"I read what you wrote about Dune: Part 1 (2021), and I'm confused as to whether or not if I'll like the film. How can I know?"
Now, I honestly didn’t find that very earth-shattering, though some of my friends did. Many of us shared common interests in Science Fiction and Fantasy; liking many of the same things can have the effect of making others believe we have more in common than we actually do. In fact, some friends were surprised when they found out that I didn’t enjoy David Lynch’s Dune (1984) as much as they did. “How can you not love it?” they’d ask. Sure, I could provide them my reasons, but they weren’t persuaded. The truth is I wasn’t trying to convince them otherwise; the film just didn’t mean to me what it meant to them, and ‘that’s them apples,’ as they say.
My position has always been that each of us has our own personal preferences, and how we might ‘scale’ particular films, books, and TV shows relates to themes, morals, and ideas we each hold sacred. For example, I’ve found that folks who love Horror features are inclined to give even the least interesting entry in that genre a pass for even the most egregious errors these films make. This isn’t meant as an insult; rather, it’s just meant to convey that I realize fans like what they like, so even a middling feature that tickles their particular fancy is better than none. If you’re a fan of, say, The Exorcist and I’m not, who am I to suggest that it’s an inferior film? I may not enjoy it the same way you do, but I guarantee that you likely don’t share my love of Jeepers Creepers … and there’s nothing wrong with that!
For any number of reasons, one film – be it Drama, Comedy, or SciFi – may resonate with you. It could be nostalgic, something that you saw in your youth, so viewing it might trigger all kinds of warm fuzzies. (1980’s Flash Gordon does that for me.) You could be drawn to a particular actor or some strong element of a script, and those connections make you appreciate the finished product more than others do. Perhaps you experienced one motion picture at a low point in your days, and it lightened your emotional load: consequently, you hold it near and dear to your heart. This is what film – as art, I might add – does to each of us; so what kind of critic would I be if I even politely implied your choices were insufficient? Off-kilter? Inadequate?
Simply put: Citizen Kane means to you what Citizen Kane means to you. Don’t expect me to agree. (FYI: “Don’t expect me to agree” has long been my personal motto for reasons too vast for me to write down.)
Now, this isn’t to suggest that the business of film criticism is a failed enterprise or a fool’s errand. I wouldn’t do much of what I do with this website and my blog were that the case. While I may know a bit more about film than the next writer, I don’t make it my business to dismiss arguments made on any project. (I will debate the way a review is framed if I don’t see it as authentic, but that’s small potatoes.) Though I may know less about features than one of the mainstream press outlet scribes, that doesn’t make my observations any less valid. It is art, and each of us can have an eye for greatness on any given day in the universe. Truer words will never be written.
This is why I rarely – extremely rarely – give anything other than a mild ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ to friends when asked about something at the box office. Sure, I might talk about what I enjoyed or disliked; but I’m quick to add the caveat that, “You’d probably have to see it yourself to make up your own mind about it.” Yes, I might even say that the flick just wasn’t for me, but in the end I always try to position a film as an endeavor that’s worthy of your own opinion. After all, who am I?
Procedurally, I don’t approach writing a film review with any sense of doom or hyperbole. When I talk about a particular release as I often do on SciFiHistory.Net’s blog, I try to intelligently discuss what the story, direction, and performances did for me. Even the most cheaply produced piece of cinematic garbage can have a good moment; so why shouldn’t I try to find it, share it, and reward it with a good blurb? Likewise, even the most expensive Hollywood vanity project might suffer from creative bloat, so why should that escape my criticism? I always try to be honest with an assessment, and I do make a legitimate attempt to find something worthwhile from a single viewing.
So … no … there’s no possible way I or any reviewer can tell you whether or not you should or will like a film. The best I can do is to discuss what the work meant to me. Anything more I see as superfluous. Yes, I do try to give films a recommendation; and I do this based entirely based upon whether I found the flick a worthy investment of our most perishable resource … time. If it was worth my time, then I believe there may be something in it deserving of your notice as well.
Of course, I understand the sentiments most folks share, that they follow a certain reviewer because they’re found some similarity of tastes between them. And, yes, that’s marvelous! In fact, that’s fabulous! If you and X share life experiences to the point that you appreciate the same stories in life, then I’m happy for you … only so long as that relationship doesn’t keep you from seeking out and exploring other events that might make you grow as a person in ways you never thought possible. This is why I don’t try to find a reviewer I agree with: I’m afraid that coupling might shelter me in ways too harmful to imagine.
And no: I don’t expect you to agree with me.