Movie reviewers take themselves too seriously.

Okay, so I’m aware of the hypocrisy of this piece. I’m also perfectly aware that I’ve almost “turned on my own kind”, since reviewing movies is a lot of what we do here at Geek Speak. But frankly, it’s a fact. My esteemed colleague and distinguished movie reviewing machine, David Baldwin, will argue that their role lies in informing audiences, holding the industry accountable, deconstruction and discussion, and yes, a little entertainment. It all sounds sooo noble and insightful and academic.

But this is rarely the case.

Okay — so “entertaining” sometimes happens, I’ll give you that one. But back to the point.

Think back to the last few film reviews you read (even, I’m afraid, including the ones in this very magazine): by which I mean reviews of regular Hollywood studio pictures and not, say, some new, much-hyped indie on its way to Sundance. Now, how many of these reviews of Hollywood’s output were actually positive, without even a hint of malice or contempt? Maybe, a couple… if you’re lucky. (And one of those is definitely Wonder Woman.)

Now, how many of the following terms ring bells?

  • Disappointing
  • Plot-holes
  • Unfortunate
  • Incomplete
  • Poor character development
  • Underwhelming
  • Half-baked
  • Second-rate
  • Unfocused
  • Rehashed
  • Unoriginal
  • Uninspired
  • Bloody fucking awful

The list goes on… but you get what I’m saying.

The issue here is that people go to the movies to be ENTERTAINED. Not to pick apart the cohesiveness of the narrative, or every line of dialogue, or every improbable action sequence. But reviewers? It seems to me that’s exactly why they go.

So let’s say I’m planning to see a movie. I get online and check what’s showing at my local cinema. I YouTube the trailers, then Google a couple of reviews.

This is the beginning of the end.

Say I really liked Deadpool, so I check out the Rotten Tomatoes score for another Ryan Reynolds comic book movie, Green Lantern. Maybe I even skim over some of the more prominent review abstracts: “Misfire”, “Overstuffed” “Clumsy”, “Conceited”.

Hmm. Pass.

If this was a one-off occurrence, reviewers could be forgiven. But it is more often than not. So much more.

Now, imagine if you will, a different place. A magical world full of open-mindedness, and people who took things as they were intended. Tricky, I know, but you can do it! Go on, close your eyes… oh wait, you’re reading this… um.. open them… OPEN YOUR EYES!! You can’t hear me, can you? Le sigh.

Okay — I’m going to assume you have enough nous to have ignored the eye-closing bit. So back to the topic at hand. Let’s say the reviewer(s) who had previously shot down my Green Lantern enthusiasm had realized that it was a movie based on a comic book! And not just any comic book, mind you, but one with a fairly “out there” background story — aliens, magical rings, all sorts of craziness. I mean, this is a complex mythology that’s not just asking you to accept the idea of a single “superman”, but shows you different worlds, a variety of alien lifeforms, a ring that turns into a light gun, and all sorts of other completely out there and unbelievable shit!

Unless I’m a complete and utter moron, I should already have a fairly good idea what to expect from a movie like this. Why, then, do I need someone to tell me how the movie doesn’t have the plot, character development or emotional involvement of something like The Shawshank Redemption, and is therefore undeserving of my time?

Of course it’s hard to swallow, it stretches the concept of “suspension of disbelief” to the edges of its definition. That’s kind of its purpose; and in this scenario, my imaginary reviewer, the one that DOESN’T take him- or herself too seriously, knows this, and takes it into account. So instead of drowning me in their negativity, the reviews I read let me know that it’s a fun movie, that it explores the idea of overcoming fear, that it gives you the full backstory of the Green Lantern world, that you’ll see an epic amount of (not entirely terrible) CGI, and that you’ll get to see Ryan Reynolds in another role that lets him deliver the fast-paced, witty dialogue we’ve come to expect.

Suddenly, I may be inclined to see the movie, since ALL THESE ARE THINGS THAT I AM INTERESTED IN!

In fact, unless I’m a complete and utter moron, I should already have a fairly good idea what to expect from a movie like this. Why, then, do I need someone to tell me how the movie doesn’t have the plot, character development or emotional involvement of something like The Shawshank Redemption, and is therefore undeserving of my time and/or money? I already knew it was most probably never going to be an Oscar-winning classic — it never set out to be. A movie like Green Lantern is SUPPOSED to be light-hearted and imaginative, featuring all manner of explosions, aliens, and shit that is completely unfucking believable, in the both the literal and figurative senses.

For too long have reviewers placed unrealistic, unattainable, and plainly ridiculous expectations on movies; especially the popcorn, blockbuster movies without which no holiday season is ever complete. And for some reason, they attack sci-fi, fantasy and horror films with even more righteous, film school fury than any other genre.

In Australia, we call it Tall Poppy Syndrome. “Michael Bay earns more than me so I’m going to cut down his movie — even if it is one that is clearly intended to be taken with a light-hearted barrelful of salt — with as much scathing sarcasm and wicked, learned wit as I can muster. Yeah, that’ll fix him.”

Too serious. Too long. To busy thinking to just watch.

Enjoy a fucking movie already.


READ THE OPPOSING ARGUMENT
CRITICS — USUALLY RIGHT
by David Baldwin

About the author

JASON MURDOCH

Jason Murdoch is an occasional contributor to Geek Speak Magazine, ninja, wargamer, lover of breakfast, co-creator of the Unfauxcast Malifaux podcast, master of his own underwear.