OPINION – Is the movie critic dead?

It’s a question that came up on my home radio station in light of the Batman vs. Superman debate: do we really need movie critics? Here are my thoughts on the question.

Love it or hate it, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice has sparked a discussion with regards to what a “good movie” constitutes. How do you define it? What does it mean to you when, after you’ve finished watching a film, you tell yourself – or your friends – that you “enjoyed it,” or “didn’t enjoy it?”

Even without a budget, or with a limited one, most newspapers and news programs have someone giving you the 411 on films, and Metro Vancouver is no exception. From Global BC to CKNW (by the way, CKNW has three permanent movie reviewers on three different shows!) to the Georgia Straight and beyond, you can find someone locally who has an opinion on the latest flicks. Here are just some examples – and let’s use the recent Batman vs. Superman movie:





Which brings me to the next part of this piece: this morning Jon McComb and Gord MacDonald asked the question: is the movie critic/reviewer dead? Take a listen to the Friday morning hit below:

I think McComb hit the nail on the head with his answer:

“I think if you’re a fan of the comic book genre, which – there have been so many movies of now, based on comics – movies and TV shows, that if you’re a fan, you’re gonna go and see it. Doesn’t matter what somebody else says. If you’re not a fan, but you might be interested in it, I think if you hear the reviews, you might say ‘well, I’ll leave that one for Pay Per View.’”

There are so many different kinds of movie goers: those who are die-hard fans of a brand, those who like going to the movies – but  are on the fence about a particular flick, those who see every movie that comes out…you get the idea. The common denominator among any kind of movie-goer is that they (assuming they’re watching a movie legally) have to spend money to get into the theatre. These days, it’s not ten cents. Tickets start at about $9 – $10 on the cheap end, and, ultimately, get super expensive. And don’t get me started on movie theatre snacks! So, what do some people do when they are considering purchasing a product? They might go read reviews online. From cars to make-up to food, you can find opinions on almost any product on the internet. When they weigh heavily to one side, it’s more likely than not the inquiring mind is going to go with the opinion of the majority – perhaps doing them a service.

This next point does not attempt to diminish the work of movie critics, but some people feel it’s appropriate to take a critic’s opinion, and turn it into the ultimate authority: basically, make the critic a god-like character. That’s different from having a favourite website you like to go to for your reviews, versus holding the opinion of the critic and his or her thoughts on a movie in high regard. Critics are not gods. Critics are defined by Merriam Webster as:

“One who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter, especially involving a judgement of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty or technique: one who engages often professionally in the analysis, evaluation, or appreciation of works of art or artistic performance.”

I feel like critics are people who have tried to grow themselves to be the best opinionated person they can be by constantly learning. Critics are human; they make mistakes. We all do. If they didn’t, then we wouldn’t be able to grow in the business of writing, speaking, expressing thoughts. When you’ve stopped learning how to do that…it’s over. We grow from understanding other people’s opinions and thoughts, and we take those and add perspective to our tool belts. I feel like I’ve learned more from engaging in a debate with people about my own thoughts on a movie than watching a film, writing about it – and then keeping the blinders on by shutting other people’s thoughts and perspectives out.

There’s also this question of payment. The term ‘critic’ to me infers the person is getting paid a wage by a company, or is self-employed. Realistically, a movie review can be written by anyone. Can you give an opinion? Access to the internet, or some kind of equivalent soapbox? If you own a smart phone, do you have the Flixster App? Did you rate a movie a certain number of stars out of five, then leave your comments below? Boom! You’ve just written a movie review, and if you decide you want to learn the craft and continuously leave reviews, your wizardry could potentially get you – one day – recognized as a ‘critic!’

At the end of the day, movie critics are airing an opinion – it’s not a mandatory form of information. When you say you’re going to see Movie X, and someone follows that up with “oh, critics say it’s great/not great,” it’s a tool you can use to weigh your choice to spend money on a film. Movie grosses are heading into the hundreds of millions of dollars – in some cases, billions. Think about how many people it means are spending their money. I’m sure they’d want some kind of direction as to whether or not it’s worth laying down their hard-earned cash – but when a movie critic puts their opinion out there, it’s up to you as the viewer whether or not you want to listen.

So, after my song and dance, is the movie critic dead? Well, I think at the end of the day…everyone’s a critic.

But that’s just my opinion.

Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments below!

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