ByCalum Sanderson, writer at
Movie maker and watcher. Bookworm, muso.
Calum Sanderson

As of this writing, the second entry in the DC Comics' Cinematic Universe, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, is sitting at a paltry 32% out of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. And it doesn't matter. Not because this is a film so big it will still bring in money, not because of the product placement or sponsorship deals, not because Zack Snyder has spent three years making it. That rating on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't matter because it shouldn't matter.

The film critic is the singularly most pointless and most powerful cog in the film industry machine, able to convince audiences a film is award-worthy or to stay away with so-often "clever" puns about how bad such a film is playing on a film's title or content, making them appear smug and condescending. But how did it get this way? More and more, people are quoting themselves as "religionless", or lacking a solid belief system of practice, and yet, the film critic is revered as gospel, the movie rating sites like Rotten Tomatoes and the Internet Movie Database as church and synagogue, fights between people on chat boards akin to those of two different religions having a pissing contest about whose god is better.

Most all moviegoers go to the cinema because of one thing: the love of film. The love of escape, fantasy; able to face horrors vicariously through heroes like Ripley in the Alien franchise, feel smart like Matt Damon's character in The Martian, and so on. We use films to experience other lives and worlds, and that is their purpose. Though there are many films which contain meaning in subtext by use of camera angle, dialogue choice, blocking and so on, films are always one thing: entertainment.

An old saying goes the biggest crime a film can commit is being boring, and that is proof positive all films should aim to be entertainment. Now, don't get confused: that doesn't mean films shouldn't mean something or aim for something more. The problem is that film critics are notorious snobs, and reject the idea that the landscape of film is broad and diverse; so many people go into films with a predetermined idea of a film, sit in the cinema for two hours, and then come out with no thought changed, feeling their initial idea has been proven. This is simple stubbornness, and all are guilty of this, this writer included.

This is where the critic holds power: they insert an idea into the reader's head, and the reader then either goes to the film and either agrees or disagrees with the critic, or doesn't go to see the film at all. The critics are puppet-masters, simultaneously subservient to the film studio and holding the studio's film in his hands. This should not be allowed.

With the dawn of the internet, a platform arose to some who probably shouldn't have been given a platform to speak from. This writer is not saying some people don't deserve to have opinions, but film criticism should not be opinion. Film criticism is a review to see if the goal of the filmmaker was achieved, whether the acting is up to par, the production design contributes to the film and so on. So many times critics boil these elements down to "I didn't like that, I didn't like that and I didn't like that, so I hate this movie."

Fantastic Four was pummelled by poor reviews.
Fantastic Four was pummelled by poor reviews.

The reader is invited to wear his tin foil hat for a minute. Fantastic Four, released last year by Twentieth Century Fox, scored the lowest rating of any Marvel-based film in the history of Marvel movies at a scant 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. This writer, to this day, is convinced the film was unjustifiable sabotaged by Disney, who owns Marvel (but not the film rights to Fantastic Four). Giving the timing (Spider-Man going back to Marvel Studios for some films like Captain America: Civil War), it is not outside the realm of possibility the film was sabotaged due to its dark tone and body horror elements, things you will never find in Marvel Universe films like The Avengers.

A major reoccurring element in reviews for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is the fact it's nothing like Marvel Studios' films, which have set up a shared universe over the course of a decade. Is the reader beginning to see a pattern? A pattern of pre-determined ideas? What's more, the idea of bribing film critics is an old and popular one, but stopping short of accusing any one critic or company would be wise without solid evidence. The reader is advised to pay attention to which companies owns which media outlets and which films are rated highly compared to poorly from said media outlets.

Metropolis, 1927
Metropolis, 1927

So many classic films were, at first, met with negative reviews. Fritz Lang's Metropolis was hounded with negative press, even science-fiction writer HG Wells criticised the film, and yet - it stands as a classic of both the science fiction genre and of German expressionism. The same can be said for Blade Runner, which was met with confusion and indifference on its initial release in 1982, again, now viewed as a classic of science fiction. This writer refers to these films to show the fallibility of the film critic; though some hold the critic high, they are human, and as humans, all make mistakes. The reader must keep this in mind reading or viewing film reviews.

So many actors and directors are starting to speak out against film critics. Alex Proyas, director of Dark City and most recently Gods of Egypt, received terrible reception for his latest film, and then proceeded to tell critics to screw themselves. A similar situation arose with Megan Fox and her inclusion in the Transformers movies. Though not seen as a wise move, the fact creatives like Proyas and Fox are standing up to the film critic is a good sign, showing that the people who have the power are the ones who decide to buy a ticket or not, and not the snobby self-important writer of a newspaper or magazine being paid for his opinion.

The reader is encouraged not to pay attention to any film critic, even if they seem to share one's opinions, as the critic serves no purpose to the common filmgoer. Most films are made well these days, technically, and one may want caution before spending a lot of money at the cinema, but in the end, that's not what going to the movies is about, and people have forgotten that.

Going to the cinema and watching a film is about spending time with loved ones and friends, hoping to enjoy a film with one another; sharing an experience. There will always be films one will not like, and there will always be films which are crowd pleasers. Indeed, this issue is not black and white. However, the time of trusting film critics has passed. They hold too much sway and provide too little purpose, their existence should be minimised to that of a whining twelve-year-old who's just been given Internet allowance spouting nonsensical faux-clever sentences.

Reader: it's your life. Go to the films you want to, not what the critics tell you to, and go with your friends and family, and enjoy their company and the time you spend together. Films are better when shared, not when dictated.

For deeper understanding about aggregating, please read this article which gives more background on corporate ownership and pointlessness of these websites.


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