Monday, August 6, 2012

This Movie Sucks

"The Dark Knight Rises", in my opinion, was not a very good movie. Of course, I am not the only person in the world with an opinion, and many others feel that this is not only an excellent movie, but perhaps the greatest movie of the year, and yes, even better than "The Dark Knight".

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, which is of course a backhanded way of saying, "Your opinion is wrong, but I don't care enough to try and convince you otherwise."

All joking aside, though, it really doesn't bother me that so many people really enjoyed this movie. As I said in my review, the movie is definitely at least worth your time and while I may envy some people who were able to sit through to movie and thoroughly enjoy it without that nagging feeling in the back of their mind whispering all of the movie's huge flaws, I'm content with the idea that two people can see the same movie and take away different experiences.

What does bother me is the notion that my experiences are different because of invalid reasons. I've been hearing this a lot from people on the Internet who disagree with people who weren't fond of TDKR. "You're just a Marvel-ite," or, "You're just nitpicking to find flaws! You should just enjoy the movie!"

This implies that I didn't like TDKR because there was something wrong with me. Obviously I take issue with this, but this is understandable. After all, I am somewhat guilty of this myself. Even so, when I defended the Star Wars prequels, I wasn't doing it in order to convince anyone that they should enjoy the movies, I was simply trying to defend the fact that I like them and that my enjoyment of them isn't purely out of nostalgia or my own idiocy. I wasn't trying to say, "There's something wrong with you if you didn't like the Star Wars prequels," I was trying to say, "There's nothing wrong with me if I like the Star Wars prequels."

In my mind, there's nothing wrong with trying to defend your own opinion, but there is something questionable about attacking someone else's opinion just because they disagree with yours.

When it comes to TDKR, it feels like all the people who loved it are upset with anyone who didn't love it, as though they have some personal stake in its success or failure. I can understand this sense of fanboyism... we all have it with something. But if you want to defend TDKR, you shouldn't do it by suggesting that those of us who didn't much care for it are just trying too hard to find the flaws in the movie, the implication being that we overlooked all of the good parts because we were spending all of that time looking for problems in the movie, like it was some sort of treasure hunt.

So let me start my rant proper by making this abundantly clear: I did not WANT to dislike "The Dark Knight Rises". I WANTED to sit back and enjoy the movie. I wanted to be thrilled, engaged, provoked, and to take something away from the experience. You know, like I have with EVERY OTHER CHRISTOPHER NOLAN MOVIE. But that didn't happen for me, and not because I was actively trying to stop it. No one goes into a movie wanting to be bored. You find anybody with a strong bias against something and every once in a while you will find that they will find an exception to the rule. This exception exists because even if they generally don't like a certain type of thing, some movies are just so good that it doesn't matter to them.

Let me put it another way. A lot of people liked "Captain America: The First Avenger" not only because it was a good movie, but because it was a superhero movie. It had a lot of fun action and clever dialogue and cool characters. For some people, that stuff is enough. Sure, the fact that it was a really good movie made them love the movie even more, but even if the movie was mediocre, they still would have enjoyed it for those things they tend to enjoy. But not everyone likes those standard ingredients in a movie. Some people just really don't care for superheroes. But even some of THOSE people really liked "Captain America", and that's because it was still a good movie beneath those simple features and they connected with that. Maybe they went into the movie with a bias against it, but that didn't STOP them from enjoying the movie, it just meant that the movie had to offer something different to really work for them.

My point is that you can't discredit someone's opinion because they were biased against it. You can certainly IGNORE that opinion, but you can't discredit it. If a critic didn't like a movie you enjoyed and you believe that their reasons for disliking it are frivolous, then that just means that they're bothered by things that don't bother you. You like sweet foods, they like sour foods. It's about personal taste. That's all bias is. And sometimes, a movie can be so good that bias is trumped.

So when it came to "The Dark Knight Rises", I can understand why a lot of people loved it. The movie has a lot of really great INGREDIENTS. Really good actors, really good action, a really good premise, it tries to have a lot of depth, and it has Batman in it. Some people love those ingredients so much that it doesn't matter if they're assembled well or not. Just the movie HAVING those things is good enough for them. And there's really nothing wrong with that.

My problem with TDKR was that those ingredients were not assembled properly. I wanted so badly for the movie to suck me in the same way "The Dark Knight" did, but no matter what, I just wasn't enjoying myself. With "The Dark Knight", I felt like the Nolan brothers really knew what they wanted to say about crime and the nature of humanity and they managed to say something that really stuck with me. That scene with the two boats is still one of my favorite scenes in any movie ever because it was a culmination of all of the movies themes and plot points. It was perfect. "The Dark Knight Rises" never hit that moment for me. I wasn't feeling engrossed the way I typically am with Nolan movies. He usually has TOO MUCH to say, but it this movie I felt like he had far too little to say. Nothing drew me in, nothing enthralled me for more than a few moments, and there were long stretches of time where I was just plain not enjoying myself.

