Just out of curiosity, I logged onto the Rotten Tomatoes website — which compiles movie reviews from various sources — before going to see “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” last month. I wanted to see what the critical consensus on the film was, and I was a little concerned when I saw its rating was only 65 percent. This isn’t a horrible score (it means 65 percent of critics still gave it a positive review), but it was a much lower score than I was anticipating, and it was certainly lower than the 90+ percent ratings earned by the three “Lord of the Rings” films.
Ultimately, I ended up going to the film and enjoying it very much. While I certainly respect the opinions of those who didn’t like the film, I personally thought it was a fun, light-hearted adventure. “The Hobbit” was the very first fantasy book I read as a kid, and the movie brought back fond memories for me.
However, it has been interesting to watch the different responses to this film online, and there seems to be a bit of a rivalry between fans and critics. When one critic from a well-known website said “The Hobbit” was “a bloated and often quite-dull would-be adventure that has little of the wide-eyed wonder and emotional pull of the original trilogy,” one reader responded by calling the critic “just another guy paid to walk into a theater and write about something he has neither the wit to understand nor the skill to create.”
This example highlights an issue I’ve been noticing for a while. Critics tend to be tougher on big-budget action/adventure films, even though these films usually perform well at the box office. And I think with the rise of social media and the potential for more interaction and sharing comments online, fans have been more vocal about criticizing the critics for being too picky.
Right or wrong, I think many movie-goers have the impression that traditional movie critics from the major media outlets can be a little bit “snooty” and like only “serious” films. Fans sometimes feel that critics are talking down to them, and I’m sure most people would agree that it is hard not to feel offended when someone rips apart a film that meant something special to you. I’ll admit a certain critic did rub me the wrong way in his review of Marvel's “The Avengers” when he criticized the film and then stated something like, “But I’m sure the mindless masses will flock to this film anyway.” I did not have a problem with him sharing his opinion, even though I didn’t agree with it, but I do wish he hadn’t called people who liked the film “mindless.”
But, in critics’ defense, reviewing movies is tough, especially if you’re trying to review every new release. That’s a lot of films to watch in one year, and it’s probably easy to get burned out (and, perhaps, less forgiving of a film’s flaws). Critics are asked to be as objective as possible about an art form that is, by nature, subjective. If you don’t like science fiction and fantasy as a genre, you’re probably going to rate those films a little lower than other films. If you do like sci-fi and fantasy, you’re going to tend to rate those films higher. It’s just natural that your personal preferences will color your overall perception of a film. It’s probably not practical for all media outlets to have a special critic for each genre, even though it would be nice to have critics that love dramas reviewing dramas, critics that love sci-fi reviewing sci-fi movies, and so on.
I do think critics need to remember, though, that there’s a difference between films that are great from an artistic standpoint (films that have an important statement to make about society, films that take creative risks, etc.), and films that are designed to simply be fun to watch. For example, “The Avengers” isn’t a deep, philosophical film — and it isn’t meant to be. It’s just a fun roller coaster ride we’re meant to sit back and enjoy. “The Hobbit” is based off a book that was meant to be a light-hearted adventure for children (and children at heart). Films like “The Hobbit” and “The Avengers” should be reviewed differently than a film like “The Master.”
So, what do you think? Do you feel critics are too tough on certain types of films? Should critics try to be as objective as possible when reviewing films, even if it is from a genre they don’t like?