Posted by: ckckred | July 18, 2012

Does a Critic’s Opinion Matter?

Respect our authoritah!

The Dark Knight Rises has received tremendously positive reviews so far, and a huge amount of anticipation among Batman fans.  So when a few critics wrote some bad reviews, commenters on Rotten Tomatoes wrote nasty comments personally attacking the critics, with a few even writing death threats.

This had me thinking does a critic’s opinion matter?  Do audiences have the right to say what’s good or bad over a small group of people who mostly cheer small and unheard films?

For this debate over The Dark Knight Rises‘ reviews, I don’t think those commenters should have written those comments, especially since they haven’t even seen the movie yet.  And making personal attacks isn’t just wrong, but completely unrelated to the criticism in the first place.  Their are reasons why they didn’t like the movie, and if the commenters think they’re unjustified, they can say so.  They can’t just call them names because they didn’t like a movie.

This shows how passionate audiences are for some films, which got me thinking about my own reviews.  Does my own opinion have to be current with the mainstream one?  And if it doesn’t, does that make me a good critic?

I believe a movie critic should establish his or her own position on a film and be honest.  And if someone doesn’t like it, he could say that he disagrees, but can’t make a personal attack or offense.  It’s the critic’s opinion, not the audience’s.

This applies to me in a different way as well.  I have an inclination to rant about bad films to many of my friends.  Once I remember listening to a guy who said that the Transformers movies were his favorite films, and I literally had to bite my tongue to not lambast his statement.

But even still, it’s his opinion, not mine.  If he liked Transformers, good for him.  I didn’t, but that’s my loss, I guess.

And I’ve had my fair share of disagreeing with critically praised films.  For example, I didn’t like Spirited Away, one of the most critically praised animated movies of all time (you can send me your nasty comments below).  I can think of plenty of other films I thought weren’t good but have gotten phenomenal reviews.

However, this takes me to films that critics love, but audiences don’t really like.  Three of my favorites last year, The Tree of LifeThe Descendants, and Drive, didn’t exactly have a perfect fan response.  For The Tree of Life, many audiences members complained and demanded their money back.

When I was watching The Tree of Life, I saw the beauty of the film and the message Terrance Malick was trying to convey.  It’s a film you need to watch to understand, not to be heard.  I don’t think it could generate a popular appeal among most audiences because most people these days have too short attention spans.

So, in my opinion, if you disagree with a critic, you have the right to complain (if you’ve seen the movie), but you can’t make death threats or any personal attacks.  It’s not your opinion so who are you to judge?

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Responses

  1. Great article. I can completely relate to the Transformers part, I’ve had exactly the same conversation with someone about it…I think that arts criticism is incredibly important, but, it is all a subjective experience in the end. I’m obviously generalizing to some extent, but people who expose themselves to a wide variety of movies tend to have fairly low opinions of movies like Transformers. I’d like to think it’s because the more films you see the more you can appreciate the artistry in a film and seeing something purely made to be big box-office, like Transformers, is a hollow experience in comparison. That’s not to say that there’s not great Hollywood films, like Batman, but Batman’s on a different level to what Transformers is trying to do.

    • Yeah, I’d have to agree. What I loved about The Dark Knight is that it didn’t act like an average superhero movie but a real thriller. It’s actually very artful. A film like Transformers is clanky and action-filled but lacks any plot or interest in its characters. Unfortunately, those kind of movies make a lot of money and there are so few Christopher Nolans in today’s blockbusters.

      I’m a little ashamed to say I’ve seen all of the Transformers films, but I tend to learn something from that experience (like how not to make such an awful film). It’s strange seeing Hollywood’s transformation. There’s some really great old blockbusters, like Jaws and Star Wars, but other producers have stolen those concepts and marketed them to death. The difference between a Dark Knight and Transformers is that The Dark Knight gives us interest. Transformers thinks it’s interesting to see stuff blow up and like you said is a hollow experience. Thanks for commenting.

      • Exactly, Dark Knight’s beauty is about the internal conflict going on inside Bruce Wayne. Transformers literally has no depth. You know what the characters are thinking because they just say it, and then blow stuff up.

  2. Great post, I personally believe it is your own personal opinion that matters . If everyone liked the same thing it would be really boring.

    • That’s a good point. If everyone liked the same films, no one could debate or argue about how it’s good or not. I remember arguing with a friend about an ice hockey movie (I can’t recall what it’s called). I thought it was predictable, but he really liked it.

      Thanks for commenting.

      • Exactly I totally agree. There have been many films that have been slated by critics but are later deemed cult classics. I do think that acclaim from critics can definately help but it’s your opinion that matters the most.

