There is currently a huge critic and audience divide, with megastar Dwayne Johnson calling out critics for their scathing Baywatch reviews.
He’s not wrong when he mentions the ‘Big disconnect’, but what is causing this issue? Are critics merely bloodthirsty cynics, waiting to tear into any film, like Johnson suggests? Are audiences, the people the films are made for, the best judges of quality? Or, are critics, people paid to write about film and experts of this field, the real voices of reason? I believe the latter is the case.
There was recently a petition put out to ban review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes due to the horrific critical reception of Suicide Squad (which was unbelievably moronic given that the site doesn’t produce the content). Audiences seemingly are beginning more and more to disregard experts (Micheal Gove Brexit flashbacks anyone?). This is odd to me, and I think it’s important to think about what motive a critic could possibly have for spiting audiences or random films. Why would they want to just pan a film for the sake of it? A critic is there to tell the general public whether or not something is worthwhile. If something is bad then critics just want to hold it to account. Considering how awful blockbuster offerings have become why are audiences frustrated by this? If they heed the advice of critics and boycott poor productions then studios will be forced to up their games. Critics are your friend, trying to lead you away from shoddy films, don’t hate them for having your best interests at heart. And it’s painfully ironic that people would try and silence the opinions of the people apparently silencing their opinions.
Why do people even get so angry about movies getting poor critical receptions anyway? As I’ve said, reviews are merely advisory tools. People don’t have to read critical reviews if they don’t care about them. There’s no rule which states that:
AN INDIVIDUAL MAY NOT WATCH A FILM IF IT HAS LESS THAN 50% ON ROTTEN TOMATOES!
By all means, watch a film if it entices you! Critics aren’t telling you not to, they’re merely telling you that they don’t envy you for your decision.
Regardless of whether or not you unanimously agree with critical receptions, the majority of audience opinions are, quite frankly, far less significant than that of a critic. They are CRITICS. People paid to review these things. They are experts, versed in the art of cinema, who are well aware of what constitutes quality. Whilst Cinema, like all art forms, is subjective, there is a wide range of criteria by which it can be judged. If a film is badly paced, badly written, badly acted, and badly directed, then, whether or not you like it – which you’re entitled to do so as an individual – the film at hand isn’t a good film. Whilst some directors break cinematic rules to be subversive, generally speaking when a product doesn’t conform to conventions it is poor. Critics know these criteria like the back of their collective hands, and, whilst individual critics may well get it wrong on occasion, if the large majority are agreed on the matter then there is quite clearly something problematic about the film.
If critics hate a film it isn’t because there is some conspiracy. They aren’t Kylie Jenner:
(Yes, this tweet is irrelevant, but my word is her stupidity glorious. ‘WHOS IS RESPONCIBLE?!’. Please go back to making crap TV). Getting back to the point, I admit that critics were ready to rip into Baywatch because the trailer summed it up as being a generic, cliched comedy, heavily relying on sex appeal and high school level humour with nothing particularly original about it. Why would this be praiseworthy? If you don’t want your film to be panned then make sure it isn’t another soulless product on the summer movie conveyor belt. And Johnson is hardly known for starring in quality films. If he thought this trash represented quality then that’s more of a reflection on his talent than it is on critics. He’s also the biggest star in the world, it’s entirely his fault for choosing a crappy project to work on. And, alternately, if critics are supposedly raring to criticise a film from the moment of its announcement, are audiences not just as guilty of giving in to pre-conceptions? Look at Suicide Squad. The fanbase this film spawned were beyond obnoxious. You couldn’t say anything about this film without being pounced on. People are people and will automatically form an opinion on a film based on pre-release material (you know, the stuff designed to reflect the product), but I believe that critics are more flexible. They can put their hands up when they are wrong.
Some may argue that an intentionally shallow, feel-good comedy like Baywatch is something not really suited for a critical examination. It is not, and does not pretend to be high art. I despise this argument though. If we actively applied this logic then it would mean that already exploitative studios would be able to further drop their levels of quality. If I wrote a song comprised entirely of me farting into a microphone could I then say ‘OH, THIS IS A CLASSIC BUT JUST ISN’T MEANT FOR YOU’? No, I couldn’t. Quality control is vital, and studios without the harassment they receive from critics would have no reason to uphold any degree of excellence. You don’t have to listen to critics, but if you have any respect for yourself then you should probably give some sort of acknowledgement to them. It’s lazy studios who are the real enemy.