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A New Philosophy on Upcoming Movies

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It is easy to criticise movies after watching them. All of us do it. I certainly do, but I think the key is to criticise them after watching one. With the growing amount of information about upcoming releases at our finger tips, we have become accustomed to groaning at films before a frame is even shot and I think this is a trend that needs to end. In Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, there is a scene where Ben Affleck’s Holden shows the title characters a website in which Internet users are complaining about a fictional comic book movie that has not gone before the cameras yet. The sad thing is this has become a reality (made even more ironic when the same pre-release reaction to “Bluntman and Chronic” befell the announcement of Affleck playing Batman in the next Superman movie). As we consume press releases, set photographs and quick television spots, people have become obsessed with pointing out what the filmmakers are doing wrong without looking at a single word in the shooting script. There even exist reviews of film trailers! It has seriously reached the point where reviewers critique a film based on its marketing materials.

I, too, once scoffed or rolled my eyes at a casting announcement or a trailer. When Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker in The Dark Knight, I was perplexed by Christopher Nolan’s decision to pick him over my own preferred choices. I thought he would do a terrible job and even felt this upon watching the first couple of trailers…and then I saw the final film and I now think he was on the same level of excellence as Mark Hamill and Jack Nicholson’s portrayals of the character. There are certainly many trailers that have misconstrued films to sell to the widest possible audience by hiding certain aspects that may turn off certain demographics.

Sometimes, the studio will even release multiple trailers with entirely different tones. One trailer advertising George Clooney’s upcoming World War II film The Monuments Men focuses on the American soldiers’ comedic hijinks in retrieving the stolen paintings, while the other one is grand and sweeping, with serious dramatic music playing in the background. It should be noted that trailers and other marketing material are more often than not prepared and edited by the studio’s marketing department, not the filmmakers. I can think of a number of good films I would have avoided if I only based my viewing decisions on the advertising. To use an example from this past summer, were it not for my love and support for animation, I probably would have otherwise avoided Turbo. However, I’m glad I saw it as I found it to be absolutely delightful. I approach every film with the intent to like it, regardless of the critical reception or what my reaction to the trailer is.

However, my latest philosophy is that I will not criticise anything about a film before I actually watch the final cut. The reason behind this is that all directors, writers and other members of the cast and crew try their hardest to make a good film. This is perfectly showcased in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, where a real-life B-movie director is making some very schlocky and poorly received films, but it is very obvious he is only intending to make good pieces of art. If this age of widespread information about films in production was around years ago, a lot of now-classic movies would be considered stinkers and doomed to failure prior to release. Jaws was based on a low-grade novel, was directed by a filmmaker who mostly worked on television (during an era where their quality was considered far below that of film), it went over-budget and the shark kept breaking down. Even more embarrassingly, the robotic creature looked completely fake. People would have scoffed at it the way Internet users groan at set photographs now.

Usually, this type of behaviour was relegated to rival studio bosses. Famously, everyone in Hollywood thought Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would be a disaster that would drive Walt Disney to bankruptcy. As history tells us, the very opposite happened. In reality, we don’t know what will be the next Jaws or Snow White or Star Wars. To quote what famed screenwriter William Goldman said about predicting future successes in the movie industry, “Nobody knows anything. Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”

Every story concept has potential to work. To go back to the Turbo example, the premise sounds like the most idiotic idea imaginable. “A snail who can race? Seriously?” was the general reaction from most people and yet I found the film took that premise and managed to make it heart warming and funny. Any casting decision a director makes could be quite inspired. When I first heard Megan Fox was set to play April O’Neal in the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie currently being filmed, I thought that was a poor choice…and then I remembered how I felt about Heath Ledger playing another iconic comic book character. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for her work in previous Michael Bay productions, she could deliver on this one. I plan on seeing the new Ninja Turtles flick and that is when I will decide if I like or dislike her performance, not before I see a second of footage and not after I see an official trailer, either.

There are obviously films I have little interest in. However, even if I have no plans to watch Planes 2 or the next Adam Sandler comedy, if per chance, I end up feasting my eyes on them, I will walk in with the intent to enjoy them. Going into a screening of a film with a scowl on one’s face is the equivalent of a teacher already deciding a student has failed his class assignment without even peaking at the Bristol board. That is hardly a fair way to grade a project and the same philosophy should be given to filmmakers, who have worked years and spent millions of dollars piecing their films together. In the end, we don’t know what films we will like and which ones we will dislike. Brett Ratner could announce he will adapt The Catcher in the Rye and has hired Pauly Shore to play the lead role. However, rather than going “wow, that is a disaster in the making”, I will say “That could be a good one.” This is not blind faith, this is waiting until the finished product has come together and been unleashed for us to watch and then making the judgment whether I like it or not. Henceforth, I pledge that from this moment on, I will not criticise a movie until I have watched the entire film from start to finish.

Review By: Stefan Ellison

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