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A Dissent from the Critical Mass

Much hoopla has been shed over a new breakout Indonesian film called, The Raid: Redemption, which was directed by Gareth Evans.  On Rotten Tomatoes, the film is currently sitting in generally positive territory with a nice 88% rating on the Tomatometer.   The film also got great buzz at Sundance, Toronto, and SXSW film festivals.  Mostly, the acclaim has been that because the movie is an unapologetic, extreme action film with little dialogue and plot.

However, some big name critics that don’t love the nonstop ass-kicking that takes up the majority of the film. Roger Ebert gave it a one star review. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called the film, “Grindingly monotonous, a blur of thudding body blows.” I didn’t have any plans on seeing the film, but all the controversy is making me interested in seeing what all the fuss is about.  Sometimes, the more divided certain critics are on a film, the more interesting the may be.

As a writer that loves film, I read movie critiques often.  As I’ve mentioned before, Roger Ebert is a hero of mine.   But as much as I love Ebert, I frequently don’t agree with him.  After Ebert’s dismal review of Raid, Flavorwire even wrote up a clever list of movies critics haven’t historically appreciated. With all this discussion of whether critics are right or wrong, it inspired me to think of instances of when my own opinion has differed from the critical masses.

Purple Rain
This 1984 semi-biopic on Prince is really just great concert film with some talking in between.  Critics were divided on the film, some of them sharing my own opinion – that Prince, the music, and the rock n’ roll performances were enough to carry the film.  Many critics despised the film.  Vince Canby of The New York Times wrote, “Purple Rain, though sometimes arresting to look at, is a cardboard come-on to the record it contains.”  However, for me, this film is a classic example of how a person should just appreciate a film for what it is. In this case, Purple Rain is one of the best  music videos ever made.

There’s Something About Mary
Everyone – the general public and critics – loved this film.  Everyone…except me.  I just didn’t understand what the draw of the movie was.  People claimed that the films’s wonderful outrageous humor was – as Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, “Sensational, sicko fun.”  But to me, I saw There’s Something About Mary as a movie that was just trying a bit too hard to make people laugh with forced, over the top humor. It may be just my opinion, but I didn’t find anything about Mary to laugh about.

It’s probably a more popular opinion these days to dislike James Cameron’s CGI 2009 epic.  However, at the time, it was quite the popular film, eventually grossing more than $2 billion dollars.  The critics loved the film as well.  Roger Ebert gave it four stars and called it “extraordinary.”  Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal said, “Mr. Cameron’s singular vision has upped the ante for filmed entertainment, and given us a travelogue unlike any other.”  While I thought the movie was visually stunning, I felt like the film’s message was muddled.  As Ebert states, “the movie has a flat-out Green and anti-war message,” but in my eyes, when the main character, Jake, chooses the blue people overs humans, it seemed to me that the movie’s message was humans are hopeless so go choose another race of people.

Fight Club
David Fincher’s overly masculine and violent film had its critical detractors.  Andrew O’Hehir from wrote, “On balance, this is the dumbest of the entries in Hollywood’s anti-consumerist new wave.” However, the film found a very loyal and vocal audience.  In my opinion, the movie is almost a great film, focusing on the way we become repressed and desensitized by money, pop culture, and material things.  What keeps the film from achieving complete greatness is that while it champions individualism from society and consumerism, the characters eventually fall prey to an overwhelming cult of violence.  The film may be frustrating because the film doesn’t quite achieve what it should, but nonetheless, at the time, it was entertaining and innovative.

Let’s be honest. Movies are a subjective, emotional experience. We will always have a different opinion than the critics, but many people became enraged when Ebert posted his one star review of Raid.   People seem to forget while critics are people – just like us, and they deserve to have their own opinions.  Even if they’re wrong.