You know how it goes. You’re sitting on your couch, flipping through your favorite social media, and you come across a movie trailer. You think to yourself: This looks nice, maybe I’ll check it out when it comes out. A few days later, you google it to find out whether it’s released yet: Great news, it is! You’re already making plans in your head and thinking about who you’re going to bring with you.. that’s when you see it. Right there on the right of the screen. 5/10 on IMDb. 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. You scroll down to the critic reviews, and you see words like ‘laughable’, ‘flat’, ‘not too exciting’, and ‘mediocre’. You deflate. You’re already disappointed, even angry with the cast and crew, because how dare they ruin the movie you’ve been looking forward to for so long? You decide that it’s not worth your time, and you move on with your day, until you come across another trailer. And so on, and so on.
Of course, this may not be the case for everyone, but I know I’ve been through this cycle more than once. I’d be excited for a movie, and then I’d see the reviews, and they’d make me reconsider my excitement. I start to feel negative about it, put off, disengaged, and my initial joy at the movie being out diminishes. I can’t count the amount of times where I had been dissuaded from seeing a film based on the reviews alone. I can’t count the amount of times where I’d suggest a movie and a friend would tell me that it had lousy reviews, or the times where I’d try to convince someone that a movie is worth checking out despite a low rating.
Lately, however, when it comes to entertainment, I’ve been taking on a different approach. I’ve decided to not look at the reviews, and keep an open mind about any piece of art until I check it out and make my own judgement call. And that’s not just me. This year, we witnessed two major cases where there was a stark divide in reviews between critics and fans. Let’s take a look.
1st Case: Venom
When the trailer for Venom first came out, the general sentiment was excitement and anticipation. When Venom itself came out, it was instantly and vehemently attacked by critics.
“It moves quickly and is fairly good-natured, but otherwise this flatly written, uninspired comic-book action movie feels more like a paycheck-driven business decision than an artistic inspiration.” – Common Sense Media
“As a superhero story, Venom ironically lacks teeth.” – Plugged In.
It got 28% on Rotten Tomatoes (Horrible, terrible), 6.9 on IMDb (Average, okay), and 95% on Google Users (Pretty good!) reviews.. So, which is it? Is the movie good or bad? Is it enjoyable or annoying? It wasn’t quite so black and white, as one critic put it:
“Now, I do want to make it clear that I think ‘Venom’ is not a good movie, but I also want to make it clear that I had the time of my life watching it.” – Mike Ryan, UPROXX.
Fans worldwide seemed to be sharing Mike’s view. Many agreed that the movie may lack bravado or proper pacing, but they also agreed that it was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, one of the reasons that Venom may have not appealed to the critics is that, unlike the movies of the MCU, Venom actually stuck to the comics with all their merits and faults. It stepped outside the boundaries of what the standard of the genre has become, and thus it didn’t try to appeal to every type of audience out there. And maybe that’s not a bad thing.
And hey, it did great in the Box Office, amassing $205 million on the first weekend.
2nd Case: Bohemian Rhapsody
Now, before I go on, you should know that I’m personally biased to this movie. I’ve loved Queen’s music before I knew it was Queen’s music, and I’ve always idolized Freddie Mercury before I knew his full story. When the trailer first came out, I was ecstatic, and this time, my excitement stood its ground despite the influx of negative reviews once the movie was released.
“The critical failure of Bohemian Rhapsody is that, 134 minutes after the lights go down, the members of Queen just seem like four blokes who’ve been processed through the rusty machinery of a Hollywood biopic.” – IndieWire.
“The movie is just a conventional rock flick, one all too ordinary for a man and a band that exemplified the extraordinary.” – New York Post.
It got 49% on Metacritic (Meh), 62% on Rotten Tomatoes (Not Great), 8/10 on IMDb (Wait, wow!), and 98% from Google Users (That’s awesome!)..Again, which is it? Why is there another great divide between critics and fans?
The critics felt that the movie was superficial, and they attacked the way it portrayed Freddie’s illness as a direct consequence of his ‘free’ lifestyle. They also criticized its various inaccuracies, such as (Spoilers!) Freddie being diagnosed prior to Live Aid, how he met Jim Hutton and how Queen got together as a band. The movie is too fast paced to give the story justice, and thus left some people feeling like they were short-changed.
Our own team even had mixed feelings about the movie; you can read the full Going Deep‘s review here.
Regardless, Bohemian Rhapsody passed $600 million in the box office and have received several nominations including Golden Globes and the SAG awards. This is almost a mirror reflection of Queen’s career, who were always criticized by the press yet adored and favored by the public.
Why does this divide happen?
It’s interesting to note that the reason why critics didn’t like Bohemian Rhapsody is that they felt that it wasn’t true or investigative enough. They judged it as lack in depth or realism, because it favored entertainment over education, was too fast-paced and did not stick to the true timeline. On the other hand, dedicated fans found it to be an exhilarating tribute to the lives of their favorite artists, and casual fans found it an engaging and appropriate entry point into the Queen history and community.
Alternatively, Venom is criticized for its slow pace and simplicity. Venom stuck to its comic origins without the added flair, grit or drama that we are used to in superhero movie adaptations, and thus they found it lacking in entertainment value. Dedicated fans found it to be true to the stories they’ve read and loved, and casual fans found it light and amusing.
So where am I going with all of this?
The main message behind highlighting these discrepancies is simply this: Don’t knock it until you try it. At the end of the day, movie reviews, although important and beneficial, are not the bible. There is personal bias that goes into each and everyone of them, and a movie that might appeal to the masses, may not appeal to you, so why shouldn’t the opposite hold true?
So, next time you come across a movie you want to see that critics have knocked, watch it and feel free to enjoy every second of it without needing to explain yourself. If it brightened up your day, if it provided a good escape, if it moved you or made you laugh, then it’s a good movie. That’s all there is to it.