And when I'm not enjoying myself, I start doing something. This is something we ALL do when we see a movie that doesn't work for us. It's not a matter of shutting your brain off or whatever. The dumbest person on the planet, when he's placed in front of a movie that he doesn't like, will also do this exact same thing, I guarantee it.

When I'm not enjoying myself, I start to try and figure out WHY I don't like it. Some people are more surface level than others and they just point out the tangible elements of the movie. "I don't like this movie because that Jar Jar character is really annoying," or, "I don't like this movie because I find it offensive to my personal beliefs." We have that moment where a part of us says, "This movie sucks," and then we try to finish the sentence with a "because." But those of us who have spent a lot of time overanalyzing media and its production tend to reach a lot deeper. We try to find the root of the problem and it often seems to be a deceptively small thing.

That's why it's much harder to find fault with movies like "The Amazing Spider-Man" or "The Dark Knight Rises". Generally, these two movies don't HAVE a lot of tangible problems. The majority of people, even if they don't really like the movie, will be at a loss to point to a particular reason WHY they don't like it, so they'll just shrug and say, "It wasn't bad." And then when the rest of us point to problems in the script or the story or the pacing, the people who enjoyed the ingredients of the movie and were having a good enough time that they didn't stop and try to analyze the flaws in the movie will say that we're just nit-picking. That we're reaching for reasons to dislike the movie out of some sort of denial or misplaced aggression.

Like I said, this reaction is understandable. To them, the movie ranges anywhere from great to perfect. They had such a good time that they didn't for one second stop to try and find flaws in the movie. Like I said, you only stop to find flaws when you aren't enjoying the movie. So for them, those flaws might as well not exist. They're trivial. They didn't bother them, so why should they bother me?

But just because this reaction is understandable doesn't make it appropriate or sensible. You can go ahead and defend against the arguments. In fact I encourage it. I might say that Bane wasn't an effective villain, and you might say, "No, he was amazing and his motivation made total sense to me and THIS IS WHY." I would really love to hear that argument. But what I DON'T want to hear is, "Shut up, Bane was great, you're just too picky." THAT is just denial. That is you seeing a flaw with the movie that you didn't see before that you can't bring yourself to actually refute. You probably don't have any problem with overlooking that flaw, but knowing that it's there bothers you. Suddenly the movie isn't objectively perfect, so you get defensive. You want to prove the person's opinion invalid because you want to go back to thinking that the movie is perfect.

I know that this was how I felt about the Matrix sequels for the longest time. To me, they were excellent. I maybe noticed one or two flaws, but I still thoroughly loved them. But those movies are RIDDLED with flaws, as I'm sure anyone can tell you. And whenever someone would bring them up, I would contort my reasoning to try and justify them or derail the argument to suggest that the flaws didn't matter. But eventually I realized that yes, those flaws absolutely exist, but I can still enjoy the movies just as much in spite of them. In fact, some of those flaws I absolutely enjoy. I'm OK with the fact that I'm the only person alive who likes those movies. I don't need the world to agree with me.

Since I'm a fan of analogies, let me give you one. Say you fall in love with someone and, to you, they are perfect in every way. One day you overhear someone saying that that person is ugly. You confront that person and understandably get defensive. "Ugly!? How can you call this beautiful creature ugly!?" And then that person proceeds to rattle off a list of physical traits that, to them, are ugly. Generally, all of those traits are factual. They exist. This person is accurately describing your loved one's physical appearance, just in a negative light. You might find their negative reaction to those traits silly, but denying the existence of those physical traits is equally silly. To you, your loved one is perfect in spite of or perhaps because of those features that the other person pointed out. They say your loved one is too short, but you like the fact that they are short. They say your loved one has hideous curly hair, but you don't really care about hair. The opinion of this other person is not WRONG, it just doesn't MATTER to you. Don't argue with them over it because there's nothing to argue about. Like I said, there's no need to discredit their opinion, just feel free to ignore it. It doesn't apply to you.

When a critic goes on and on about the flaws of something you really enjoyed, don't argue with them over the fact that the movie is enjoyable. That's a battle you can't win and it doesn't really matter. No critic's opinion can stop you from liking a movie and no opinion of yours can convince them that they like it. If you must argue, simply talk about the things you love about the movie. Tell them what parts of the movie really reached you. Tell them what parts made you jump up with excitement. Tell them how this movie changed your life. Give an alternate perspective, don't try to mold their perspective into yours.

If they are just plain WRONG about something, like they claim this plot point didn't make sense but in your mind it absolutely did, feel free to bring that up and discuss that. There's no reason to allow someone to carry on their opinion based on false information. Just don't try to CHANGE their opinion.

In all things, let all of the facts be made clear and allow each individual to draw their own conclusions.