There is a solid argument to be made that we live in a Golden Age when it comes to consuming entertainment media. It is easier and cheaper than ever for the average consumer to (legally) experience more movies, television shows, music and even books than they could ever hope to finish. Competition among various subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have spurred them to create original and exclusive content in order to compel you to plunk down a monthly payment in order to see it.
This dramatic increase in content production has also directly led to a surge of reviewers who are eager to tell you their opinions about the last movie they watched, video game they played, meal they ate or hotel they stayed at. Just about anything that could possibly reviewed is being scrutinized at this very moment because any idiot (myself included) with a keyboard or video camera can easily post their reviews online for others to check out. For the most part I think this is a wonderful thing as consumers generally do not have to make uninformed decisions about products they want to purchase. But this leads to an important question – are reviewers ever wrong? Let’s look at the recently released Godzilla: King of the Monsters movie as it is a prime example of reviewers and moviegoers regarding the same film in very different lights.
If you were to look at review aggregate sites such as Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes you will find that critics have shredded the latest Godzilla flick while users for the most part enjoyed the movie even if it was not perfect. Check out the screenshot of the review page on Metacritic to see what I mean.
While critics gave the movie a score of 48 out of 100 possible points, the general public was far more favorable with an average score of 7.6 out of 10 as of this writing. You can argue that there are probably some fake scores out there but I find that these scores to even out as more people weigh in.
Full disclosure: I myself have reviewed Godzilla: King of the Monsters for this very website and while I was a little harsher than most I still came down on the side of this being am enjoyable movie and I stand behind my statement that it is most certainly the best Godzilla flick produced in the western world. I had a brief discussion about this with fellow TIC editor and friend Samuel Tolbert who recently watched the movie and the two of us are mostly on the same page even if I was somewhat more critical. With that said, you can easily find reviews of the movie that scored it so poorly that you would think it is borderline unwatchable. It’s a movie about titanic monsters duking it out and decimating the area around them in the process. A Godzilla movie does not need to be much more complicated than that. As I had expressed to Samuel, what on Earth did those reviewers want from the movie? Did they expect Godzilla to shed a tear and give Ghidora a hug in a rare moment of understanding?
Does this mean that reviewers who savaged Godzilla: King of the Monsters in their reviews are wrong? Am I wrong? What about the moviegoing public who generally enjoyed the movie? Are they wrong? Not necessarily. Reviewers are as diverse as any community out there but I think we need to examine what a competent reviewer brings to the table.
Ideally a reviewer should be a person who has consumed a lot of content in whatever form of media they are evaluating. While a review is ultimately an expression of what a given person likes or dislikes about a product, it is important for the reviewer to be able to put their findings into context. That requires an understanding of the best and worst of examples of entertainment in order to express why an aspect of a film or movie works (or doesn’t work).
However, I think the creator’s vision should be taken into consideration. Not every film maker is trying to make the modern equivalent of Citizen Kane and not every game developer is trying to outdo Super Mario Bros.. Some creators are simply trying to put out the best product they can with the resources that are available to them. I sometimes think I am a little to forgiving of low budget indie horror films for this very reason. I am sympathetic to the Herculean efforts required to just get a feature length film made, let alone distributed and I have a soft spot for creators who bend the rules just to make something that is cool to watch. It would be unfair to compare a film made by someone just out of college to something like The Conjuring but the original Evil Dead would be a possible contender.
There are also a lot of reviewers who I feel are invested in making a review that is an entertaining product in their own right complete with scripts and their own special effects. Other reviewers seems obsessed with sounding knowledgeable or at least “edgy” with their opinions. That is all well and good but I feel these products are less about providing a review than trying to provide an experience. More power to them but I feel this approach leads to a reviewer being pulled into too many directions and they fail to see the forest for the trees, so to speak.
It is also important to consider the role of the consumer – you. A movie may only be asking for $5 and two hours of your time but there is no shortage of other movies that are also competing for your time and money. Maybe you do not particularly care about the trials of the independent movie producer. Perhaps you just want to relax for a couple of hours with a fun movie or game and that is completely okay. My approach to a review is to consider what would happen if someone chose to spend their time and money on a product after reading my review. I would certainly want to feel like I provided a fair idea of what to expect from a product and I always advise other reviewers to err on the side of being overly critical. I hope the movies and games I look at are successful but I would rather someone on the fence about a product wait for a sale instead of paying full price and feeling misled from my review.
So are reviewers ever wrong? Well, it is hard to say that someone’s opinion is incorrect. However, I do feel that some reviewers are so caught up in their own perceptions that they lose sight of what the general audience wants out of a movie or game or whatever product is on the table. The latest Godzilla flick is arguably an example of that.