It’s easy to get frustrated by overpriced snacks and inflated ticket prices, but even in today’s world, people still love to go to the movies.
Historically, movie-goers have depended on movie critics to tell them which films they ought to be spending their hard-earned money on.
Critical buzz is a big deal when it comes to generating box office sales, even when the movie’s entertainment value is clearly what’s important.
And many in the movie business wonder if newspaper, magazine, and internet critics have more power than they deserve.
But here are some of the top reasons why you should think twice before you base your desire to see a movie on how many gold stars it gets.
1 Critics don’t always appreciate genres
Certain critics will give negative reviews to a musical because there’s too much singing, or to a fantasy film because there are elves.
Everyone has their favorite genres of movies, even critics, but many of them fail to recognize that no single genre is universally bad.
Sure, there are many more terrible romantic comedies than good ones, especially these days. But that doesn’t mean that a new romantic comedy is automatically bad, or that it’s bad because the person writing the review doesn’t like romantic comedies.
The same goes for slapstick comedies, horror flicks, or children’s movies – critics often don’t acknowledge that a film can be quality material even if they’re not the intended audience.
2 They’re cynical
Good films are about more than intellectualism, and entertainment isn’t a bad word, like some critics would have you believe.
But the problem with critics is sometimes worse than that, because they can look down on a film simply for striving to evoke an emotional reaction in the audience.
In the old days, it was a good thing if a movie could make you laugh, cry, and feel inspired in some way. Now those kinds of films are easily labeled maudlin, sentimental, or manipulative.
Movie critics want to be aloof, and they will rarely admit to being moved by something unless it errs on the pretentious side to begin with.
3 They often jump on the bandwagon
You might begin to notice an Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome happening with reviews these days, where critics can be afraid to give a positive review to a movie that everyone else sees as bad.
And the opposite is also true – many movies that get a lot of Oscar buzz benefit from the fact that a few key critics decided they were great films, so everyone else was predisposed to like them.
A strong general consensus on a movie can mean nothing. It’s strange, but sometimes the world of people who write movie reviews is like a high school. Nobody wants to be the one to break from the crowd.
4 They’re notoriously lazy
How many times have you read a review of a movie you’ve seen and it seems like the person who wrote it didn’t even watch the movie?
This can be especially true with more seasoned critics. After a while, they’ve seen so many movies and are so familiar with what Hollywood releases that they know whether they’re going to like a movie before they walk into the theater.
It’s usually obvious when they didn’t pay enough attention to give a movie the chance to disprove a critic’s preconceived notions.
5 They often lack credibility
Think about what the internet has done to movie critics. These days, anyone can be a critic, and if you have a blog that looks somewhat professional, you can be taken seriously.
Why should you listen to the hundreds and hundreds of people with opinions online?
Gone are the days when critics studied film theory and wrote analytical pieces for newspapers and magazines.
The best of the old-fashioned critics are getting old and out of touch, or have long passed that stage.
Quite a few of the new ones know less about movies than you do, they just happen to have found a venue for their thoughts. They also have an audience that didn’t exist ten years ago.
Movie critics, in summary…
The art of film criticism has existed for over a century, and there are plenty of positive things about it.
Historically, critics shed light on wonderful, quality films that might not have the mass-market appeal of a big blockbuster or enough studio support behind them to get them noticed.
And a little movie snobbery actually isn’t a bad thing.
You probably know people who insist that they don’t listen to critics, and maybe you’re one of those yourself, but educated film theorists have helped set the standards for storytelling in the industry for years.
Still, even the staunchest defenders of critics will tell you that some of them get it wrong in big ways. Are movie reviews and the critics who write them fundamentally flawed? Probably.
But most people will still read them, hopefully with the grain of salt they deserve.