Film critics' opinions should be met with skepticism
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I consider myself far more of a film lover than a film critic. Whether a film is being announced or premiering in theaters, I genuinely want it to do well, because if there’s anything that I learned from watching, studying and evaluating movies, it’s that filmmakers put an incredible amount of effort and planning into their works. No one wants to be subject to harsh criticism or dislike, but there is often a gray area when it comes to a film’s quality. That is where the film critic half comes into play.
Critic opinions serve as a sort of standard regarding whether or not a film is worth seeing. They are perceived as “experts” in their observations, so we are inclined to trust their judgements and opinions. Looking at the actual reviews themselves though, I think the most popular—and relied upon—number in this equation is the film’s Rotten Tomatoes score. The website is an aggregator that pulls reviews from multiple sites. If the review is generally positive, the film gets a “fresh” rating, and if it is negative, it gets a “rotten” rating. The more “fresh” reviews there are, the higher the percentage the film gets on Rotten Tomatoes.
Approval ratings like these are easily taken as a shortcut when deciding on a movie. Admittedly, I do check the site often to get an idea for how certain films are fairing. The problem with these numbers is that they are difficult to ignore. If I see a 25 percent “rotten” rating on a film, it isn’t easy to separate that from the film. What’s more, what if I end up loving it? Does that mean I am now in the wrong for not seeing all of the film’s alleged flaws?
The role that criticism plays is an ongoing debate, especially when audiences don’t agree with the critics. Take the release of DC’s “Suicide Squad” this past summer, which currently holds a 26 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but a 67 percent approval rating from the audience. There was an uproar over how negatively film critics received this film, so much so that a petition was launched to shut down the Rotten Tomatoes website.
“Suicide Squad” isn’t the only film with this kind of disparity in approval. Modern classics like “She’s the Man” and “The Princess Diaries” hold “rotten” ratings from critics, but “fresh” ratings from the audience. This raises the question then of whether every film should be held to the same standard. “The Princess Diaries” and “She’s the Man” are not groundbreaking or Oscar-worthy films, but viewers still love them because they are funny and entertaining. The films are far from flawless, but they know what they are and don’t try to be anything more than that. I would even argue that “Suicide Squad” is fulfilling its role as a summer blockbuster complete with all the action, heroes and villains that we would expect from a comic book film. As a film lover, I think it is more important to appreciate a film for what it is than to condemn it for what it’s not.
Film critics may have a certain degree of expertise, but that doesn’t mean they have the final say. Films, at their core, are subjective, which is why even the best films have a few naysayers. Not to mention, it would make for horribly boring table conversation if we all agreed about every single movie. If a film accomplishes what it sets out to do—whether to provoke, inspire or simply entertain—that says far more about its quality than anything else.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter