Critics vs Audiences: Is the customer always right?

The current box office hit is “Bohemian Rhapsody”, an interpretation of the life of late music legend Freddie Mercury, and his journey with the rock band “Queen”. Till now, it has wowed fans worldwide, showing music-lovers the incredible story of this man’s adventures. However, it wasn’t a completely simple story for the late rock star’s biopic.

Bohemian Rhapsody Poster
The Poster for “Bohemian Rhapsody”

The most notable thing that initially could be said about “Bohemian Rhapsody” is that, at least initially, it was rated as “not terribly exciting” and “slavishly by-the-numbers”. In fact even by time of writing, “Metacritic” still rates it at a dull 45%. How can this be? Surely, the number-one box office hit right now would garner more respect.

Well, indeed it has, as there is a reason behind the high interest rates from the general public.

One has to remember, that in the film industry, critics are not the only voices. In the end, us viewers are the ones who give out our hard-earned dosh to see these films, so to a certain extent, what we say MATTERS. On “Rotten Tomatoes”, the viewers’ approval of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a whopping 94%. 94! For a movie that apparently is “not terribly exciting”. So what happens now? Are we the audience idiots who have no clue in film creation and art? Well, maybe, but it doesn’t end there.

In fact, it doesn’t really end at all.

If we had to find other examples of this weird non-correlation, we don’t even have to go back more than a month to find another two glaring examples, which arguably are even more striking than the case of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I am of course speaking about “Venom” and “Johnny English Strikes Again”. If we start with the latter, which is the lesser of an example of contrast between the critics and us, we notice that critically, it gained a consensus of 34% on “Rotten Tomatoes”, while “Johnny English” managed to gain 66% audience approval. That’s almost double… So what happened here?

Well, from my point of view, I may argue that the film was naturally strong enough to battle the critics from before filming even started.

johnny english2
The poster for “Johnny English”

Why? Rowan Atkinson. One cannot argue against that having the genius behind “Mr Bean” as your main star is definitely a marketing superweapon. So maybe that’s it? Strong marketing? Could be, but if you market a turd painted gold, eventually, people start to notice that not all that glitters is gold. There’s also the fact that it’s a comedy, and people love to laugh, so that helps, and from personal experience, there are enough things to laugh at in “Johnny English Strikes Again”. So we can suffice that a mixture of good marketing and good laughs can be enough to battle the harsh critics.

Well what about “Venom”? Well, the contrast here reaches ludicrous proportions.

Again, observing “Rotten Tomatoes”, the ‘all-knowing’ critics rewarded this film with only 29%. The audience? Well, 87%. Yes, that is triple,three-times more than the critics. How? Just, how? Even I was lost for words when I first realised. How can this honestly be true? Are the audience happy-go-lucky film-club members who are just there for the action and the laughs?Or is there a conspiracy from the critics? Who knows, but analysing, we immediately realise that of course, it was a Marvel film, so again, it has a super-strong marketing campaign behind it, just like “Johnny English Strikes Again”.

What about the content?

Well, as an initial confession, I’ve never been terribly excited for “Venom” as a character, so I went into the film without much knowledge about him apart from what I saw in Sam Raimi’s “Spiderman 3”, a film which according to many, the less mentioned the better. However, I can confidently say, that I did not find it in any way boring, complicated or unintelligible. Sure, there were parts I’d rather prefer they didn’t make the final cut, but that can even be said for “Avengers: Infinity War”. So all in all, it deserved far more than a measly 29% in my eyes.

Poster for “Venom”
So what do we take from this? Well, one has to consider an important factor. The low ratings came from critics, people whose job it is to review these films.

They are entering the theatre with the sole purpose of lamenting the motion picture they are about to watch and comment and critique. We viewers on the other hand, enter the theatre with the sole purpose of enjoying a movie(at least most of the time). More often than not, especially if it’s a movie from a strong franchise, the viewers tend to gloss over facts that if the critics also glossed over, they’d more than likely lose their job. The critics are much harder to impress than us, and rightly so.

However, can this alone explain such a gap? The short answer is no.

There are other factors. As already said, films with strong franchises have, more probable than not, a very strong fanbase, and in most cases, they would support the work of the fandom theyadore (of course especially if we forget the case of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”). So in the case of “Johnny English” and “Venom”, the last point counts,and this would mean that viewers would be more than glad to gloss over anyfaults or mistakes.Soin the end, it’s complicated. We can’t be exactly sure that every case is thesame, or that there aren’t more reasons why fans love their movies more thanthe critics, especially in different cases.

What is sure though, that for the movie we started with, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, I strongly believe that most people, myself included, would gladly gloss over technical and artistic issues within the movie, to be able to enjoy and clap and stomp along to an experience that shows them the amazing life of a man who many times makes their bus rides or chores or exercise a little more sweeter with the touch of beautiful music.


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