Much like age requirements to enter certain movies exists the notion of reviewing them might also need some regulation. This may sound like age discrimination, but far from it. In this day and age big Hollywood blockbusters have taken to be more about fantasy worlds, comic book settings, and the like. These sub genres are tried and true winners, but seem to lately be suffering under the boot of older reviewers who see them as juvenile and not worthy of respect. What I don't want to imply here is that all these fantasy based, and especially comic book based, movies are all excellent works that deserve no legitimate criticism. Legitimate is the key word here. When critics universally panned The Lone Ranger it was for good reason, or earlier this year we saw the same with After Earth. Both movies just suffered from the standard bad movie issues and critics responded accordingly. However, the star of The Lone Ranger, Armie Hammer had this to say about the state of American film critics:
"If you go back and read the negative reviews, most of them aren't about the content of the movie, but more what's behind it. ... While we were making it we knew people were gunning for it. I think it was the popular thing when the movie hit rocky terrain they jumped on the bandwagon to try and bash it. They tried to do the same thing to World War Z, it didn't work, the movie was successful. Instead they decided to slit the jugular of our movie."
While I agree with Hammer's sentiment it doesn't resonate so well due to the fact that his movie turned out to actually be terrible, but the point still remains. Do critics go after a movie unnecessarily before its even in the can? Have critics made up their minds before sitting in their theater seats? Does nostalgia cloud the minds of these critics when it comes to reboots, remakes, and decades later sequels? In a word, ABSOLUTELY.
I have been noticing a heavy handed approach to movie criticism rears its ugly head at about the mid point in the summer and keeps pounding along until we are out of the blockbuster season. Once again, please don't confuse valid criticism and what I'm talking about here. When the reviews of Man of Steel began coming out I knew that there was something very odd happening. While far from a perfect film, or even on par with Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight series, Man of Steel did not deserve the gutting that it received by professional movie critics. I read reviews that concentrated on the physique of Henry Cavill compared to Christopher Reeves, or ones that flat out asked the question of "Do we even need another Superman movie?" Nothing completely bias in that movie review title, right? So this begs the question, should any and every movie reviewer be allowed to review all genres of movies when they clearly have built in bias towards them?
Another moment that sticks out at me this year is the brutal reviews of Pacific Rim. While still a positive score on aggregate sites like Rotten Tomatoes the movie saw some very interesting criticism. Here is a quote from David Nusair of Reel Film Reviews:
...a punishing ordeal that just might mark the nadir of the modern big-budget blockbuster...
To me this screams of misunderstanding the very nature of a movie like Pacific Rim, or the summer blockbuster movies in general. They are not designed to challenge you mentally or to invoke feelings of heavy human emotion, sans excitement. Giant robots fighting giant monsters...that's it. If you are into kaiju properties than the movie is for you, but if you think they are silly then why even review the movie at all. If their was a sub genre of movies I hated or thought were a general waste of time you will NEVER see me review them. Its not fair to the movie or the genre at large.
Another part to this insane equation is age; I know that's mean, but its just a fact. Are there 60 year folks who can enjoy watching Deadpool rip it up on the big screen or watch Hit-Girl stab a guy through the chest with a sword? Yes of course. I would like to think that when I hit that ripe age of 60 I can still enjoy some mindless action. However, to pretend that this is true for all movie critics or even the majority is just naive. The more in touch with modern books, comics, etc the movies are the more these particular reviewers bash it. When it came to the new Superman movie I read tons of reviews stating that this wasn't the Superman that they were use to. Well tough titty, the movie depicted the Superman of the 90s to present. A grittier look at the man of tomorrow. However, nostalgia of Christopher Reeves (or even George Reeves) in red underwear cloud their minds from giving an honest review. When you spend 90% of the review comparing it to a movie made in 1978 then you just failed at your job...miserably. The idea of film criticism is to review the movie in a vacuum, not comparing it to things and saying it doesn't live up to X. That's lazy and unfair to the film your reviewing. The only time it makes sense is when the movie is a direct sequel.
So in the end I have a proposal, as a film reviewer you have to prove yourself worthy of reviewing certain film genres. You can't think slasher films are silly or too violent and review Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You should not be able to review Pacific Rim if you don't think Japanese Anime is an art form worthy of critical thought and legit criticism. I don't want to ready your Man of Steel review if you think Superman never killed someone in the comics, or that all comics are juvenile. Having an understanding of basic subject matter when reviewing movies is important. In order to appreciate the nuances of a movies like Shame, Lincoln, or The Way Way Back one should have an understanding of what human emotion looks like. You would not want an emotionless robot reviewing it and missing the all the highly important nuance. In the same way I don't want movies like Kick-Ass 2 dragged through the mud by people who simple see it as too violent while missing the overarching story and getting caught up in the blood and guts. Or to a larger extent, thinking that because of all the blood and guts the movie is just gruesome and deserves to be dismissed. This year Hollywood critics are guilty of one major sin: They got tired. They tired of all the big robots, metal claws, and flying robot suit centric movies. As a reviewer your job is to not get tired. If you are tired of reviewing these type of movies then retire. I never see critics tire of the multitude of relationship dramas or historical biopics that clogged the movie release calendar for 10 months a year. So buck up Hollywood critics, put your big boy pants back on and start reviewing movies with a sense of purpose, not with a sense of destruction. If you can't do that then you might be too old to review these movies.