There are those of us who can summarise our opinion of a film in one word. Good, bad, boring, exciting – the list is endless. But, there are those who provide something a tad more insightful. These are the critics, those who intricately examine the positives and negatives of each film in an attempt to inform us how to spend our hard-earned cash at the box office. But is the role of the modern film critic that influential on what a film grosses or do their critiques only offer their readers a mild chuckle when they pan a film?
A reader expects a professional film critic to be database of film knowledge, taste, and have the ability to write an entertaining review with a dose of humour. Their reviews can both inform us and entertain us. So, in theory, they have the perfect soap-box in order to sway our decision to see a film or not.
High-profile film critic Mark Kermode gave a devastating review of Michael Bay’s 2007 CGI-fest Transformers 2. Kermode said it was “a film with a rotten heart”, displaying “no artistry, no invention, no wit” and existing “to milk the money out of the largest possible audience in the most cynical, most dreary, most boring way”. Undoubtably a scathing review.
But did this put the film-going public off?
Evidently, no. Transformers 2 grossed $44,383,558 in total at the UK box office. On the face of it, Kermode is but one critic. But, digging a little deeper, it appears that a total of 240 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes rewarded the film a 19% approval rating. Kermode was not alone.
So what does this tell us? Its safe to assume that, from this example, the opinion of the critics didn’t matter. The public’s desire to see the critically-panned Transformers sequel seems to have been too strong to be swayed by the harsh comments.
On the other hand, there are occasions when critics and the masses have walked hand-in-hand. Joe Wright’s recent Peter Pan adaptation, simply entitled Pan (perhaps for added edge or out of embarrassment that someone is remaking Peter Pan again), was a box office flop and disliked by critics. However, can Pan’s financial failure can’t be blamed on the critics?
While Pan ran a decent advertising campaign, a fantasy adventure based off a children’s book just doesn’t have the same pull as a film such as Transformers. The majority of audiences know what they were getting from Transformers 2 and that’s why they went in their droves. The reviews it received became merely white noise.
The truth is that the commercial and the recognisable excites a mass audience. This is how, even after the prequel trilogy, the Star Wars franchise is alive and well and why the disposable CCTV-extravaganzas of Paranormal Activity still finds an audience.
So, if the fate of a film doesn’t lay in the hands of the critics, then what is their purpose?
The purpose of a film critic comes down to a personal level. They serve as a guide for the curious. If it was their job to control and influence the box office, then directors would pay more attention to them. Although their work may not make or break a film, their input to those needing to what is good and what is bad it is no less important.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!