Thursday, July 26, 2007

Movie Reviews and the fine art of making enemies

So I dropped by Ain't It Cool News to see what the gentlemen over there thought of Transformers, given how much I enjoyed Neil Cumpston's hilariously colloquial review of 300 back in February. As it turns out, Harry of AICN didn't like the movie; in the comments section, people agreed and disagreed in a comment bipolarity war, the detractors casting personal slurs about Harry's weight and his residence as his grandmother's basement, also citing his like for Spiderman 3 as a reason they couldn't trust him as a reviewer.

This is why I trust the tomato. will tell you in advance whether this film is loved by all, or hated by as many who loved it, or hated by all. Transformers got a 57% on the Tomameter. This is not, in my mind, a bad thing. It means that it's a "love/hate" film, like "300" was earlier this year. It's like Nine Inch Nails. Or Red Hot Chilli Peppers. There are people at polar extremes about how they feel about those groups because they're distinct - they have their own style. They contain tried and true elements to be sure, but they work them in their own way. Michael Bay has a distinct style. Some people like it. Some hate it. And let's face it, Giant Robots as a genre is not as popular as say, Romantic Comedy. But if everyone who beat the shit out of Harry for his negative review had just sauntered over to Rottentomatoes, they could have read some reviews that agreed with their viewpoint and salved their bruised aesthetic sensibilities. They'd have seen that there was an even split on who liked the film and who didn't. The logical conclusion from such a split would be that Transformers isn't the modern classic they thought it was. It's a great genre movie which will likely be loved by some and hated by others.

At the end of the day, it must be remembered that reviews are opinions. The people who get them published are sometimes professional critics(like Ebert and Roper), people who went to school to study film and journalism and therefore have a greater gravity with our own opinions. We trust them because they bring a certain amount of objectivity to the table. However, having sat in rooms with other literary 'scholars' I know that even amongst the ivory halls of academia, there are disagreements which inevitably boil down to opinion. As a professor of mine was fond of saying, "there is no such thing as a completely objective viewpoint. Everyone has a bias, and will show it sooner or later." Some of the published are bloggers like Harry, or me for that matter. Some of us are trained, some of us are just fanboys. Our opinions count less in the greater public's eye, though in Harry's case you might make some money doing it. But in the final estimation, Harry and I disagreed on Transformers. He has his blog and he said so. I have mine and I said so. Our subjective opinions have been logged on the web for all to see.

This is why I rarely, if ever comment on other people's reviews. I think the rule on comments should be "If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all" when it comes to film reviews. At the very least, keep your comments to the film, not the reviewer. Taking personal potshots at the critic is juvenile. Unless they've misquoted Herodotus or made a claim about the original Transformers cartoons that isn't true, you likely won't be changing their mind by calling them fat or arrogant. Here's a thought; get your own damn blog. You can set one up for free at and then you can feel other people's derision when they don't like your opinion. Might change the way you comment on other people's sites.


  1. Well I just heartily agree. *heartily agrees* Difference of opinion is (more or less) what humanity is based on. A movie cannot be all things to all people, nor should it try. Someone will love it and someone else will want to tear their eyeballs out for having seen it. "One man's trash is another man's treasure" and all that rot. It's like when Pajiba (Scathing Reviews For Bitching People) gave a bad review to "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou". Normally I trust Pajiba - our sensibilities are rather similar. But in that case I LOVED "Life Aquatic". I could see that the reviewer had a point... he wasn't wrong... I just didn't agree. I didn't care about his point, I just loved the movie for reasons I almost couldn't explain. Would calling him a "pedantic and soulless prick with no imagination" have changed his opinion? No. So I didn't.

    You're right, Gotthammer, in that it's easy to throw stones at glass houses when you're on the ground behind bushes... too vague an analogy?... what I mean is, it's easy to attack bloggers for their opinions when you're an anonymous surfer but if you had a blog and somebody savaged your personal opinion, you'd feel differently about it. It's okay to disagree. But do so with a semblance of maturity and forethought.

    I'm loving your blog right now. I always love your blog but especially right now I'm really feeling it! Keep it up, man!

  2. I agree with you wholeheartedly. And I always check with Rottentomatoes; although I have disagreed with them in some instances. (Number 23 wasn't THAT bad.) Anyway keep up the reviews. And if you have something negative to say about mine, bring it on! I'm up for defending myself. Oh and feel free to insult the baldness.