Thursday, January 21, 2016

Do I Hate "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Because It's Successful (Or: Does Box Office Reflect Quality)

At a New Years Eve party I attended several friends all wanted to know what I thought of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Of course I was happy to discuss with them my thoughts, my feelings, and what I felt were genuine shortcomings of the film itself.  I spoke so much about this movie to so many different people that night that you'd honestly think there was absolutely nothing else playing in theaters that month.  Most of what I had to say about the movie did not come off as kind that night.  I mentioned that this was a movie where nothing happened. I lamented on the fact that it was essentially the first movie remade.  I stood my ground that the movie was no where near the best as there was no reason for Disney to make it great, they just had to make sure it wasn't terrible (though, let's be honest, it would have still made money even if it was).

At one point someone asked me if I didn't like it.  I laughed and said "of course I like it... it's just the praise for this thing is making it harder to defend." I was wrong in this answer and I'm here to explain why.  One of my biggest problems is when I ask someone if they like a movie and someone says "it's not as good as everyone says/thinks it is." I get annoyed and I tell them that that is not a good answer.  That is not sharing an opinion of the movie, that is sharing an opinion of other peoples opinion of the movie.  I constantly tell people that how other people feel about the movie should not play a factor when it comes time to critique the film.  A movie can't help it if everyone loves it.  I understand why this is annoying.  I lived through the year of "Titanic," and while I thought it was a great movie (one of my favorites at the end of the day), it got so intrusive I was starting to hate it a bit.

This is what we all cleverly call 'the backlash,' and it happens with pretty much everything that gets popular.  When "Frozen" was released it was hailed as a masterpiece and Disney's best film since "The Lion King" (on a side note I want to mention this is a false compliment because it suggests Disney hadn't been making good movies since 1995; it was really their best film since "Wreck-It-Ralph").  Once people started seeing it in droves, throwing a lot of money at it, and ensuring that the box office exploded it was time to turn around and hate it.  The merchandise overflowed the theme parks to a great extent, and people felt like Disneyland has unofficially become Frozenland (on an additional side note I want to mention that if you thought this was a problem with "Frozen," just wait until Star Wars gets ahold of Disneyland and you see how bad THAT gets).  So yes, "Titanic" and "Frozen" overstayed their welcome and got people to hate them for a little while.

Did that mean these were bad movies?  No, not by a long shot.  They were still good movies and if the public were discussing them on that level alone, the movies were still good.  The same needs to be said for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." At the end of the day it is a good movie.  I never once felt it was a great movie, but it was good.  The only reason I bother to take a moment to mention I don't think it's a great movie is because the blogosphere and box office would have you believe otherwise.  But the fact that it tears up both like a chain saw through tissue paper does not diminish or elevate the product itself.  It is still the same film.  Unless the movie provided something new to discover the second time around this does not make it better upon the second viewing (my personal opinion is that it was less exciting the second time around, but not enough to dock it any stars).

The thing about all this is that the only time this sort of discussion comes up is when the movie becomes successful and starts breaking records.  To my knowledge no one ever questioned if "The Iron Giant" or "The Hurt Locker" were bad movies because they did poorly at the box office, nor did they pressure me with the question if I think highly of those films specifically because they failed financially.  And the answer is obviously no.  I like those movies because they were good movies, not because they didn't get the love I thought they deserved (though that is certainly the case).  Likewise the huge success of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" didn't make me have more problems with the movie itself, as the problems I have with it were there the whole time.  I do know people who have taken the box office results into account with their opinion, and have use those results in their arguments both for and against the film.

This is where a true critic has to step in and be the mediator in all this: Box office is nothing more or less than how financially successful something is.  McDonald's has been the most successful seller of burgers for years, but I don't think that fact has affected anyone's feelings towards the burgers themselves.  No one is eating there thinking "you know... this burger is good, but it's not THAT good!"  They aren't thinking this because they don't care how many have sold, they just want edible food.  Yet when it comes to movies the public likes to play this game that the box office means something when it doesn't.  The box office doesn't make a bad movie good. It doesn't make a good movie bad.  It doesn't mean a movie is good until it crosses a certain financial point at which the product is now sullied.  Heck, with inflation, 3D, and IMAX surcharges, it doesn't even mean this installment is much better than any of the other installments because it made more money.

It just means the movie is financially successful.

So to answer the question this topic poses, no, I don't hate "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" because it's successful.  I am disappointed that people are passing up seeing much better movies because it's in theaters, but that has no bearing on the movie itself, which I am perfectly fine with.  Now, some people that night asked me if the public responded well to the film because it was Star Wars film... that is a completely different subject that is worth addressing in the near future, because I do believe that claim might have some legitimate points behind it.

My review for "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens"


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