It’s been a big year for cinema, in ways that are very good and ways that are definitely bad. But one of the most fascinating trends of 2017 is the increasing gap between what fans and critics want to see at the movies. And we’re not sure how to feel about it.
Netflix’s first big blockbuster, Bright is the latest example – with a 27% reviewer rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and an 89% score from audiences.
The Last Jedi’s reaction was a reverse gap – with a 91% score from critics, and 51% from film-goers.
Even Justice League has a 41% from critics, and 78% from fans – that’s almost double in terms of difference of opinion. It seems that film reviewers and film-goers really can’t agree on what makes a good film.
And it’s starting to have an effect on film fans’ trust in their cultural gatekeepers.
Type ‘Bright’ into twitter and the feeling from Netflix subscribers (now they’ve had a chance to watch it themselves) is pretty clear.
Just watched the movie #BrightNetflix and I’ll never take the opinion of a movie critic or social media reactions seriously again! Bright is one of the best movies I’ve seen all year.
— KidSmoove (WWP) (@kidsmoove) December 28, 2017
So, I finally had the chance to watch David Ayer’s film BRIGHT on Netflix. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t terrible.
Critics were so maliciously hyperbolic by deeming it “the worst film of 2017”.
It was a grittier, more adult, less fizzy pop version of SUICIDE SQUAD.
— Jesabel (@JesabelRaay) December 27, 2017
— Jamie M. (@LeSemblantON) December 27, 2017
“Bright” on Netflix was actually a really good movie….. not sure why critics are hellbent on making it seem like it’s the worst thing ever created
— Isaiah Hickland (@isaiahhickland) December 26, 2017
#BrightNetflix is definitely one of the best movies of 2017. I cannot believe how wrong and dumb the critics are they got this completely wrong almost like they been paid off to say bad things
— K. Henderson (@K2Diddy24) December 25, 2017
Some of those tweets edge into conspiracy theory territory (the only people paying film critics are their publishers), but they’re pretty representative of how fans are feeling right now. The vast majority of social media reactions are positive in the face of all of those terrible reviews.
And, while we wrote an entire feature about why fans are wrong about The Last Jedi, we can’t actually argue with them here.
Some of the Bright reviews were just ridiculously merciless, with one so extreme director David Ayer was moved to comment on it on Twitter.
This is going on my fridge. Highest compliment is a strong reaction either way. This is a f*cking epic review. It’s a big fun movie. You can sure string words together Mr. Erlich. I’d love to read any script you’ve written.
— David Ayer (@DavidAyerMovies) December 21, 2017
With reviews like that, it’s probably no wonder fans are confused – because Bright’s actually really good (well, according to the person writing this feature, anyway). Seriously, it just is.
We’ve seen a lot of disappointing movies in 2017, and this isn’t one of them.
The premise – fantasy archetypes exist, they always have, and modern LA is at the mercy of gang-banging orcs and 1% style elves – is actual genius, brilliantly delivered.
Joel Edgerton is especially astonishing, bringing a soulful performance to the surface of some pretty amazing make up (yep, sorry critics who hate this film – it absolutely will be nominated for a best make up Oscar, just like Suicide Squad was) as orc Nick Jakoby, who just wants to be a cop, trying to win the approval of Will Smith’s Ward, who wants anyone but him for a partner.
The worldbuilding is brilliant, with Ayer’s usual gritty LA cityscape making the perfect home for a wild and varied cast of Lord Of The Rings escapees.
Bright also contains some of the most solid sequences Ayer’s directed, with a strip-club shoot-out, an orc execution, a fuel station confrontation (and more) all feeling tense and fun.
Screenwriter Max Landis is a hugely divisive figure within the industry, but there’s no denying this script is excellent in terms of blockbuster entertainment.
It’s well-structured, pacey (the escalation is basically constant once it gets going) and it’s funny, with great one-liners delivered by a wearier than usual Will Smith, perfectly cast as a cynical cop who just wants to survive long enough to get home to his family.
Oh, and the villains are superb – fighting like they’ve wandered in from the set of The Matrix, with a baby-squeezing sense of evil that makes you feel nervous whenever they’re on-screen.
But, don’t take our word for it – here’s what The Last Jedi’s John Boyega had to say.
Lord! Just watched Bright! That was amazing !
— John Boyega (@JohnBoyega) December 27, 2017
The fan (and Finn) reactions have given David Ayer a boost – taking to twitter to thank his supporters…
Thank you so much for all the kind words about @BrightNetflix it means a lot. I’m glad people are making their own minds up!
— David Ayer (@DavidAyerMovies) December 27, 2017
…While also finding time to get an in-joke dig (based on Bright’s mythology) in at the critics, too.
Bright was always going to be a significant talking-point; it’s Netflix’s first real attempt at a proper blockbuster, it deals with race issues AND it’s from the director of Suicide Squad.
But, with a sequel already in the works from Netflix (making this the streaming service’s first film franchise), it looks like this is a conversation that’s going to continue.
As for the divide between fans and critics, let’s hope that 2018 brings more harmony between the elves and orcs (we’ll let you judge for yourself who’s who in that equation), finding more agreement over the likes of Black Panther, Infinity War and the rest in the new year.
Because, if a cop and an orc can become friends, maybe we can too.