Monday, July 14, 2014

Did we just see the same movie?

Have you ever seen a movie with someone, or gotten home and read a review of the film, and thought that the other person's opinion of the film was so vastly different from your own, that it feels like you didn't just watch the same movie?  Maybe I have too much time on my hands to ponder this question, I just think it's a point worth addressing.

I recently read Chris Nashawaty's review of Dawn of the Planets of the Apes in Entertainment Weekly (I've got a Books-a-Million discount card, so I get it every week), and upon reading it, I was left wondering if we had watched and reviewed the same movie.  While he did like it, and gave it a B+ rating, his main complaints were the human characters, citing the work of actor Andy Serkis as Caeser, as the only good performance in the film.  He even went so far as to say that Gary Oldman, "nearly pops a hernia from hamming it up so hard," and even criticized human lead, Jason Clarke, saying, "Clarke's melancholy eyes are so perpetually moist in his admiration of the apes, you want to offer a tissue."

Upon reading all of these complaints he had with the film, I couldn't help but wonder if we watched the same movie.  Now, I am not bashing Entertainment Weekly or its critics, I am just disagreeing with one of their critiques, wondering if me and Chris Nashawaty saw the same exact movie in theaters.  How could I give it an A+ and essentially feel it's a close to perfect film, and how can he give it a B+ and find characters and performances that I thought were deep and involving, slight?

Sometimes I feel major movie critics go into movies, especially blockbusters, with their minds made up on what they're already wanting to say about it upon seeing the trailers and stuff.  In essence, they only see what they want to see.  I am not saying that this is what happened here, but I am not sure he watched the film very intently.

For example, when Nashawaty calls Gary Oldman's character, "a tin-badged fascist whose mantra seems to be, The only good ape is a dead ape,"I can't help but feel that this is a poor reading of the character.  Did the reviewer go to the bathroom when Oldman's character looks at the pictures of his dead wife and son?  Or when it is inferred multiple times that most humans believed the apes caused the viral outbreak that led to this apocalyptic world?  There is subtext and meaning to everything that Oldman's character does in the film, and none of it is out-and-out evil.  While he isn't heroic trying to save the apes, never is he gunning every single ape he sees down, either.  It's only -- SPOILER ALERT -- after the apes have taken over San Francisco and killed a bunch of humans, does he concoct a plan to blow them up.  Then there was the fact that he accused Oldman of hamming it up, and his performance here is no different or more over-the-top than his performance in The Dark Knight trilogy, which critics loved, so why the hate on Oldman?

This is another thing that I often feel that a lot of film critics do, is I think Nashawaty let his personal opinions of Gary Oldman flavor how he saw the character, rather than letting the character speak for himself.  It was pretty clear after the issue of Entertainment Weekly two weeks ago, when they called Oldman a, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Jerk," after his fiasco when he said politically incorrect comments about Jewish people, that they are no longer fans of the man.  However, to let your own personal feelings of a filmmaker, or an actor, shape your opinion of the film at hand is not being an objective critic.

I am not saying I haven't ever done this before, because I'll be honest, I have.  It is hard for me to watch a Roman Polanski or Woody Allen film for similar reasons (of course, I didn't like Woody Allen's films even before I first heard of his whole scandal).  On the flip side, though, I give Mel Gibson films the benefit of the doubt, because I am more interested in the story than who the actor is helping to tell it.  I mean, I have long been a fan of director Bryan Singer, and even still after his being accused of sexual abuse, I still like his films.  To continue to like someone's work does not mean that you accept what they said or did, it simply means that you are looking at the work itself rather than who was involved in its making, because let's be honest, if you've never made a mistake, then you're better than the rest of us.

Overall, I simply think that Nashawaty didn't review this particular film as objectively as he could have, and I think that a lot of film critics do this to blockbusters simply because they don't want to ever admit that they actually liked something that was fun more so than an artsy movie.  Are there multiple great performances in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?  Yes, so many more than just Andy Serkis as Caeser, and not to mentionToby Kebbell as Koba, who was the true scene stealer of the movie.  Maybe I just need to get off my soap box before I say too many more hypocritical things, because I know I have written similar reviews to this before (case and point, my initial review of Man of Steel).  I'm not perfect, but ever since my Man of Steel situation, I have tried to be more objective in my reviews, and I am going to continue to, even if I may stumble every now and then.

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