Thor was released in UK cinemas this week. Development of the project has been well documented, and the movie has been constantly in the news for one reason or another since it began pre-production. All the way through, i had been underwhelmed by what I had heard about it. I thought Kenneth Branagh was a bold and interesting choice, but worried that his inexperience with modern filmmaking, like CGI and special effects, might hamper the project.
Casting for the movie seemed as much about cost effectiveness as it did about finding the right actors for the job. When the first shots of the set and characters were released, they had a very cheap feel to them, and my suspicions were growing that it was going to be a bit of a disaster.
When the trailer finally hit, i didn’t know what to make of it. Once again, it looked lower budget and small-scale, with storyline that, based on what was shown in the trailers, lacked scope and vision. I made my mind up that it was probably not going to be up to much, and any excitement that i had for the film was pretty much gone. Then the press screenings began, and reviews started to hit the ‘net.
Twitter was suddenly abuzz with positivity about the movie. Some bloggers were saying it was the best comic book movie they’d seen. There were comparisons with the first Iron Man movie. Now, the review aggregate on Rottentomatoes.com shows 94% fresh. All this renewed my interest. Either way, I was going to see it, but now I was looking forward to it. Critics the world over had watched, considered, and recommended Thor, and i had great reason to believe I would thoroughly enjoy it.
That is, until this morning at work, when a friend said to me ‘I saw Thor at the weekend. It’s not very good’. Now, my friend isn’t a pretend ‘film critic’ like me. He hasn’t got a degree in film studies like, well, a small percentage of the critics whose reviews make it to Rotten Tomatoes. He doesn’t get paid to write about film, and he doesn’t have experience writing reviews on a regular basis. Does this disqualify him from offering me his thoughts? Not necessarily.
He does watch lots of films, he does like the same types of films as me, and, possibly most importantly, I know him. Not working for a website, not having any links with the PR companies or studio representatives, my friend has no reason to bias his view one way or another. He doesn’t have to worry about his hit count, about losing readers if his decision upsets the Marvel fans amongst his readership. He has no worries about tarnishing his relationship with the people who enable him access to screenings, interviews and the like. In short, there are no external factors to influence his opinion. He either likes a movie, or he doesn’t. He’ll tell me exactly how he feels, without any fears that i will judge him harshly for his opinion.
Does this make him a better ‘reviewer’ of the film?
I didn’t have the time to ask him about exactly what he did and didn’t like about the film, and I’m pretty certain his dissection would not have involved comment on plot structure, camera composition, or the success or lack thereof of the world building demonstrated. He most probably would have given me a much more basic overview based around the acting being poor, the production values being low, and the story being slow and uninteresting. As an indicator of whether I would actually enjoy the film or not, I have a feeling his view would be far more useful than that of the 33 critics whose scores have contributed to Thor’s ‘Fresh’ rating.
As i said, either way, I will go and see the film. I have to make judgement for myself whether it is worth my time and money going to see it, based on the information available to me. If, however, it was a film that I knew far less about, and had no reason to be interested in, I would probably put more value on the reviews, both from professionals and amateurs alike. The question raised by the situation does, however, fascinate me. Should I listen to someone I know and trust, or a group of people based around the UK and US who I have never met? Most critics do not post their qualifications on their blogs and websites, so how do I really know that they are better informed than the guy who sits across the desks from me?
I have written reviews myself and wondered who could possibly base their decision to watch a movie or not on what I have written, a complete stranger they know nothing about. It again begs the question of the value of film reviews. We all ‘know’ about the films that are great, the movies accepted as the best the industry has produced. The little gems, however, those lesser known films that you don’t really read about in the media, are much more elusive. When you do finally discover them, it is a wonderful surprise. And in my experience, it is these movies that are, more often than not, recommended by a friend.
Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at