Every year brings us a new slew of movies - and with those movies come the usual slew of viewer opinions. In most cases it's the usual range of like, dislike and in between, with a clear majority opinion; however, in some cases, a film splits audiences right down the middle, causing two opposing camps. 'Love it or hate it' movies with very little middle ground leftover.
2014 had more examples than 2013 (is that a reflection of the films or the culture, one wonders...) so without further ado, let's get to it.
NOTE: Movies are listed in order of release date - NOT RANKING.
Haters Say: It's a totally inaccurate portrayal of biblical lore, with some ridiculously silly fantasy elements tossed in.
Lovers Say: It's a thought-provoking study of a biblical character (Noah), with some inventive interpretations of biblical lore (rock angels).
Surprise, surprise! A biblical film caused divisive opinions amongst viewers! In all seriousness, though: As soon as director Darren Aronofsky (not the most religious man on the planet) announced his intent to make Noah, the film faced an uphill battle. Huge budget (approx. $125 million), controversial interpretation of religious material... There's a reason this movie wound up on our "Riskiest Box Office Bets 2014" list. READ OUR REVIEW.
8 The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Haters Say: It's the silly "half-told" story of how Spider-Man's "greatest battle" didn't begin - and it killed any hopes of a Spidey shared universe.
Lovers Say: Best Spider-Man action and visuals ever put to film; a classically fun, light, popcorn summer blockbuster.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 won our summer 2014 movie awards in both the "Most Disappointing" and "Worst Shared Universe Launch" categories; yet, we were also the ones praising the heck out of early action sequences previewed for the film. Those conflicting ideas pretty much embody how viewers came out of the theater.
Still, beyond the technical feats (visual FX) it's admittedly hard to look at ASM2 as an equal to Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2... READ OUR REVIEW.
Haters Say: It wasn't worth the slow build-up; the primary human characters were ridiculous and irrelevant; not enough B. Cranst.
Lovers Say: It was a tantalizing build to an epic, crowd-pleasing finish. What more could you ask for?
People were nervous when indie director Gareth Edwards was handed a huge responsibility like a Godzilla reboot; after all, a fair number of viewers found his indie breakout Monsters to be an insult to its titular implications. Not surprisingly, many of the criticisms that Edwards got for Monsters followed him to Godzilla (weak human story, not enough creatures, etc...).
Still, the film won "Best Fight" in our summer 2014 movie awards because Big G's atomic breath mouth-to-mouth finisher had theater audiences everywhere cheering in their seats. That's no small feat. READ OUR REVIEW.
6 Dear White People
Haters Say: The type of reverse-racist, stereotyping instigation that does more to divide than heal or unite.
Lovers Say: An insightful, critical-minded, level-headed and funny look at race-relations in Obama-era America.
Let's be honest: Very few of the haters' points are upheld by the actual film. The real story of Dear White People is this: A lot people never made it past the negative or provocative implications of the title to actually watch the movie. Those that did, tended to come away satisfied (or even surprised) that it was so even-handed in its criticisms.
To his credit, debut writer/director Justin Simien's name has been steadily floating through critics' award circles at year's end. READ OUR REVIEW.
Haters Say: Nolan is too cold, clinical and cerebral for such an emotion-driven story; the ending is ridiculous.
Lovers Say: This is the best kind of ode to classic sci-fi films like 2001; the story is emotional and thought-provoking; there's actual science involved.
On paper, Interstellar seems like a slam-dunk prospect: one of the biggest directors in the game (Chris Nolan) teaming with one of the biggest actors in the game (Matthew McConaughey), for a sci-fi movie expected to have Inception levels of anticipation. The biggest shocker, then, is that the film has split audiences at all. But here we are. READ OUR REVIEW.
4 The Babadook
Haters Say: It's one of the slowest, most boring, least scary horror films they've ever seen.
Lovers Say: It's one of the most disturbing and insightful psychological horror films in years; worthy of awards consideration.
The Babadook may have flown low under the radar, but it's since gained altitude, as critics circles nominate debut writer/director Jennifer Kent and star Essie Davis as awards contenders.
The film (about a widow and her emotionally troubled son possibly being terrorized by a story book monster) is a throwback to slow-burn '60s/70s horror flicks like Rosemary's Baby - which is possibly why its psychological subtext is more frightening to adults (parents especially) than it is to kids raised on gore and jump scares. READ OUR REVIEW.
3 Inherent Vice
Haters Say: It's a confusing, boring, overly-long mess of a PTA movie.
Lovers say: It's a subversive intellectual comedy and accomplished adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel; the ensemble cast is great.
Author Thomas Pynchon is known for his dense literary works; filmmaking auteur Paul Thomas Anderson is known for his dense cinematic works. Little surprise then that PTA adapting TP winds up being a super-dense work - even if it's about something as simple as a stoner detective trying to solve a missing persons case in the '70s.
2 Honorable Mention: Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
(At the time of writing this) The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies is just being released in US theaters - but since the film has had a week in UK theaters, opinions are starting to form - and they're slightly divisive.
While fans of Peter Jackson's LoTR trilogy tend to enjoy all of the Middle-earth movie saga to some degree, The Hobbit films haven't been quite as acclaimed. As a trilogy-capper, Battle of the Five Armies seems to either satisfy people with a big epic war - or leave them feeling underwhelmed because of CGI visuals or a story that is still too scattered and thin in attempt to act as a LoTR prequel.
Basically, Battle of Five Armies shows that initial criticisms of the Hobbit run true throughout the trilogy. But it's still early yet, and opinion could shift. READ OUR REVIEW.
1 Honorable Mention: The Interview
(At the time of writing this) Here are the extreme opinions about The Interview - before it's even in theaters!
Haters (and Dictators) Say: It's another stupid Seth Rogen movie; but if you release it, we'll attack your country.
Lovers (and Patriots) Say: It's a hilarious Seth Rogen comedy movie; and you'll never take away our freedom to watch it.
Movie theaters Say: We don't want no trouble...
Whether or not people actually enjoy the flick seems irrelevant at this point...