Most People Like Terrible Movies
Seriously, moviegoers?! You liked Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen?
There are two explanations for the way I feel about the downward-sloping overall quality of movies over the past few years. 1) I am getting older and my taste has become more refined, or 2) greed has ruined the movie industry by encouraging quantity over quality. Seeing as how my favorite cuisine is Taco Bell, I own a Nick Lachey album, and prefer Miller Lite when it comes to beers, the first explanation has to be impossible.
So, it’s greed. Greedy movie studio executives (is that redundant?) are buying up film rights to old cartoon franchises faster than Grand Theft Auto fanboys were buying San Andreas before it was pulled from the shelves in 2005. However, placing the blame for terrible movies on film execs is like blaming GM for the decline of domestic automobiles. Film execs represent a corporation, which exists solely to make money. They will do whatever they can get away with to cause consumers (which in the case of GM includes the government) to spend money on their product. While it is because of filmmakers that films are terrible, it is not their fault. The blame should be placed on the American consumer. You. It is your fault.
Even if you disagree with the first two paragraphs, you cannot hide from the following fact: most people love terrible movies, and that is what this blog post as about. To illustrate this point, lets take a look at a recent disaster of a movie: Transformers 2. When I first saw the movie I was stunned at how utterly terrible it was. I immediately went online and read the review by Roger Ebert, who had this to say:
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments.”
Maybe the world is not doomed after all! There is at least one man of considerable respect who agrees with me. Then I started researching other reviews, and I came across this one from Time magazine:
“My son does not own any Transformer dolls. I’m sorry, make that Transformer action figures. But if he did, upon my return from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I would have taken these Hasbro toys outside, placed them under the wheels of the car and driven back and forth across them until they were ground into dust.”
I was beginning to feel validated as a human being. I wanted more. So I read Rolling Stone’s review, which included this line:
“I know there are still 17 months to go, but I’m thinking Transformers 2 has a shot at the title Worst Movie of the Decade.”
Yes! Thank you Rolling Stone (which gave the movie a 0 on a scale of 0-100 by the way). At this point I had read some individual reviews from prominent film critics. Whether or not you generally tend to agree with these guys, you can at least acknowledge that they know the elements that are supposed to compose a film. Even so, if you do happen to have a specific aversion to Ebert or Travers, there are other ways to find out whether or not a movie is good or bad. The best way is to look at all the top critics at once. There are a lot of sites that compile reviews, but there are three in particular that I think represent how good or bad a film truly is, and they are Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, and Yahoo Movies.
On each of these three sites there are two figures, the first represents an average of all the critics reviews, and the second represents an average of all the user reviews (non-critics – regular people). Rotten Tomatoes gives Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen a 20/100 (219 reviews counted), Metacritic gives it a 35/100 (32 reviews counted), and Yahoo Movies gives it a C- (14 reviews counted). It’s one thing for one person to hate your movie, but if 80% of film critics on Rotten Tomatoes and 65% on Metacritic hated it, your film is aweful. Remember, that doesn’t mean that the other 20% on Rotten Tomatoes or 35% on Metacritic loved it, it just means they didn’t give it a terrible review. Most of the “positive” reviews were probably nothing more than 2/4 stars or a 5/10.
Have I beaten this point into the ground enough? We can all agree that anyone who’s anyone hated this movie. All the film critics hated it, and more importantly TGM hated it. So why the need for this blog post? It’s called the ugly truth, and it is that despite all the facts presented, the majority of people actually liked Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
How do I know this? Again, let’s have a look at the facts. The user rating for Transformers 2 on Rotten Tomatoes is 58/100 (5,740 reviews counted), on Metacritic it is 6/10 (743 votes counted), and on Yahoo Movies it is a B+ (21,441 ratings counted). If almost 6,000 people think this movie deserves a 6/10 on a site where over 200 critics thought the same movie deserves a 2/10, we have a problem. That is a huge discrepancy, and with such a large pool of user ratings it can’t be left up to chance or a personal vendetta against the director or something like that. How can over 21 thousand people on Yahoo Movies rate this movie just shy of an “A” when almost every critic despises it? Is this phenomenon contained to just Transformers 2? Than answer, sadly, is no. Here are a some other movies and their corresponding critic and user scores:
|Fast & Furious||28||62||45||68|
|I Still Know What You Did Last Summer||6||25||21||57|
|Xmen Origins: Wolverine||36||61||43||58|
|Gone In Sixty Seconds||25||60||35||91|
|The Texas Chainsaw Masacre||36||55||38||68|
Between these two sites, this list’s average critic rating per movie is 28.7, and the average user rating per movie is 61.3. That means the user ratings are 113% higher than the critic ratings. How can this be?
My theory is that the layman fails to make a crucial distinction, and it’s a distinction that can really play into other areas of your life if you truly learn how to make it. There is a difference between a “movie that is good” and a “movie that you enjoyed”. There are plenty of times one should deem it appropriate to say to someone that they like a movie but that they don’t recommend it. They should be able to distinguish between their particular liking of a particular movie, and how good it is as a film. For instance, I love Starship Troopers and it’s one of my favorite movies, not because it is such a well-made movie with good acting and plot, but because I saw it as a teenager with good friends and we frequently quote it and talk about hilarious scenes from it and it has lots of awesome violence and stuff we had never seen before. While I own the movie and enjoy watching it, given the chance to rate it on Rotten Tomatoes, I’m sure the score wouldn’t be much higher than a 40/100.
It’s an interesting phenomenon. It’s almost as if people are afraid to rate a movie poorly because they feel in doing so it takes away their ability to watch it and still enjoy it. I would describe this psychological phenomenon as nothing more than Opinion-Esteem Disorder™ which is a term I just created and has now become trademarked before your eyes. If you think about it, it’s true – people generally are sensitive about their opinions and often strive to push them on others. Sometimes consciously, more often subconsiously. The more people that share your opinion, the more your opinion is validated, and the less hesitant your are to tout your opinions around town. However, if too many people jump on board, it can be tempting to jump to the other side of the spectrum, which is called Pop Aversion Theory™, described in a previous blog post of mine entitled “Why Do People Hate Titanic?”. Be sure to read the comments, as a lot of what’s discussed is very relevant to this blog post.
Opinion-Esteem Disorder™ sounds like a natural, logical function of our psyche, but in reality I think it is actually a negative trait of human nature. You should be proud of your opinion even if you’re the only one who has it. While I don’t seem to struggle in this area when it comes to movies, I definitely run into it in other areas of interest to some degree, so don’t think I’m immune to it.
So why does any of this matter? It matters because Transformers 2 earned $108,966,307 in its first week. That tells movie studios that we like this caliber of movie. More of these movies will be made. Resources that could have gone to better movies (budgets, actors, composers, sound stages, special effects departments) will be sucked into the black abyss of fast-food films. And I will have to watch the trailers for them while I sit and wait for my good movie to start. And despite all of my principles and standards, my curiosity will get the best of me and I will inevitably think to myself “I guess maybe Terminator 5: The Edge Of Reason could be good. Maybe I’ll see it…” And then I will be $10 poorer each time that happens.
America: make the distinction. I’m not telling you which movies you can watch, or even which movies you can like. I’m telling you which movies you can say are good movies. Stop tricking other, more skeptical people into seeing terrible films! Of course, all the people who liked Transformers 2 are probably just redneck Nascar fans. Shoot, I did so well with this post until that last sentence.
And now I will end with a funny video to offset the negative tone of this blog post. This is from The Abstinence episode where Kramer experiences a lifetime of smoking in 72 hours: