We’ve all done it – picked up a magazine, clicked onto your favourite site, and gone hunting for the review of the new movie that’s out.
You want to see if it’s any good. You’ve read the hype. You’ve seen the trailers. You’ve watched the TV spots. And you’re excited. Really excited.
So not only do you want to see if it’s any good – you also want your own opinion confirmed. You want it to be good.
Only that isn’t what’s in front of you.
Take for example, these reviews of Justice League – a film that hasn’t so much divided critics, but drawn a line between critics, and its fans.
Robbie Colin, the Daily Telegraph’s film reviewer, writes:
There’s no trace of [hope] in Warner Bros’ latest hapless attempt to jump-start their DC Comics blockbuster brand, which at this point looks less like a cinematic universe than a pop-cultural black hole, sucking up as much money and audience goodwill as the studio can shovel into it.
Not complimentary at all. You can read the full article here
Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal penned:
The battles to save the world are generic/titanic; the villain is a bloodless bore with a boom-box roar; and the screen, like the ragged story, is chockablock with such underdeveloped overachievers as Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash.
You can take a look at the review here (subscription only)
So there’s a common thread. Justice League isn’t very good. Or so the critics would have you believe. The truth is actually somewhere in the middle.
There’s no doubt that Warner Bros. eagerness to catch up with its rivals at Marvel has led it to plunge headlong into the superhero market in a big way, outlining a huge list of movies that’ll take it well into the next decade, not waiting to see if the short term projects perform financially.
And that’s its prerogative. It doesn’t have to care too much about profit margins if it doesn’t want to – it can shoulder the losses for a short time. The fact it has committed to a series of further episodes in the DC Extended Universe shows it wants to succeed and is willing to throw lots of money at it.
But its recent attempts haven’t set the world alight. Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were savaged by critics – but the reaction from fans was different. While there was plenty of criticism – it became au fait to destroy the creative work put in by the likes of Zack Snyder and David Ayer. Only Patty Jenkins escaped the deluge for her work on Wonder Woman – ironically the most un-DC movie in the catalogue.
So if you subscribed to the reviews that Justice League was terrible, you might not go and put your money in your pocket to see it – which is why the movie is likely to lose between $50-$100m at the box office (that though hasn’t been reflected overseas, with strong openings in China and Europe).
So it could be argued that negative reviews have influenced people not to go and see the movie. But sometimes it can work in reverse. Ridley Scott’s not-Alien-prequel Prometheus made over $400m at the box office, and was praised for its visual grandeur and visual effects. Yet it contains so many plot holes and poor storytelling that at times it’s impossible to take it seriously.
The point is that it wasn’t as great a movie as some people make out, but it made money, and spawned a sequel. Reviewers thought it was great – but why?
The myriad plot doesn’t draw so many plaudits as the visuals do. Peter Bradshaw, writing in The Guardian in 2012, said:
Ridley Scott has counter-evolved his 1979 classic Alien into something more grandiose, more elaborate – but less interesting. In place of scariness there is wonderment; in place of tension there is hugely ambitious design; in place of unforgettable shocks there are reminders of the original’s unforgettable shocks.
You can read his original piece here
So Prometheus does have flaws. Just as Justice League does. The point is that reviewers sometimes don’t reflect the actual fan base of the genre itself. While Prometheus was a great showcase for those who appreciate cinema as an art from, sci-fi fans were left scratching their heads as to how this supposed-masterpiece was considered part of the Alien canon. That had, after all, already taken a few missteps thanks to its crossover with the Predator series, so a return to form was hoped for with Scott’s grand homecoming.
So to see a film that eschewed the Xenomorph itself, and saw several improbable events that didn’t make sense either in the context of the film itself or the franchise it was the predecessor for. So while there was much lyrical waxed over how good the film looked, ComicBookMovie.com pointed out everything that just didn’t make sense
And the same rings true for comic book movies. Iron Man 2 was loved by many – including the the much respected film writer and reviewer Philip French. His piece in The Observer regarding the 2010 sequel to Marvel Studios’ kickstarter feature, lavished praise on Robert Downey Jr. and his portrayal of Tony Stark:
Robert Downey Jr gives a stunning performance in the Iron Man sequel, a movie with a message about modern America
The full review is here
Yet Iron Man 2 is considered, by comic book fans, to be arguably the weakest entry in Marvel’s entire magnum opus. It’s often critiqued as a lengthy promotional tool for the then-upcoming Avengers Assemble, notable for giving both Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow extensive roles to set up their future contributions. Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash was also rounded on as an ineffectual and paper-thin villain. Over time, even Downey Jr. himself came to realise that fans had been disappointed by the film, as he admitted to the LA Times in 2011:
The first one changed everything for me and with the second ‘Iron Man’ there were certain aspects that were dissatisfying and disappointing to me but at least they lit me right…. [The first one] was a meditation on responsibility and an exploration of how a small group of people can take a two-dimensional idea and, if the winds are right, create something that makes people say, ‘That was my favorite movie of the year.’
That interview is here
So, given that, maybe the best thing is to do what people have been doing since they evolved a brain capable of independent, rational thought: Make their own mind up. Critics sometimes don’t like a particular genre. It is, after all, only human nature not to like everything, but don’t let their criticism – or praise – colour your opinion. If you go and see Justice League, and you enjoy it, then that’s ok. If you go and see it, and you can’t stand it, then that’s ok too. But don’t let someone else tell you what to think.
There’s lots to like about every film, but none of them are perfect. You just have to look beyond the hyperbole and vitriol that accompanies every major cinema release – particularly those in which studios have staked big investments. Money is supposed to equate to success, but beauty, as ever, is in the eye of the beholder.
It’s ok to like what you like.
It’s ok not to like something everyone else does.
Just let it be you who makes that choice.0