Critics and audiences divided



Opinion columnist Sam King discusses what he sees as an increasing divide in the reception of film and TV shows between critics and audience members, as was the case with the polarizing "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

SAM KING, Opinion Columnist

I saw “The Greatest Showman” this past weekend, and I thought the movie was wonderful.

I was not familiar with the story of P.T. Barnum, and nearly all I knew about this movie is that it was a musical. And yet, I came out of the movie theater absolutely thrilled. After the movie, I decided to look up reviews to see what other people thought.

To my shock, “The Greatest Showman” only had a 55 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a 48 on IMDb. For a movie that I thought was all around amazing, this seemed unbelievable. I thought, “How could these critics possibly think this about such a good movie?”

Then I looked at the audience reviews.

Want to take a guess what regular moviegoers thought of the movie?

90 percent, 8/10, four and half stars and similar ratings were echoed across a variety of movie review sites, including Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. However, these reviews were taken from regular audience members.

The key takeaway here is that the average moviegoer loved the film, but critics disliked it.

This made me think of another article I read a while ago. It was a polygon article talking about the Netflix movie “Bright” and how critics hated, but audiences loved it. The critic on Polygon even called it “a cinematic equivalent to a busted, spewing sewage pipe, (Polygon).

Despite that review, it prompted me to watch “Bright” because I was curious to see if this was true.

Much like “The Greatest Showman,” I thought “Bright” was a great movie. Perhaps it wasn’t a masterpiece and not as good as “The Greatest Showman,” yet it still wasn’t anywhere close to the consensus of most critics.

I saw “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” over break and thought the movie was just okay, while critics praised it. Audience scores for the movie were similar to mine as well.

Meanwhile, there was a similar debate over “Justice League” when it first came out. Fans enjoyed it while critics hated it.

It’s become painfully obvious at this point that critics and moviegoers are going to have some serious disagreements. This is to be expected of course, but it makes me wonder if things have been getting worse in recent years. These recent examples certainly showcase a strong divide.

There’s always going to be some disagreements when it comes to movie opinions, but this has only been exacerbated in our modern age with the internet. Today, thanks to the internet, we have movie review websites where anyone can post a review.

The ability to post any kind of review can make a serious impact on the movie industry. That may sound silly; however, The New York times posted an article just this last fall about how Hollywood is in deep trouble, with a 15 percent decline in movie profits.

The article in question focused on what Hollywood was blaming for their bad profits. This scapegoat, naturally, was Rotten Tomatoes.

Let me give an example of how this can hurt a movie.

Some DC fans believe that DC movies, like “Justice League,” are unfairly slammed by critics (Wired). This belief was not only held amongst fans, but also among Warner Brothers studios as well.

The very studio that created “Justice League” enforced a media ban on reviews until a certain period of time had passed since the movie was released (Vox). Obviously, Warner Brothers is afraid of its box office profits being hurt by bad reviews.

This is why easily accessible reviews can be a major issue for movies. The ability for anyone to post a review about a movie may actually affect its box office as well.

For example, Rotten Tomatoes displays its audience score and critic score side by side. If audience members post poor reviews, the average person may not want to attend the movie.

Alternatively, critics may have a similar effect with their reviews or the opposite effect. It would depend on the person.

The widening divide between critics and moviegoers only complicates this issue. I’m not even sure what to think about this.

As a college student, I commonly look at a movie’s scores to see if I may like it. I don’t have a lot of money, so I spend it sparingly. If I find a movie with divided scores between critics and audience members, this only makes warier to take the trip out to the local multiplex.

I’m sure I’m not the only college student with this kind of issue. I don’t really have a clear answer on this problem, as it’s a strange concoction of critical opinions, review accessibility, and Hollywood.