Originally posted by Sofia Hariz
There’s a big issue in movie reviewing these days that’s irritating me. Not a week goes by where I don’t find myself reading a movie review I disagree with, not necessarily because of my personal opinion of the movie, but because some reviewers seem to forget to ask themselves an utmost important question by the end of the movie – did I have fun?
I want to preface this by stating that I’ve written a fair share of movie reviews the past few years, and feel somewhat confident in how I do it. And even though I’m far from calling myself a professional, I feel that the scores I’ve given the past few years were all as objective as possible (emphasis on possible). Why? Because I like (at least the idea of) making movies and watching them.
Even if I’m no “insert cool film critic here”, I feel like my recipe for writing one is a fairly good one:
Firstly – is this movie the type of movie I could review semi-objectively (aka not a romantic drama/comedy, which I usually hate before even seeing them), and am I familiar with the genre or, if it’s a series, the previous movies? If no, I’d skip it if I could, something I think A LOT of movie critics won’t or can’t. Here lies a problem, but I’ll get back to that.
Onto watching the movie and writing the review. If the movie has a story with an arch, natural dialogue, good camera work, fitting soundtrack and decent acting, it’s a 5/10 – it’s a movie and it’s made the way movies are supposed to. Then comes the analyzis – how good was the story? Was the cinematography interesting? If it had CGI, how did it hold up? Was the soundtrack especially good? Was the acting above decent? Then I’d bump the film up/down.
Then came the final question I’d always ask by the end of it – did I enjoy myself? Did the movie entertain me? Was I bored or did my attention drift elsewhere, or was I focused on the movie without having to think about it?
These days, I feel as if a lot of critics not only review the wrong movies, but they forget that final part. Once I was done watching The Force Awakens and could finally read reviews, I knew I’d find a lot of well-written pieces and a lot of crap. Because it isn’t a perfect movie and has its fair share of flaws – but I think it’s fair to say that most people had a lot of fun.
But not only did a lot of movie critics forget this point and over-analyze what MANY of us have forgotten is a franchise made for kids, but a lot of classic movie review mistakes were popping up here and there.
Firstly, some reviews spoil WAY TOO MUCH. We don’t need to know everything that happens, all the choices characters make or other things that might ruin any surprises, not to mention potential plot twists – just say it’s a plot twist in it and it’s cool/dumb. That’s enough, sometimes.
I remember reading a review of 12 Years A Slave, where a particular scene was praised for its emotional impact. It was described as a scene where a man was hanging from a tree barely alive, the camera remaining locked on him for a long amount of time – and indeed it was a really well-done scene. What the writer of said review did here was the right thing, giving no context as to why this person was there or how it would impact the film – he merely backed up his claim of good choices by the director by showing a reference we as readers can imagine is good enough reasoning.
Then you have reviews like one I read for The Force Awakens, where a critic also praised good choices by J.J. Abrams – but did so by spoiling a major part of the plot. I remember feeling bad and wondering why the reviewer simply didn’t state that “a scene where a major plot twist takes place was beautifully shot and captured….”etc – you get the idea.
My second problem with some movie reviews is when you realize that the reviewer either hates the genre, actors or whatever series it might be connected to. I remember reading a review of Godzilla, which I personally loved because, like The Force Awakens, it was fun. You could tell the reviewer disliked monster-flicks or possibly even action-movies in general. They were looking for a deeper story and felt it disappointed – I for one went in thinking “I want to see monsters fighting and buildings being destroyed” – which I think the movie pulled off very well. Know the movie your reviewing, and know its intention – Godzilla, though some of the actors tried to tell us otherwise, is a movie about a monster that ruins things. It never aimed at an Oscar.
When The Wolf of Wall Street came out, a Norwegian review of the movie went viral as the “critic” called it boring, Leo was overrated and Jonah Hill’s acting was atrocious, a role he got nominated for an Oscar for. The same reviewer also gave Cloud Atlas a 2/6, one of the reasons for this being that he was “annoyed by Tom Hanks’ prosthetic nose”. He also gave the original Jurassic Park 1/6 (!!) because it was too violent and the dinosaurs looked dumb. Clearly not a guy who enjoys movies that are fun.
This brings me to when reviewers are TOO subjective. In Norway, broadsheets and other media outlets have (for reasons unknown) a tendency to use news writers to review movies. I for one think a critic should love the art of cinema, not just a movie here and there. They should be passionate about it, know what makes a genre and judge a movie’s CGI not just on how it looks, but also thinking about HOW they did it. Dawn of The Planet Of The Apes might have had its flaws, but if anything it deserved major points for its CGI.
To most, film reviews are just something you might read for fun, and which might make you either run to the cinema or wait for the Blu-Ray. What people don’t understand is that looking at the big picture, a movie review can do a lot of damage to a movie or franchise, not to mention a Metacritic score, but also the money the movie makes, the reputation of the director or even future films that said director might make.
It’s a pity that so many movie critics seem to translate movies the wrong way – some decide to give every “based on true events-“, biographical sobfest a 10/10 simply because it’s real or has Meryl Streep in it – I for one think certain movies like those are boring and sometimes even badly made. It’s not the story, but the whole package that should be what matters.
So I know I’m rambling on, but the fact that a broadsheet in Norway gave The Force Awakens a 3/6 because it had “too many references”, and that was it, made me aggravated. Sure, hate the movie, but there’s gotta be more reasons to it than the fact that they had actors from the old movies in it?! Not to mention that it’s part of a franchise – references will happen.
What I’m saying is that I miss the time when critics were not only transparent as to what kind of movies they like and, if applicable, would state if they didn’t enjoy the genre/series in their review, but that the critic knows basic technical movie aspects and use those as arguments instead of “robots turning into cars is dumb” or “I love Jennifer Lawrence,” and – most importantly – they have fun while watching and writing.
Instead of going into a theatre with the intention to possibly ruin or flatter a movie, I am calling out all future film critics to not forget how you’re watching movies now – without over-analyzing or thinking about the words you’ll use to describe it, but rather taking it all in and seeing how it made you feel.
Also, have fun! It’s a movie! Enjoy yourself.
(PS: You might have noticed that I now have a bat in my logo, and yes I do know they’re not technically birds. But sometimes in life you gotta break some rules. That, and bats are way cooler than other birds… and also, Batman).