[With all the heated discussion over our Green Lantern review (and pretty much any other superhero movie these days), we thought it might be an opportune time to resurrect this article from last year - Ed.]
"Opinions are like armpits - everyone has them and some of them stink," so the old adage goes. This phrase rings doubly true when it comes to movie critics and their reviews of films.
The word "critic" is derived from the word "critique" which is defined by Dictionary.com as "a criticism or critical comment on some subject." Film critics in general simply critique a movie based on their personal feelings and experiences. Why then do people get totally upset when a review for a film goes in the complete opposite direction of their personal experiences?
In other words: Why do people care if critics hate the movies they like?
In my recent review for Dinner for Schmucks, I was literally raked across the coals (OK not literally) for giving the film a poor score that others felt was not justified. For example: "You have no idea what comedy is." or "I pity you for lacking a sense of humor." or "You have no soul and are a worthless coward who hides behind words to attack hard working people making a film." Alright, I sort of embellished that last sentence and quoted it out of context but something similar was actually said to me.
These are all good people who have absolutely nothing invested in the film beside two hours of their time and a few dollars from their pocket; so why are they adamantly defending a movie that amounts to nothing more than a toss-away summer comedy?
I think the answer is more or less buried beneath the complex layers of the human psyche. Everyone wants to feel like they're a part of what is conceived to be the winning group or side. No one wants to be associated with a conceived bunch of losers (except maybe Zoe Saldana *bum-dum ching*), so every time someone attacks something we’ve aligned ourselves with, our first instinct is to defend it - whether it is a political view, a friend or family member, a beloved sports team or even something as contrived and ultimately meaningless as a film - if we love it and someone attacks it, then we WILL defend it!
It used to be that movie going audiences would live or die by the professional movie critic. At one point, the mere direction of a thumbs up or thumbs down from famed and influential movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert would be enough to make or break a film. Of course, back then no one had the ability to quickly spout off a remark on their blog page and voice a contrary opinion.
Now, thanks to Al Gore, we have this thing called *deep booming, echoing voice* The Internet!
The internet has given anyone who wishes to share their critiques with the world the ability to share their thoughts on a particular subject via a personal blog, a FaceBook status update, a short Twitter message or, if they are really lucky, a medium-to-high profile blog and/or news column.
It used to take days for word of mouth to spread regarding a film and now it take minutes or even seconds (depending on whether you use the AT&T cell network *zing*). Of course, every rose has its thorn (thanks Poison) and just like the Internet can be used to respond to a reviewer with enthusiastic agreement, it can also be used to put forth a scathing rebuttal.
Reviewing a film can often be a tough row to hoe and, if they are lucky, the reviewer can find their opinions falling in lockstep with the opinions of their peers; they can also find their review on the opposite of popular opinion, which opens their review (and subsequently the reviewer) up to criticism.
Of course, whether a film is good or bad is purely subjective and while one reviewer might enjoy a light-hearted romance comedy about a love triangle involving a bartender, an extreme mountain biker and a nun, another reviewer might be completely turned off by that concept and both reviews will ultimately reflect those feelings.
A few recent examples of this would be Roger Ebert's half-star review of Kick-Ass, Cole Smithey's C+ review of Toy Story 3 and pretty much anything Armond White reviews in general (the guy seriously liked Jonah Hex). See what I just did right there? I, along with most of the reviewing community, gave Jonah Hex a horrible review and I just dismissed White's opinion because it didn't mesh with mine. That's not very nice of me to do is it?
Ebert's scathing and often times sanctimonious review of Kick-Ass caused such an uproar in the fanboy circles that the Godfather of all movie bloggers, Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News, wrote a response to Ebert calling him out for his controversial and sometimes hypocritical views on this and other films.
Cole Smithey and Armond White (who appears to have a form of movie review dyslexia) were the first people on Rotten Tomatoes in the entire world to give Toy Story 3 a rating that wasn't fresh, which was ceremoniously frowned upon by critics and bloggers alike in almost an instantaneous fashion. Cinema Blend, /Film, Pop Eater and others all rallied around what they thought to be a critical injustice. In other words - they all defended what they liked against what they perceived as an attack.
Again, why is it even important that a film review, good or bad, agrees with our individual opinions? Ultimately a handful of overly-aggressive reviews does nothing to deter the general movie-going audience from attending a film. Kick-Ass was hailed by the fanboy community while bringing in an impressive world wide box office gross of $96 million, even though Ebert hated it; Toy Story 3 is a huge blockbuster success even though Smithey railed on it and Jonah Hex appropriately failed even though White adorned it with kudos.
So what does this all mean in the grand scheme of things? Nothing, really; the true purpose of a review is to give the reader a look at how they may or may not enjoy a film based on someone else's experience who shares their viewpoints.
Bottom line: If a critic doesn't share your opinion on a film, don't take that opportunity to rip into them; just find yourself a critic you do agree with and in the end you'll enjoy your movie experience a whole lot more.
Let us know in the comments how you feel about critics who generally don’t agree with your opinions on movies.
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