It seems that audiences and critics will always be at odds with one another about what makes a good movie.
Looking back in history, there are some good examples of movies where moviegoers and critics did not see eye to eye.
A Long Time Ago…
One such historical landmark movie was Psycho. The initial reception from critics was overwhelmingly negative, despite being a box office hit.
John McCarten from the New Yorker wrote: “Hitchcock does several spooky scenes with his usual éclat, and works diligently to make things as horrible as possible, but it’s all rather heavy-handed and not in any way comparable to the fine jobs he’s done in the not so distant past.”COntrarian
Today Psycho merits 96% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, showing that critics can eventually be swayed in their opinion of a movie.
…In a Galaxy Too Far Away
A more recent example showing the other side of the coin is Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Here critics immediately loved a movie that fans loved to hate.
Following its release, legions of critics promptly fell into rank and praised the movie with one voice. This was despite the audience rating of less than 50%.
Peter Travers from Rolling Stone wrote:
“Rian Johnson’s middle chapter in the current Star Wars trilogy is the epic you’ve been looking for. Capped by Mark Hamill in the performance of his career, it points the way ahead to a next generation of skywalkers – and, thrillingly, to a new hope.”
However, for a majority of Star Wars fans, things did not gel. Critical characters like Luke Skywalker betrayed their own characters with only a couple of sentences to justify this turnaround. Logical story arcs were ripped out totally, mangled beyond recognition or new arcs were inserted that just went nowhere. Fans could not get past obvious plot holes.
In this episode it became clear that there was no grand force (excuse the pun) guiding the Star Wars Universe.
A handful of brave critics did not follow the bleating flock.
Jeff Mitchell from Phoenix Film Festival had the following to say:
“A lengthy list of missed opportunities and puzzling decisions.”
Richard Brody (New Yorker):
“The movie comes off as a work that’s ironed out, flattened down, appallingly purified.”
We’re not saying audiences are always right, but sometimes an overwhelming audience rating might indicate that critics might be sitting on their good sense.
The greatest threat to common critic sense might be the social proof effect. Nobody says it better than contrarian/controversial film critic Armond White:
“All they know is rating systems, and the consensus you see on aggregator websites. This has allowed a kind of herd mentality to overtake film culture. And saddest of all, perhaps, it’s not just among readers but among people who write reviews.”
Holding Out For a Hero
In our quest to spot critics with common sense, we went out looking for (in our eyes) the perfect scifi/fantasy critic that had the chutzpah to point out the fatal flaws in The Last Jedi. The following critics on RT were not impressed:
Jeff Mitchell, Rachel Wagner, PJ Nabarro, Matthew Rozsa, J. Olson, Daniel Krauze, David Keyes, Gregory Weinkauf, Jorge (JJ) Negrete, Rafael Paz, Marlow Stern, Roe McDermott, Alachia Queen, Richard Dove, Brian Gibson, Tim Brayton, Vicky Roach, Chris Barsanti, Paul Risker, Piers Marchant, Sonny Bunch, Luke Buckmaster, Ed Whitfield, Iván Belmont, Charles Koplinski, Ray Greene, Christian Toto, Richard Brody, Rubin Safaya, Fred Topel, Kate Taylor, Kyle Smith, Carlos Boyero, Sam C. Mac, Donald Clarke, Roger Moore
Two of the lowest scores given were by Richard Dove and Brian Gibson who both rated the film a 2 out of 5.
It seems that Richard only did one review on RT, The Last Jedi, so without any other movies to compare him to, let’s look at Brian Gibson:
“This movie feels like a TIE fighter on the fritz, spinning in circles as it fires off one light-show after another.”
Where he faltered in our opinion as contrarian critic was a great review for War of the Worlds, a highly forgettable remake by Steven Spielburg.
Another critic we have a load of respect for is Matthew Rozsa:
“That said, “Star Wars” is not “Breaking Bad,” and the same narrative tricks that worked for the latter feel jarringly out of place in the former. (Johnson deserves to be commended for his boldness, but audacity is not the same thing as quality.)”
Let’s look at what other movies he broke rank with the critics on. Matthew was brave enough to say the following about Suicide Squad:
“Based on the screening I attended, I can attest that audiences seemed to genuinely enjoy the jokes and get swept up in the action sequences.”
To top it off, Matthew takes a bold statement by giving Venom a solid 75% rating:
“Certainly I’m in a minority when it comes to my fellow critics, but I liked “Venom.” Hell, if it wasn’t for the sloppy and formulaic script, I might have even loved it.”
This earns Matthew Rozsa our contrarian scifi movie critic badge. It seems this brave man does not hesitate to step forward as far as breaking ranks with other critics go.
You go, champ!