Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Purpose of a Movie Critic

Hello folks,

My first weekend post. Huzza?

This isn’t a new trend. I wasn’t feeling great the last few days, and writing blog posts wasn’t happening. I came across something this morning that drove me to action, however.

In preparation to see the movie adaptation of City of Bones (based on the book by Cassandra Clare of the same name) I spent some time this morning looking up movie times for the week after next. I wound up at, which posts critics’ reviews on their movie pages. It appears City of Bones is not popular with the critics. Out of a possible 100, the highest ranking I saw was 63, and that was once. The rest were 50 and lower. I read a couple. I will withhold comment on their accuracy until I see the movie. My curious mind, though, then read some of the comments. I learned two things. First, many people who use the internet do not know or care about proper grammar, spelling, or etiquette. Second, many people who comment on critics’ reviews of a movie do not know or care what the purpose of a movie critic is.

Allow me to enlighten you. A movie critic’s job is not to compare the book to the movie…or the movie to the book. Their job is not to take the “poetic” writing of the author and apply it to the movie (where the author’s “poetic” words are not present). They do not try and match their review to a 4.14 star review on Goodreads (rating as of 10:27 AM EST on August 24, 2013). They do not say what people want to hear because it is what people want to hear. They do not—and teens, this one is for you—change their opinion based on your angsty comments about how “awesome,” “amazing,” or “hot” the characters are.

“They don’t?” No. “Well then, what do they do?”

I’m so glad you asked. They review a movie based on, well, the movie itself. They evaluate the film as a product independent of the book. While the book might have been “amazing” or “awesome,” the movie might not be. I’ve read all of the currently released Mortal Instruments books and even the Infernal Devices books. My opinions do not matter here, but here’s a question. Readers, do you base the sequels on the first book? Do you base Infernal Devices on Mortal Instruments? Before you ask, yes, I saw all the similarities. I noticed how Clare intertwined the storylines together. But they are still separate series and separate books. You don’t judge each on the others, and you shouldn’t. Similarly, movie critics don’t and shouldn’t base their review of the movie off the book.

Another point—fans of TMI (The Mortal Instruments has the same initials as too much information—hmm) while you may be fangirling/drooling over Jace/Clary (depending on preference) and their story, keep in mind that a good number of people who see the movies will not have (gasp) read the books. So if a critic writes a review that says “compared to the book, this was good/bad/indifferent/whatever,” all those people who didn’t read the book will be left scratching their heads.

Now, do I always agree with a critic’s review of a movie? No. One of the comments I read this morning asked what was more important: the average viewer’s review or the review of a critic who goes into every movie with…not the best attitude. Truthfully, I think both are important. People will read both and form opinions. Here’s to options.

I leave you with this—people who disagree with a critic’s review, leaving a nasty comment with a lot of exclamation points about how the critic is absolutely wrong and can’t possibly understand the audience’s (your) deep connection to the book (and therefore movie) is not good form. On a similar note, critics—it is not good form to write condescending reviews or comments toward a certain audience. Young adult fantasy/dystopias/romances are big right now. There are some I like and some I don’t like. I’m twenty-four, studying writing, and aspiring to have novels published. I read some ya because I want to and some because it is assigned from school. My goodreads ratings of ya lit range from 1 to 5 stars. Does it make me an immature, childish adult because I read young adult for learning purposes? Does it make me a vapid, uneducated person because I happen to enjoy the better written/thought-out books?

Thanks, as always, for your time.

Have a good weekend.

@desantismt on Twitter

1 comment:

  1. Dang it! You beat me to it! I had a movie adaptations post in the works for my blog. LOL
    Sorry for the long comment. It might not make much sense because I just woke up, but here it is...

    The thing is when a movie adaptation is made it's inevitable that people will make the comparison to its original material (in this case a book). I don't see that as a bad thing though, but I do think people do it for the wrong reasons. Instead of trying to understand why things were changed in the movie, they use it as a way to bash it. They need to understand that 1) some scenes just don't translate well from book to movie 2) things need to get cut because the book is always too long 3) some scenes need to change to have more visual impact or to fit the new movie storyline. When people understand these things, I think they’ll appreciate movie adaptations more.

    Now, critics. I get that they review the movie based on itself, but I think that’s sort of the problem. Movie adaptations aim to please not only the fans of the books, but to attract new fans. The problem is these two things are like opposite goals. If you leave a maybe not so important but still cool scene from the book, the fans will love it, but the rest won’t understand it. If you take the scene out, then fans will be disappointed, but the rest will swallow the movie a bit better. I’m not saying critics should do a compare and contrast, but they should keep in mind that what they didn’t get or understand might be solved by reading the book (which is maybe what the marketing people are hoping, that you go watch the movie and then buy the book to understand more.)

    Personally, I never pay attention to critics. They do write condescending reviews instead of trying to understand the ‘movie adaptation’ dilemma. And that is a problem, as it keeps away other people who might have become fans of the series if only they gave it a chance. I’ve always seen it like this…there’s their opinion, an ocean, and my opinion on the other side. The average viewer’s review is always more important, I think. Average viewers are legion. The critic is minority.