“I rebel.”

Star Wars Rogue One

Source: Screenrant (via Google Image Search)

MINI-RANT: Summer Movies 2016 and Low Review Scores

“This is a rebellion, isn’t it?  I rebel.”  This line comes from the upcoming Star Wars Story: Rogue One movie and it is perfect for the way I feel right now about review scores and many (not all) reviewers this summer.  Let me be clear: I am in FULL rebellion mode.  I no longer trust reviewers to give a good unbiased opinion as to whether a (summer) movie is good or not for 2016.

As an example, here are some numbers from Rotten Tomatoes (at the time of this writing): The Legend of Tarzan (Critics 36%, Audience 71%), WarCraft (Critics 29%, Audience 79%), X-Men: Apocalypse (Critics 48%, Audience 71%).  Metacritic isn’t much better: I checked a Metacritic score for a movie (I believe it was Independence Day 2: Resurgence) and found that a “reviewer” gave it a 0 rating!  Zero, really?  As an educator who has graded a ridiculous amount of student work, I know that zeroes SHOULD be reserved those who don’t turn in the assignment.  If you turn something in, you get some credit for it, if just for attempting it.  I’m not giving the reviewer’s name nor linking to his review as I don’t want to give him “hits” for the review.

These are gaps of 30-40 points with a 50 point gap on the extreme end.  Are critics so out of touch with their audiences’ expectations, or is something else to blame.  To me, this goes far beyond giving a negative review to a product you don’t like and delves into the realm of propaganda.  You don’t like something and you don’t feel anyone should like it, so you bash it and badmouth it to the point where it can’t make enough money to survive in the marketplace.  How else would you explain the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice numbers?  BvS (Critics 27%, Audience 66%).  Compare that to Captain America: Civil War (Critics 90%, Audience 90%). Again, all numbers are at the time of writing.

<Sarcasm tag on>Wow, would you look at that?  A movie that the critics liked and want to see more movies made in that style happens to match almost identically, some might say magically, the audience rating.  What a strange coincidence!<sarcasm tag off>.

In reality, if reviewers are really doing their jobs and objectively looking for things in the movie that were well done and things that were off-putting, then the audience and critics should be nearly in lockstep (within, say about 10% of each other to account for various tastes in the marketplace.)  Let’s see if this holds true: Secret Life of Pets (Critics 75%, Audience 69%), Independence Day: Resurgence (Critics 31%, Audience 36%), Central Intelligence (Critics 68%, Audience 70%), Conjuring 2 (Critics 79%, Audience 85%).  If critics were as out of touch with their audiences as the BvS and WarCraft scores indicate (among others) shouldn’t The Secret Life of Pets be off by 20 or 30 points?

This is why I’m rebelling.  I’m going to see the movies that I’ve already determined that I want to see irregardless of the critical reception.  I may be swayed by the audience reaction should an audience score be much, MUCH lower than I anticipated, but right now, as a group I feel that many mainstream “reviewers” are not trying to even be objective about some of the movies that are releasing this year.

In closing, I think I’ll mention the review that I saw of Batman v Superman the night after I saw it in the theaters (yes, its gotten SO bad that I don’t even watch the reviews until AFTER I’ve seen the movie for myself).  One reviewer called it “a mess” and couldn’t wait to talk about how bad it was.  Yet, I enjoyed it and my mother and stepfather who grew up on the golden age Batman and Superman comics enjoyed it.  So, I’m left to wonder, was the movie really that bad, or are you (as a critic) tired of Zack Snyder’s “style” because its the same “schtick” that you saw in 300 all those years ago (which was a “revelation” back then because it was NEW) and now you want to punish him and DC/Warner Brothers (which is all this particular reviewer really seemed to want to do).

So, until review scores get back in line with (what I feel) are audience expectations, I’ll trust my own judgment on what is good and bad at the movie theaters.  Does that mean that I’ll probably see a “clunker?”  Probably, but at least I won’t miss a truly spectacular movie because a reviewer has an axe to grind (aka Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) or even a fun summer popcorn movie (aka WarCraft).

Mini-Reviews (Warcraft & Hitman: Agent 47)

Warcraft_Teaser_Poster

So, this post was going to be the Author’s Note for “Project Light,” but I was unhappy with the ending, so I’m in the middle of rewriting it.

I saw two video game related movies this week, so I’ll touch on that instead and revisit Project Light.

WARCRAFT (No Spoilers)

This is the first movie that I saw this week and it is a competently made movie.  My grade for it would be C+/B- if you like Fantasy (probably a full grade lower if you don’t).  It isn’t a bad movie (certainly not the travesty that the movie critics/reviewers would have you think), but it isn’t a top-tier movie.  The acting is fine and the special effects are pretty cool.  The problem (mostly) is with the story.  Many of the motivations of the characters seem pretty thin–they do things and tell the audience why they are doing those things, but many times you are wondering “why?”  For instance, the “bad guy” is bad because he couldn’t fight the “power” that was making him bad.  Well, why go looking into that power to begin with?  I’m sure that the lore of the world of Warcraft explains it all, but without context, it makes it hard for the audience to follow.  For instance, the scene with Luke Skywalker training with the probe with Ben Kenobi while Han is skeptical in Star Wars: A New Hope explains both Ben’s and Han’s world views.  To Ben, there is Force that guides and helps, if you’re willing to believe.  Han only believes in what he can see, hear, feel.  During the “trench run,” Ben’s disembodied voice reminds Luke to “Use the Force.”  Luke has to make a choice: Faith vs Technology.  Does he believe that there is a high “Force” that will guide him, or is he bound be the technology around him: his ship, his computers, what he can sense in the physical world only?  This is a very human choice and the outcome of the story rests on that choice.  Warcraft is missing those type of scenes.  The characters may say they want one thing or another, but their actions don’t convey their convictions.  Without spoiling the movie, there is a scene where someone clearly cheats and goes agains the “honor” of the people.  Yet, that person is still followed by the people.  Why?  Fear, not wanting to change, or some other reason?  The answer is not clear, but even though much is made of honor, they still chose to follow one who clearly has no honor.  There are simply too many of those to ignore.  It doesn’t ground itself in “human” choices and as such doesn’t connect as well as the top tier movies do.

hitman_agent_47-wideHitman: Agent 47

Hitman: Agent 47 suffers from a different set of problems, although lack of motivation is still central to why it also doesn’t work.  I would grade this one as a D+ (Below Average).  The main problem with Hitman is that the script/story doesn’t know who it wants to be as the protagonist.  It really wants to have two protagonists: Agent 47 and Katia (the woman featured above).  The story doesn’t have a clear view of the characters and doesn’t present them to us well in the movie.

This is one of those times when the cliche “style over substance” is appropriate.  To the movie, gunplay and stylish kills are more important than anything else in the world.  They prioritize cool gun work and fight scenes over characters and story construction.  You’ll wonder why certain characters are acting the way they are even more in this movie that in Warcraft.  There are many stories that could be told in this movie: Revenge, Redemption, Protege, etc., but because the filmmakers aren’t sure which character is the protagonist, the story that is told is very fragmented and doesn’t hold together well.

While I was watching the movie, The Mask of Zorro kept coming to mind.  This would have been an awesome “Protege” movie had the filmmakers decided that Katia was the protagonist.  The problem is that would have meant relegating 47 to the background, something that the filmmakers weren’t willing to do.  This movie could have really been a hit, but this is one time where having a license to a character really hurt a licensed movie as there was no consensus on a clear protagonist.