Banner Image Courtesy Netflix
It is simply a basic fact that critics and audiences want different things from films. It is rare for a film to come along that combines the same aspects of novelty and social messaging that critics want to see with the more prosaic joys of exciting characters and dramatic action that audiences enjoy.
There are also some unusual circumstances where the critics got something entirely different out of a film than the audience did. Sometimes a film is so nuanced and peculiar that it misses the mass audiences entirely, and sometimes the critics are offended or bored by something that the general public finds amazing. It is not common, but it does occur, and in some ways it seems to be happening more often.
Although there are those who surmise there is a media conspiracy, usually based on American politics and peopled by sinister forces who just happen to array themselves against the conspiracy theorist, the truth is probably simpler. Critics and audiences simply want different things. Here are a few examples of recent films that struck the critics and the viewing audience in two completely different ways.
The following are just some of the examples when there was a huge difference between what the audience and the critics thought about a movie:
Movies that Critics Hated yet Audience LOVED
Although the Netflix film model is entirely different from the theater distribution system, and it is very difficult to compare international box office receipts with the opaque Netflix viewership system, media analysts say that Bright is about as popular as an average entry in the Marvel Universe series. This is exceptionally good for a Netflix show, especially for one that is not part of a franchise, so the well-publicized lashing that critics gave the show appeared to impair the audience’s enjoyment of it not at all.
A 2016 release, and the buzz around it had people watching it out of curiosity and being left surprised at the negative comments the movie scored from renowned critics. When Warcraft came out, it was laughed at by American critics for being just another run of the mill flick made on a video game series.
The film managed to scrape only a 32/100 by critics on IMDb, but the audiences gave it a whopping 7.7 (count me in the latter category as well), which just goes on to show that you can’t judge a movie by its cover. Thanks to the monstrous reception it received in China, a follow-up is virtually guaranteed.
Eli Roth’s new version of Death Wish, the 1974 crime classic, also illustrates the gap between the critics and the audience. For better or worse, most film critics are media professionals who live in large cities and enjoy comfortable lifestyles. They find Eli Roth’s films to be crude and unsubtle, and they are not wrong. What they miss is that Roth’s films are most certainly not made for them. Roth has crafted a taut, topical story of revenge aimed precisely at the most conservative and reactionary audiences possible, and they love it.
Although the political opinions expressed and implied in this film may be out of fashion in the media, the viewing public have made it clear that they are far from unfashionable with them.
The Butterfly Effect
How can the audience hate a movie with Ashton Kutcher flaunting his heart-throbbing self? Written by Eric Bress of Final Destination fame, this supernatural thriller had the audience gasping and sighing at all the right spots. Critics calling the movie “pretty dumb” to “utterly pretentious” had little effect on cinema-goers. The movie grossed around $57,650,900 in the US alone.
Critics continued to bare their fangs at DC Comics movies after the Batman vs Superman fiasco. However where both audience and critics agreed that BvS was pure excrement, the general populace actually turned out to like Suicide Squad. Millennials were the biggest fans of the movie, along with Hispanic and African American audiences who identified with the the diversity in the movie. Critics could not disagree more. Anthony Lane from the New Yorker expressed the opinion that the movie losing the plot was inaccurate as that would imply that there was a plot to lose.
Movies that Critics Loved and Audiences HATED
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
It is not exactly surprising that critics loved it while audiences hated it. Critics are generally people who have seen an enormous number of movies and are desperate for something that they have never seen before. The moviegoing audience generally has far different demands. They do not mind seeing something they have seen before, they only want it to be done well. Although the Last Jedi was more than competently created, with a remarkable performance by Mark Hamill, the deliberately off putting structure and the absolute refusal to give the audience what they want has certainly taken a toll on its Rotten Tomatoes score. From the audience’s point of view, this makes it the lowest rated film in the entire series.
The Blair Witch Project
Shot in documentary style, The Blair Witch Project was a first-of-its-kind horror thriller that instantly caught the eye of critics as an ultimate win-win. Audiences, unfortunately, didn’t agree, Many thought that the concept and story were all over the place, the film wasn’t scary enough and the plot not too riveting liking.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory