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The State of Movie Criticism

Movies are a form of media most of us love to watch. We either go to the theaters to watch a movie or stay home and watch a movie on TV, through physical media, or streaming. Sometimes, what determines whether we see a movie is the movie’s reviews. Before we spend our money on movie tickets or decide whether we want to take time out of our day to watch a movie on Netflix or any other streaming service, we want to know if the movie is any good.

Still, movie reviews are not without flaws. All movie opinions are subjective, and everyone has a different opinion of what’s the best movie ever, or the best movie of a specific year. Some movies aren’t for anyone, and it’s hard to trust their opinion. For example, a critic who is not a fan of horror movies overall wouldn’t be as reliable as a movie critic who is more open to them. Even the great Roger Ebert had unpopular opinions on movies people enjoyed. For example, he praised some superhero movies like Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins but was also critical of well-liked superhero movies like Spider-Man (2002) and Batman (1989). Everyone has different tastes and perceptions, so it’s hard to trust reviewers who have different tastes.

Another issue is how certain sites rate movies, and people not knowing how these scores are determined. For example, Rotten Tomatoes is one of the most flawed reviewing sites out there because of it. People assume the percentage a movie has on the site is the automatic grade the site gives. People might assume Jaws is a 97% movie when the 97% score comes from the number of positive reviews certified critics give it. Not every critic who gave Jaws a positive review thinks it’s a 5/5 or gives it an A grade. Some might give it an 8/10 or B grade. Then, there are some sites like IMDb that are more fan-based, with fans reviewing and scoring the movies. Review bombing is more common on those sites. A perfect example is when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out and got review bombed, when biased reviews are scored and written, with a bunch of 10/10 to counter the bad reviews the movie got. The rating systems are flawed on a lot of these sites.

One of the popular forms of movie reviewing since the late 2000s and early 2010s has been YouTube movie reviews. YouTube personalities like Jeremy Jahns, Chris Stuckmann, John Flickinger, and Sean Chandler are some of the most popular YouTube movie reviewers. Some of them got their start reviewing certain movies. For example, Jeremy Jahns got attention with his negative review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. YouTube movie reviewers tend to be the most relatable reviewers. They got into this because they are fans of movies and aren’t part of some newspaper or media company. 

It was a hobby for them until YouTube and sponsorships started paying them, but even after that they still treat it as a hobby. Chris Stuckmann would later get to direct his own movie, Shelby Oaks. Stuckmann has recently gotten under fire for focusing on only reviewing movies he likes, and refusing to criticize the recent superhero movie Madame Web and focusing more on criticizing the studio. YouTube reviewers add a lot of emotion to how good or bad a movie is. For example, many YouTube movie reviewers ranted hilariously about how bad all the Fifty Shades of Grey movies were.

Some YouTubers go the extra mile and put together video essays on certain movies, whether they’re new or old to go deeper into why a movie could be good or bad.

YouTube reviews have their positives, but also some negatives. In recent years, reviews on YouTube have become more about the politics of a movie or its stars and directors and less about the quality of a movie. Instead of criticizing and talking about the main issues of a movie, some of these personalities say it’s bad because an actor or actress with political beliefs the critics don't like stars in it. If the movie has one scene that is deemed political or part of woke culture, these critics claim the whole movie is bad. For example, instead of focusing on the overall story and character problems of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, many YouTubers focused more on the social politics of the movie and the stars, director, and LucasFilm President Kathleen Kennedy. It feels off and takes away from focusing on the problems of the movie.

As mentioned before, Stuckmann made a video on why he’s held back from reviewing bad movies. He talks about understanding the hard work people put into movies, even if they end up bad. While that is true, and I understand his perception that holding the studios more accountable is important, sometimes it needs to be said on how awful a movie is. It needs to be out there not just for the studios but the directors and writers to understand that movies as bad as Madame Web cannot be acceptable and they need to step it up. Even the actors need to get criticized if they give a weak performance. Some critics are also afraid to be honest about how bad a movie is due to a fear of backlash. Critics should have the right and feel comfortable talking about how bad movies are.

Movie reviewing is important and won’t go away. It’s gone through changes that are good and bad. People should have the right to write or film their thoughts on any movie, old and new. At the same time, a culture of reviewers showing how biased they are towards movies has hurt it. Whether it’s disliking certain stuff just because the actors they seem to dislike star in it or reviewing bombing stuff because they want the movies they like to have a higher score. The scoring systems on sites are flawed and need to improve to avoid these things.

Despite these flaws, this should not discourage anyone from reviewing movies. It’s great to see so many people sharing their thoughts on the various reviewing sites and on YouTube. Some have broken out and made a career reviewing movies and it’s led to them getting invited to events and opportunities to meet the stars of the movies. If you want to review movies, keep working towards it, and don’t be afraid to share your honest thoughts on movies.

What do you think about the current state of movie reviews? Do you think it’s gotten better or worse? Let us know in the comments below.


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