

    • i actually liked it too, a lot of people give it crap, i dont care :) he’s always seemed really grounded and people friendly in his interviews. now if we can get ONE more Jack Burton adventure….

  23. Ants,,, I remember Russell had a special workout trailer. Before going on set he would be in there bench pressing and doing massive free weight reps.

    Trivia,,,
    They filmed the World Police Headquarters bunker scenes in the same warehouse that was once used for Waterworld.

    I also worked on Waterworld. ;-)

    • i walked out on that film 790 lol

  24. Nice to know that I am not the only one who Liked Escape From L.A.

  25. Well that’s too bad Antman. You missed the heroic Exxon Valdez climax.

    Rip, Hopper/Deacon of the Deez!!!

    Bm costnr. Lol

    • it was just too terrible to watch any longer. i also walked out on Costners Robin Hood

  26. Escape from LA was just a fun last hurrah from Russell and Carpenter.

    Love it or leave it.

    8-)

    • nooooooo how dare you say that lol

  27. No prob Anthony, Costner ruined WW not just for you, but for a lot of people…

    • he ruined Robin Hood as well lol..his accent slips, his costner mannerisms, blah, i dont wanna rip into the guy but damn. i walked out midway through it. WW i walked out i think 30 mins into it lol

  28. The Mel Brooks produced “Robin Hood, Men in Tights”, is the only Robin Hood film I’ve seen, and need to see,,, :-)

    Guys friggen genius,
    (Mel Brooks) I mean.

    • yes he sure is. Clevon Little was freakin hilarious in Blazing Saddles. i wish Brooks would makes us more movies these days

  29. 790 it’s unfair to the world how gifted Mel Brooks is. He really is amazing.

    Men in tights is the single greatest robin hood anything ever be it film , book or play.

    • No way Dan. I mean I like and enjoy just about everything Brooks does but his Robin Hood Men in Tights was the weakest of his offerings. It was funny but it was no Blazing Saddles:)

      Plus there were several other Robin Hood versions that I enjoyed more: Disney’s animated Robin Hood; Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood and there was a made for TV version of Robin Hood back in the 90s that was really good.

      Say what you will of Costner’s Robin Hood but it still has one of my favorite soundtracks of all time on it.