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In Defense of Film Criticism
An ill wind is blowing. You can read it in the blogosphere, you can see it on TV, you can feel it wafting out from Studio City, CA. It's the old expectations game, and never has it been played harder or stronger than by Paramount last weekend with their "G.I. Joe" circus act. But really, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" was the same deal. So let's get into it, the arguments the powerful use to take advantage of the easily manipulated.
What do you expect? It's based on a cartooon / toy / comic book!
There isn't another place besides the cinema this argument occurs. What did you expect from your Ford Taurus? Working anti-lock brakes? What did you expect from your fire alarm? A beeping noise before you were consumed in flames? And surely you didn't expect us to serve you a meal that didn't contain food poisoning? Sheesh, look at you with the crazy expectations over there.
I'll let you in on my idealistic method: You should ALWAYS expect a good movie. Why? Because professionals are being paid to bring you a product. This isn't the sixth grade rendering of "The Fiddler on the Roof." These guys have lighting. They are given food on set. They have writers and actors and fellas holding giant microphones. They have a director, sometimes two and a budget to work with. Then, after they are done filming, they often have access to editing equipment. Afterward, the marketing department takes over. So what are you, the audience, owed? Regardless of the source material, you're well within your rights to expect:
1. A coherent story: Not simply loud noises and bright flashes. No, an actual narrative with twists, turns, and instances of surprise and enlightenment. This can occur regardless of the type of film.
2. Jokes OR romance OR drama: Depending on the genre, you should expect to be moved in some way. Great filmmakers evoke a reaction. Poor ones lash out and complain, "This is all based upon a toy!"
3. Good acting: Again, we are seeing what should be the best of the best. No one would stand for an Olympian who could only run 180 meters of the 200-meter dash. Being good at your craft should be a prerequisite to surviving in the industry, not an option if you're feeling up to it.
4. A smidge of innovation, a dollop of homage, and a moment of clarity: Yes, we are owed this. Why? Because we have taken life's most precious currency, time, and life's third most precious currency, cash money, and given it over to "G.I. Joe." For those two hours and ten bucks, we have placed our sacred trust in the people involved. For those same people to turn around and say, "What did you expect?" is pure hatred. It's abuse. And you shouldn't stand for it. You're owed more from your entertainment, whether you use it for escape or engagement.
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