Reviewing Films: The Deadpool Dilemma

I’ve been reviewing films since the early 2000s and what I’ve learned over that time is simply put: there’s no accounting for taste. It was this thought that struck me as I left a screening of Deadpool this weekend. The film is positively reviewed (over 80% on Rotten Tomatoes) and I enjoyed it, but as I set about evaluating and scoring it, I engaged in a few text messages with fellow Arch City guy, Jason Moody. I told him I scored the film a C+ and he was perplexed. How could I enjoy a film with an average score?

The conflict at the crux of this question is why I think a lot of people get frustrated with film critics. For a great many people, the quality of a film and their level of enjoyment with that film are the same. For another subset of people, enjoyment of a film is all that matters. It is only a small percentage, I believe, who pull apart the two elements and examine the space therein. Is that the case with all movie critics? No. But I think it *is* the case for a great many of them. Take the following reviews from Rotten Tomatoes:

Deadpool is obnoxious and puerile and infantile and has an irritating meta tone so snide that it’s constantly in danger of nullifying the entire movie — and I still got a pretty big kick out of it. – Will Leitch, The New Republic

Entertaining, but a little schizophrenic. – Scott Nash, Three Movie Buffs

A superhero romp that threatened to be smug, smarmy and self-satisfied is — well, yes, it’s occasionally all those things. But it’s also fresh, funny and absolutely kick-ass. – Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing

Each of those reviews expresses an enjoyment with the film, while still criticizing the film’s quality in some aspect. For some, like my friend Jason, this disconnect is tough to deal with: How can you enjoy average? My soon-to-be-stepson said it better, perhaps: When you ask questions about a movie, you make me enjoy it less! (This to some of my annoyances over the plot contrivances in Kung Fu Panda 3.) Without casting shade on Jason by connecting him to the feelings of a 12-year old, I’ll just go ahead and make it clear.

You can enjoy, even love, a movie that’s not perfect. For instance, I like the Star Wars Prequels. The opposite can be true, too. I don’t particularly enjoy Burn After Reading, even though I know the film is very well made by two writer/directors, the Coen brothers, who make other films I *do* enjoy.

Even further – and every critic knows this – movies which aren’t very good (by critical standards) can be crazy successful. See Bay, Michael. Again, what a critic says about your favorite movie doesn’t mean you can’t love that movie, and it doesn’t mean that film shouldn’t be enjoyed. (Another way to look at it is this: you may make a film tomorrow and unless you have extensive filmmaking skill and experience, it probably won’t be good. At all. But your mom will enjoy it, critics be damned.) Comic book and other franchise fans tend to be the most sensitive about this. Their passion seemingly requires that they viciously attack anyone who disagrees with them about a movie. Heck, I practically did the same in an article on critical response to The Force Awakens.

So what good are critical reviews? The wisest of people would say none. But for the rest of us, they may serve a variety of purposes. For instance, the number of critics who like a movie seems to sway a lot of people’s interest in a film. Such a measure is exactly what Rotten Tomatoes records. In other cases, you may enjoy a particular movie critic for what he or she adds to the perception and understanding of a film. I reviewed The Revenant a while back, paying a lot of attention to its symbols. So you may enjoy reading reviews of films, and you may enjoy disagreeing with the critics. Critical reviews are a huge part of film culture, but they are just one aspect of it. Your enjoyment and your own thoughts on the film are just as big a part of a film’s impact in your life as any critic you read.

So that brings me to Deadpool and the C+ I’m giving it. As I mentioned already, I really enjoyed this film. So what does the C+ represent. For me – and the way I review films as a whole – it means that the craftsmanship of the film, from the acting to the directing to the writing to the editing to the special effects, is just slightly above average. That’s a summation and not a blanket term. Ryan Reynolds is fantastic. Deadpool looks great. Colossus’ inclusion in the film is a hoot. But some of the CGI is hampered by the film’s low budget (the studio’s fault) and the villain is another example of that curse seemingly inherent in most superhero films. He’s paper-thin and his motives are blah blah blah something about money. But again, Deadpool is awesome in Deadpool. I’m not even a Deadpool fan so if you are, you’ll love love love this film. I don’t think anyone will look back in five years and talk much about this movie, except for one possible reason: if the sequels, given a better budget with more studio support, are stellar, this is where it all started. So you may want to get on the bandwagon now.

Our Score: C+

Rotten Tomatoes: 84% | IMDB: 8.7 | Metacritic: 65

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