  3. I have to say I critique films because I tend to notice audiences finding perfection in far too many films, even when they’re far from perfect. It’s a combination of that and I love to write. I’ve heard too many humans of the female gender say their favorite movie is based on a Nicholas Sparks novel–beginning: boy meets girl – middle: girl finds out something shocking about boy – end: boy dumps girl ALWAYS–so if I meet someone like that again, it’s goodbye and never think of speaking to me again. Generic audiences seem to find so much intrigue in trash and hate films when they have to actually set their minds to them. The Tree of Life is last year’s only Best Picture nom left on my list, but from what I’ve heard, I’d guess that’s probably why so many people demanded a refund.

    But it’s basically a law that everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, even those who find a high level of appreciation in trashy pictures, say “I’ll let that pass this one time” every time they notice a cliché (or just don’t even notice at all), and can’t get enough of the term “It was so good!!” So they have the right to think that Uwe Boll is the best filmmaker who ever lived and that Woody Allen is the worst. When it interferes with the opinions of others, and comes to them not respecting critics–professional analysts of films, may I state–and threatening death, that should be against the law. Likewise, if I found Roger Ebert saying such things to those who enjoy movies like John Tucker Must Die and Catwoman, I’d call the cops. Great post.

    • I believe everyone’s entitled to their own opinion too. To be a critic, however, you have to take film seriously. That doesn’t mean they have to love Citizen Kane and hate Catwoman, but if they only give good reviews to films like Battlefield Earth or North, well, then I’d start to wonder if they’ve seen any other films.

      When I review a movie, I try to examine all the film’s aspects. Transformers 2 does have some great special effects, but fails on every other level. It does, however, entertain (for me not how it was intended), and even though it annoys me to see people call films like that the best of all time, it’s their opinion. But I’ve noticed how audiences like similar stories, like Nicholas Sparks films as you said before (boy and girl romance, sad thing happens, lots of sappy tears, happy ending).

      The Tree of Life is such a unique and different film that I believe most audiences didn’t expect it. It’s a film that really should be looked over for the details, and still lingers over my mind now. In years from now, I think people will like it more and realize the beauty of the film, just as they did for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

      Thanks for commenting.

      • No problem. And thanks for bringing up Transformers also. That’s another problem I have, people who love films because of special effects. They’re all: “That movie was so cool! What a great movie!” They should just stop at “it’s so cool” because special effects can make it look good, but don’t make it a great movie.

  4. I find the whole thing absolutely ridiculous. I used to moderate the forums at a popular gaming website and every time a big game scored anything less than perfect there was an absolute shit storm from people that hadn’t even played the game yet.

    What I don’t understand is: A) Why does it matter? B) How do you know that person’s opinion isn’t the “right” one? C) How does it affect you if you already know what score the game/movie/whatever should have?

    It seriously boggles my mind.

    • Exactly! You can’t criticize someone for giving a bad review for something you haven’t even seen or played. Besides, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s just someone’s opinion. The whole thing just seems ridiculous to me.

      Thanks for commenting.

  5. Roger Ebert recently said the following:

    “For years people have been telling me they just don’t see what’s so great about ‘Citizen Kane.'” Now they tell me they just don’t see what’s so great about “Vertigo.” My answer will remain the same: “You’re insufficiently evolved as a moviegoer.” Or, more simply, “You’re wrong.””

    Criticism of anything at all that is this closed-minded doesn’t matter. But by the same token, criticism that is shallow (such as “you suck” or “what are you talking about, The Dark Knight Rises is super awesome”) doesn’t really matter either. Everyone has their own opinion, and very little can be done to change that, and that’s a good thing. Opinions keep us going.

    • What’s really interesting about a film like Citizen Kane is that it’s held the position of the number one film on Sight and Sound Magazine for so long, that people have come to feel underwhelmed by the film. I always get annoyed when people tell me Citizen Kane is boring, and pretty much say the same response.

      But I do think everyone’s entitled to their opinion. The commenters on Rotten Tomatoes actually said their complaints before The Dark Knight Rises even came out, meaning they had no right to say what they did. Besides, just because someone didn’t like a movie doesn’t mean you can’t. I believe that different opinions on film help establish the movies and makes them interesting for viewers. For example, I’ve often argued to my friend about 2001: A Space Odyssey. He considers the film to be absolutely meaningless while I tell him repeatedly it’s one of the best films ever made. Thanks for commenting.

      • People who haven’t seen a certain film really shouldn’t attack people who have for not liking it.

  6. I don’t generally have a problem when people (audiences) say a movie is good or bad, but I do when they give void reasons.

    Similarly. I get a little frustrated when people make statements without whole views.

    “The Avengers is the best movie ever made.”
    “What’s the oldest film you’ve seen?”
    “Pulp Fiction.”

    I mean, come on. Call it your favorite, but the greatest?

    Good article, by the way, dude.

    • Thanks! I actually had an argument with a guy a few weeks ago who told me The Avengers was one of the best films of all time and Citizen Kane was grossly overrated. I enjoyed The Avengers, but it was nothing special and far from being the year’s best film. I’ve also noticed many audiences these days don’t pay much attention to older films, something which has annoyed me.


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