In recent years, and more so recent months, I’ve begun to notice an alarming trend. The cynical nature of our society is growing at an alarming pace when it comes to cinema. Yes, I willfully admit that there are movies out there that I have shared my dislike for more times than I could count. Over the years I have shared my opinions, both positive and negative, in countless film reviews, editorials, and podcasts throughout the bowels of the interwebs.
For the record, I have no issue whatsoever when people dislike a film that I like or even love. One of the greatest things about the artist’s expression via television, film, music, and art is that all of it, 100%, is ultimately subjective to the audience. Over the years we have created systems which attempt to rate the quality of these items such as film reviews, Nielsen ratings, Cinema Scores, Rotten Tomatoes, and the list goes on. However, I believe that we’ve put too much trust into these measuring methods and not enough in our own opinions, feelings, and most importantly, our imaginations.
Twenty years ago, you could only see trailers for upcoming films from a seat in a theater. Now you can watch them on your smartphone the minute they hit the internet. If you wanted to see that trailer again, you would have to buy another ticket. If you want to do the same thing today all you have to do is click on “Play Again.” If you saw a movie trailer that you really enjoyed you would have to seek out your friends or family in person, or pick up a telephone with a cord attached to it, dial their number, and try to remember everything you saw while you explain it to them. Now, you can just send a link to it, in a text message. Or you can log on to Facebook and Twitter to see the trailer plastered in virtual timelines. The point is the times have changed. But I’m not entirely sure they have changed for the better.
We know more about films today, before they are even released than ever before. We know plot details; we see several trailers, countless TV spots, dozens of interviews, and that’s without even trying to be spoiled. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter and hit-whoring media websites, some outlets gladly post genuine spoilers in headlines just to boost their ratings and drive up their ad revenue. There are good and bad sides to this. Having the public at large talk about a film for months leading up to the release is normally good for business. As long as that film delivers once it’s released then it should do very well at the box office. However, given that the same audience at large has talked about the film ad nauseam for months, knows probably way too much of the plot, has been spoiled on one or two occasions, and possibly even believes the film will end a certain way based on an internet rumor, this could also end very badly.
Based on those reasons, I feel that it is far more difficult to make successful films today than any time in our cinematic history. We scrutinize, over-analyze, and trivialize every piece of each new film we can get our hands on. Are some films genuinely bad and deserve to be called out on it? Sure. At the end of the day, these movies are being made for our enjoyment and for our money. We want to be entertained and pay good money for it. But sometimes, we get in the way of our own enjoyment.
Every single movie that has ever been made has a plot hole. Some are more obvious than others. Some plot holes are easily missed or hidden thanks to clever editing or immortalized performances. Some plot holes can’t even slip by the most generous of film critics. My ultimate question is…why does it matter if a film has a plot hole? Why does it make a difference if a film uses “movie magic” to compensate for something that can’t be done? We are so quick to accept films that rely heavily on computer generated images. We have no issue when we are told that a Norse god from Asgard uses a hammer that was forged in the heart of a dying star. We accept that a teenage boy can be bitten by a spider and can climb walls the very next day. We go along with a billionaire dressing up in a bat costume to fight crime. We brush off that the most powerful superhero in the universe can die from a little glowing green rock.
Why are we so quick to accept “facts” about imaginary characters but then cannot get past the fact the world those characters exist in isn’t the real word? Yes, every new superhero film that comes out feels more real than the last one. It’s so easy to get caught up in the world that we see on these movie screens. We see something in a film that isn’t explained fully or doesn’t feel like it could happen in “the real world” and we take issue with it. Why? Have we all forgotten to use our imaginations? Is the wealth of information we have access to in today’s technological society caused us to cease suspending our disbelief? Does every single detail of every character and scene need to be explained and accounted for? Are those minute details essential to the story?
We are all different when it comes to our taste in movies. Some movies we like that millions of other people like too. Some movies we like, we wouldn’t even tell our best friends about because it’s too embarrassing to admit because we know the movie is so bad or weird but we can’t help but like it. It doesn’t matter what we all like or don’t like when it comes to films. They are meant for all of us. The events of each film cause different reactions or feelings within each person. Sometimes those reactions are shared with others and sometimes we may be the only person who sees it that way. No one is right or wrong for liking or disliking a film.
There must be a certain genetic disposition among the human species that creates a desire within us to be correct. Maybe it’s a lack of self-esteem that we feel the need to have our opinions validated as facts. Maybe if our opinions about films aren’t widely accepted we don’t feel like we are intelligent in our cinematic prowess. I’ve noticed that my opinions of films seem to have a good mix. Many films that I like are also liked by millions of people. Some films may only be liked by me and a handful of people in this galaxy. Ultimately, that doesn’t bother me at all. Of course we never enjoy hearing negative things about something we like or love from other people. We become invested in these films and characters and when someone disagrees with us, we can take it personally. I know there have been times that it has affected me when I hear someone complain about films like Man of Steel.
That is a film that is near and dear to my heart. I genuinely love the film. I love it for all its near perfections and imperfections. It has flaws and plot holes. Some are obvious and some are subtle. My love for the film does not make me blind to the issues it has; just like my love for other films doesn’t cause me to turn a blind eye when I notice mistakes. I never expected it or any other film for that matter to exist in some unachievable state of cinematic perfection. I’m not naïve. Human beings are not perfect and therefore can never create anything that can be considered perfect.
It is very enjoyable to analyze films, discuss the intricacies, and express what feelings a film gave me. The most important thing to me when it comes to watching a film is my personal experience and feelings. How did the movie make me feel? Did I enjoy what I saw? I’m the only critic that matters to me. The movies I watch were made for me to enjoy just like they were made for you to enjoy as well. Some people will enjoy the same film more or less. The person that likes it more isn’t necessarily more intelligent or better at analyzing movies than the person who didn’t like it.
Obviously if you want to be considered some type of expert in a field you need to be able to articulate your knowledge and expertise about things. The same goes for film. There are countless film critics, movie blogs, and podcasts out there to break down each film and explain why it did or didn’t work. Some people do it better than others. Some are successful and have huge followings of people that hang on their every word when it comes to a film review. I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had with people about upcoming films who said they read a review ahead of time and are not sure they want to see a film because of it. To me, that is a tragedy. They are letting critics decide if they will enjoy something or not.
Why would someone ever want to give up the part of them that makes them who they are? Our feelings and emotions and how we react to the world around us play a huge part in who we are and who we become. Why would anyone want someone else to decide for them what they will or won’t enjoy? If we do that, we might as well consider ourselves sheep. We are all capable of deciding what we enjoy or not when it comes to movies. But at the same time, we are the only ones who can ensure that we give these films the benefit of the doubt before we see them.
If we continue to concern ourselves with over-analyzing and real world applications of events in movies then I fear for the future of cinema. We need to remind ourselves to try to enjoy what we see when we take our seats in a dark theater. We need to remember that the things we see aren’t real despite how much we may wish or want them to be. We mustn’t forget to allow ourselves to escape the harsh and unforgiving real world we live in when see a superhero we love battle a freakish alien from outer space.
I’ll probably never have a billion dollars or a cave filled with gadgets underneath a mansion, but I’ve wanted to be Batman ever since I was a little kid. I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone; I didn’t have to provide a logical list of reasons to support my feelings. I was six years old when I saw Batman in 1989. There was no way that I could articulate my feelings in any intelligent manner. I like to think I’m a little smarter than I was back then. But I still can’t tell you why I first fell in love with that movie.
I blame it on my imagination.