Saturday, 21 May 2016

Film Flip Flopping

I recently saw X-Men Apocalypse. I wasn’t too enamoured with it. Now I’m saying that as a pretty big fan of/apologist for the X-Men film franchise so all the signs were pointing to the fact that I should have at least liked it. But I didn’t. It’s leaden, by the numbers and worst of all boring. Isn’t it? 

Because I’ve started to doubt myself a little. A changing opinion on a film isn’t a bad thing of course, but after reading reviews that have been more positive than I was I’m starting to think maybe I was too harsh on it. So it got me thinking, does the environment in which we see films and the people we see them with contribute to our overall opinion?

It seems the answer, after consulting some of my delightful cine-literate friends*, is…maybe. It depends.


I saw Apocalypse at a press screening as the +1 of fellow amateur reviewer so immediately I have my film reviewer head on, which is similar to my regular head but slightly more critical. I was also in the company of people whose writing I admire and whose film opinions I greatly respect - though don’t necessarily always agree with - and when I’m with like minded reviewer types I feel I judge a film more harshly than it might deserve. Maybe, subconsciously or no, I’m trying to present a more highbrow version of myself than the one that actually exists while in the company of my peers. I’d like to think not, as I’ll watch a Paul Thomas Anderson film as readily as I will a Paul WS Anderson one (Death Race rules!) but brains are weird.

We all have that friend who’s a film snob (and if you don’t…well, this is awkward) and often my enthusiasm for a film wanes when the lights go up and I see them make an exasperated face. Immediately I think ‘Oh, maybe I didn’t like it that much.’ I’m guilty of it myself. In fact the second we exited X-Men I did exactly that, puffed out my cheeks, made a face and probably dampened any enthusiasm that my friend might have otherwise had. And I felt bad. That post cinema high is an easy balloon to puncture. “Well, I enjoyed that.” “Really?” Oh no, I’m someone’s film snob.

Then I thought would I have had the same reaction to the film had I solely been going for enjoyment? On a date night with my wife when I don’t have to review it, at least officially, and can just sit back and let it wash over me? I think it’s fair to say I might (might!) have enjoyed it a touch more on a Saturday night with punters as opposed to a Monday night with critics. I respect my wife’s opinion as much as anyone’s but on a date night we’re both less demanding in our standards (add your own joke here); I mean, we’ll not say a terrible film** is good, but an average film is a perfectly adequate 3-starrer date movie when it might be a 2 star critical review.

Think of comedies. They’re almost always better watching them in a packed cinema with everyone enjoying the fun than with only half a dozen people chuckling, or at home on your sofa. That’s one area I feel where you cannot argue that the company you’re in doesn’t affect your viewing experience. The Simpsons Movie was one of my favourite movie going experiences and it’s not a great movie, but the atmosphere was. An average 3 star comedy could easily tip over into 4 because of the surroundings you see it in. A great film will of course always be a great film, but everything adds to the experience whether it’s on screen or in a packed theatre.

Is that bad though? Some people I spoke to on Twitter before writing this have stated categorically that the company they attend the cinema with in no way affects their opinion.

I’m not for a second suggesting they’re lying but more often than not you get out of a film what you bring into it. I realise there’s no way to quantify this; you aren’t able to tell if a different arena would have altered your opinion but if your mood, personal circumstances and even the views you hold can affect your experience surely it isn’t unreasonable to suggest the tone of the room/viewing companions can too?

I don’t think I’ve ever had a complete about face and been convinced that I don’t/do like a film I’ve previously loved/hated because of a friend’s opinion of it. I’d like to think I have more willpower than that. In fact, I know I have. I’m still steadfast in the opinion that my friends who hate Serenity are wrong, because of course they are. That’s just a fact. Overall it’s a good thing though, the world would be boring (although perhaps more peaceful) if we all agreed about everything, especially the important things like whether an X-Men movie is good or not.

So I guess my point is…well, I don’t know what my point is. I just wanted to write some words but after much deliberation and questioning it seems the consensus is…maybe. It depends.


*Thanks to all who answered my question earlier. You’re all champs.
**My wife picked Date Movie for a date movie one night (though admittedly more to do with a lack of options). It’s still one of the worst cinema experiences of my adult life. I’ll never let her live it down.

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