The subjectivity of movie criticism

Imagination Connoisseur, Pedro Ferreira, asks about the role of subjectivity in reviews of creatively-told stories like movies, TV programs and video games. If he feels a generally-beloved film is bad, or a generally-maligned program is actually pretty good – does that invalidate his critique?

Rob,

I wanted to ask your thoughts on something relating to what you said about my previous letter concerning Generations. To my last letter you said I was not necessarily in the wrong to think Generations was a good movie the same way I am not necessarily in the right to say it’s a terrific movie.

As human beings we take films in a subjective way, we’re meant to receive some kind of emotional response. I love reviewing and critiquing movies, TV and video games.

My disability allows me to see movies in a way others don’t. It’s a daunting and frustrating experience writing reviews with my disabilities and can take up to a day’s worth of work sometimes to write a two page review on something. My disability means difficulty structuring ideas and a lot of procrastination.

While I hate writing reviews it’s the end result that makes it worth it, that feeling of achievement even if the mode of showing off my work is incredibly limited. Rotten Tomatoes for instance doesn’t allow two page reviews so I generally keep reviews to myself.

I’m getting off topic but my question was how far your response to my previous letter holds value when critiquing something. By their nature critiquing something requires a mixture subjective and objective reasoning. I already explained the subjective part while the objective part is about standing back and looking at things from a detached point of view.

If I review a CG animated movie it’s a genre I very much dislike due to changes in animation as an art form however providing a good review means being objective, putting aside preferences and giving a movie a fair opinion, being able to highlight its strengths.

Far too often a lot of reviews I read come across mostly subjective. I like Generations, its themes of mortality and the production in itself hits me on a subjective level yet objectively I can highlight its flaws. You yourself said you can appreciate bad movies because they’re fun but can they be bad if you’re getting enjoyment from them? I do not believe there is such a thing as ‘a guilty pleasure’.

Here’s the problem: if I go against general consensus that something is good or bad does that make my opinion invalid even with my fair reasoning? Citizen Kane is seen as a classic by many but does a consensus of people saying that means their opinion is correct?

Again The Empire Strikes Back is seen as the best Star Wars movie but who’s to say that Return of the Jedi isn’t based on fair reasoning and detractors just have poor taste? Are critics and movie goers just hopping on bandwagons? Does opinion hold less value if it is against general consensus? Me being able to see the merits of Generations is fine and everything but (even with a film criticism degree) how much leeway does that give me against respected critics like Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli who thought otherwise?

By the way I forgot to mention in my last letter the 1997 tie-in Generations PC game allowed you to defeat Soran but save Kirk and the Enterprise-D.

Kind Regards,

Pedro

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