Why Movies are Inherently “Critic-Proof”
Who the fuck cares what critics have to say?
Near the end of my review for Neil Marshall’s “Hellboy,” I discussed how — despite my disliking of what the movie had to offer — someone out there is going to love this movie because every movie is “critic-proof.” Now, this isn’t my original idea. I heard it somewhere else from someone better at tethering thoughts together through grammar, but it’s still something I would like to run alongside them with because of its evidential truth.
I believe Jim Emerson was one of the first to dub such a term amid the pop-culture buzz for Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers.” He wrote:
“you might say the movie’s superpower is that it was “critic-proof.”
He argues that it didn’t really matter what critics thought about it; this movie was going to make a mega box-office run. And it did, but many reviews for it weren’t precisely degrading either, with a 92% Rotten Tomatoes score and Roger Ebert providing a 3/4 grade as well. But, the underlying problem here is the philosophical-esque belief that there is a measurable difference between good movies and bad movies.
As there are a fair amount of film critics who carry with them, a healthy disdain for Kevin Feige’s Marvel Cinematic Universe and a lot of that has to do with their personal preferences in regards to filmmaking. How their affinities and tastes are incredibly underappreciated by general audiences. The lower-budget tiers of filmmaking, indie films, something like the A24 movies. They tend to find the Marvel movies to be “incredibly loud and hollow,” or “absent of grit.” In a review for Joe and Anthony Russo’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” a film that grossed more than $2 Billion at the global box office, go to blockbuster film critic Matt Zoller Seitz wrote:
“Until pretty recently, MCU films have suffered from collective curve-grading — each film seemed content to settle for “better than expected,” as opposed to being really, truly good — and that feeling returns here, unfortunately.”
The “really, truly good” part of that sentence is what gets stuck in my craw, but I get it. I used to be cut from the same cloth as these guys, sharing this belief system that there is such thing as “good movies” and “bad movies.” That we, as a society, can tell the difference between the two — academically. That there is some way to measure out a film’s merits, or some form of a tautology that allows us to break down how a film is “good,” or how a movie is “bad.” I even went as far as to write a piece titled: “Can Movies be Objectively Good?”
Yes, I dared to suggest that I, a low-level blogger, found a way to crank out authentic reviews that suggested this movie was good or bad, and if you thought otherwise, well, then you were wrong. I would even carry with me that high-brow, snobby attitude. I would see friends like a movie that I didn’t and assume they were wrong or couldn’t tell the difference between good movies and bad movies out of ignorance. Basically, I was an asshole.
Now, this isn’t some piece about these critics being wrong, or my disliking of artsy-devotee filmgoers, or anything of that matter. You like what you like, and there’s nothing wrong with that — which is kind of my point. No matter what you love, or why you love it, the fact remains that you love it. There is really no such thing as a bad movie, technically. I mean, you can only measure a film’s success financially. So, whether or not critics like it, if it makes money, then it’s a successful project. If it doesn’t, then it’s not. There is no other way to measure a movie’s merit, besides placing it in the confines of an investment.
So, that raises the question, what purpose does a critic serve if they are not there to tell you if a movie is good or bad? Well, for me, critics should be — and should have always been — there as a window of connection in regards to fandom. It’s the one thing that kind of makes me produce this cynical gaze on something like Rotten Tomatoes because film criticism should not be an aggregate system. It is finding someone who shares a similar taste for a film that you do, so that you can look behind the final sentiment. What I mean by this is that a film critic should not be measured by what movies he/she likes and which ones he/she doesn’t, but the reasoning he/she exhibits in arriving at their subjective conclusion.
Does there reasoning make you rethink your liking or disliking of the movie? If so, why? These are the kind of effects that a critic should have on his/her reader. This is also why all of my reviews start with my grade for that movie because I am hoping that you are going to the review, not for the grade, but for the explanation behind said grade. It should have never been about telling a reader to go see this movie because it’s “good,” or don’t go see this movie because it’s “bad,” because, in actuality, there is really no movie that doesn’t have an audience.
I love Kevin Smith, he is a pop-culture fanatic that echoes my child-like giddiness for the nerd-renaissance we find ourselves apart of, but his latest films are — admittedly — not my cup of tea. “Tusk,” or “Yoga Hosers” are just not for me. But, as the Fatman Beyond podcast proves time and time again, there is a fair amount of people out there that love those movies. Despite their lack of financial success, despite their limited critical approval, these movies found an audience who is willing to spend money to see another film made in that universe of storytelling.
Movies are not made, and stories are not told, in all reality for that purpose though, which is where critics become this weird old fashioned system. Art — especially mass art — does not belong to us; it belongs to the artist. Because stories are honestly told for the artist, they are created so that an artist can either provide therapeutic-like treatment for themselves through their chosen medium of art or share a story they love with others. They don’t seek our approval, nor do they need our consent, they craft stories for themselves because it’s a movie they want to see. Kevin Smith wanted to see a film about a two-girls becoming comic book-like heroines, that’s why he made “Yoga Hosers.”
I want to make it clear that I am not singling out Kevin Smith as a bad-filmmaker, he’s doing what he loves and not everything he makes rocks everyone’s boat, and that’s fine. He is not the only example out-there, look at a movie like “The Room,” a film that is historically seen by many as one of the worst movies they’ve ever seen. Yet, that movie has made millions of dollars, years after its initial release. It got a remake of sorts with James Franco starring and directing. Not to mention, Tommy Wiseau is a well-known name in the world of filmmaking. But his movies are bad, right?
Movies are inherently “critic-proof,” any movie can be successful, and it doesn’t need the critic’s approval to do it. If “Avengers: Endgame” gets terrible reviews from critics next week, it won’t matter. People will still go and see the movie; it will still be financially successful. I don’t believe that will happen, I think most of us enjoy those movies for what they are, but movies are only limited by their ability to reach an audience. If you as an artist craft something that you wanted to see, you love what you made, and someone else out there loves it too, then who the fuck cares what critics have to say?