Does anyone really need to read a review in a paper to decide if they want to see “The Avengers 4: Revenge of Kylo Ren”? As someone who loves watching and analyzing movies, I don’t look towards reviews as a way of gauging whether or not I want to see a film. The days of humoring movie critics and their supposed superiority should be over.
Anyone who scrolls through Amazon users’ reviews of movies — or the Twitter account that shares the highlights — will realize how subjective movie reviewing truly is. One of the most-shared Amazon movie reviews on social media is a one-star rating of “The Wolf of Wall Street” that states, “There were no wolves in this movie.” Objectively, this review is absolutely correct. There are no wolves in this movie. Was this review helpful? That depends on whether or not you are judging this movie from a wolf-content-only perspective.
Movie critics have no more authority over deciding the quality of films than this single-issue wolf reviewer. Movie reviews might have worked in the past by allowing moviegoers to decide if a particular movie will keep their deep existential dread at bay for another week. That role has transformed into a near tyranny of imagined objectivity, as sites like RottenTomatoes have tried to convince us that we can quantify the quality of movies. However, information on new movies is no longer restricted to what is available in newspapers. Consumers have a wide array of online sources to tell them what is showing near them, especially with the amount of viral marketing for movies, leaving the utility of reviews and ratings obsolete.
There is a reason why, after I watched the first episode of the third season of “Black Mirror,” I had a nightmare in which the library denied entry to students without near-perfect GPAs. Not to sound as dire or contrived as that “Black Mirror” episode, but we are living in a world run amok by seemingly objective rankings. Our lives are increasingly lived between a variety of obnoxiously-named phone apps, all subjecting us to the wrath of their five crucial stars.
I too am guilty of searching for the perfect four-star-and-above Yelp spot before committing to a dinner outing. But movies cannot be judged as objectively as the time it takes for your smoothie bowl to arrive. One audience member’s specific niche will not be the same as any other’s. For example, as a first-year, I went to see the historical indie horror “The Witch” with a group of Trinity students. We were some of the only people in the theater, so we reacted quite openly to anything we found shocking or ridiculously funny. Our reactions seemed to be in sync: We tried to hold screams in at the same time and laughed uncomfortably at bizarre scenes.
When we left, I expected them to unanimously agree on the brilliance of the film. However, they were all in varying states of disappointment. The movie was admittedly not a typical horror film, and the lack of jump scares left them wanting. Maybe not everyone is looking for natural lighting and a part-feminist, part-satanist, fully anti-patriarchal message in their historical horror. Both movie critics and myself have to accept this.
Of course, I’m not saying film scholarship and analysis aren’t extremely important. In fact, I think we would all be better off with more writing dedicated to the actual content of movies and not whether or not they’re worth watching. Because, really, no movie can ever be universally worth or not worth watching. Sometimes you just have to discover that “Batman v. Superman” has nothing to offer you, ironically or not, on your own.