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‘The Popcorn Movie’ Defense

Spring is well underway, which means get ready for a lot of big budget action movies that critics greet with “meh” reviews and audiences reward with a billion dollars worth of ticket sales.

Unanimous bad reviews from critics cannot blunt a movie’s box office performance —the latest case-and-point is Batman v Superman — but viewers still get bent-out-of-shape about the bad reviews.

If you dare to read the comment sections of movie reviews for these films, you over and over again see the same complaint about the critics: “Why doesn’t they get that it’s a popcorn movie?”

In other words, if a director isn’t setting out to make the next Citizen Kane, but instead to merely blow crap up new and novel ways for two hours, critics shouldn’t be quite so exacting on matters of dialogue, acting, direction, etc.

There are a few things I want to unpack here.

As I already mentioned, critics aren’t having much affect on ticket sales, and yet they actually do still hold quite a bit of sway. Viewers still seek to have their taste in movies validated by someone in a position of authority.

Nobody wants to admit to liking a movie that received a 30 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

And that’s really the heart of the issue: People like bad movies but don’t want to acknowledge it. There shouldn’t be shame in that, but apparently there is. Based on box office gross Michael Bay is clearly one of the most popular living directors. He’s got the Jaws through Jurassic Park-era Steven Spielberg box office touch, but I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who said they liked Bay.

I believe that this phenomenon is the result of aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes. For the first time ever grades are being given out to movies based on a nationwide survey of reviews. And this has unexpectedly given critics more power than they’ve probably ever had.

A bad review used to be a tree falling in the forest.

Before the Internet you only heard about the good reviews because studios would pull them together for marketing materials. Except on rare occasions the same never happened for bad reviews. But now, they’re all in one place, and the number of good and bad tallied up. And as I also said before, it can be a bit disconcerting when you see that 70 percent of critics say your opinion of a movie is wrong.

As for the actual merits of The Popcorn Movie Defense, that fluffy summer entertainment shouldn’t be held to the same standard as Oscar bait, people need to realize that when critics give movies bad reviews that doesn’t mean they’re saying that you’re not allowed to enjoy them.

Quality and entertainment value are not mutually exclusive.

I saw Transformers 4 in the theaters.

It was a piece of crap. But I still had a fun time.

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