Quick, what do Flash Gordon, Highlander, and Conan the Destroyer have in common? Are they Oscar winners? No. Are they fine examples of screenwriting/directing/special effects wizardry? No. But, apart from Conan (and even that’s not too bad), they have pretty high viewer scores. In other words, regular peeps, like you and me, have watched these nearing, if not actual, B-grade films and have loved them. And, still love them.
As a kid, I watched tons of films. That Betamax video machine worked overtime. And, of course, there was the Saturday movie up the road where scores of kiddies could watch soldiers in Nam being yanked from their ankles by a hidden rope and dashed against a board studded with spikes. Or ghosts screaming out of libraries. Or faces melting off nasty gestapo agents looking for holy grails. Most were pretty lame, and required you to suspend belief, and then you could fully appreciate the delights of Big Trouble in Little China, The Golden Child, and, a little later, Mortal Kombat.
Full of drama, fantasy, action, horror, I sucked them all up. Part of me, quite simply, loves films that are made with the viewer in mind, books that are written with the reader in thought.
Are these films fine examples of film-making? Are they a Moonlight? Hell, to the no. But, and here’s the but, I’d give the exquisite Moonlight a five-star review, and I’d give Highlander, a damn close four-and-a-half. Where’d that last half go? They could’ve made Sean Connery Scottish, ffs. But, these two films could not be further apart on the artistry scale.
So what, if anything, do the stars actually mean? I would recommend both, but there would probably have to be caveats; both are blood and guts, one literally, the other, not.
There’s a group on FB where readers can post their reviews. Recently, someone decided to post a DNF on Stephen King’s IT. Which led me to wonder if they and I had read the same book? When I read that doorstopper, it was more a case of do-not-want-to-finish-but-have-to situation. Gripped, terrified, and utterly engrossed, I had considered it his best until I read The Dark Tower’s Drawing of the Three. What interested me more was how the reviewer apologised to SK fans, and how said fans then justified their fandom. Justified it, because one person, who they don’t know, on a social media forum, couldn’t finish the book. Que?
Everyone’s a critic these days. Too easy. Handheld devices, anonymity, wifi access have all made critiquing a viable pastime. I’ve read book reviews such as “I hated this book it ddint good english and made it more dificult read. i would not recomend this book as to read.”
And, literally, who am I to judge? I’d give Titanic one whole star. I hated it. Kate and Leo, in my opinion, have zero chemistry. Millions of women will disagree with me. Would I quit on James Cameron for making such a shit picture? No. He directed Terminator, a frigging awesome movie. Will there be someone out there who thinks Terminator is utter crap? (Yes, my mom, and she quite liked Titanic.) Maybe if you know me, you’ll trust my opinion. Or not - there have been many times I’ve recommended stuff to my sister who wrinkled her nose after reading/viewing.
If a handful of people loved a work, and the ‘rest’ hated it, has it failed? If a work gains popularity or cult status over the years, does it mean that its critics were wrong to diss it originally? Does career longevity come down to only five-star reviews? Does it really matter?