A blockbuster studio film comes out and is shown to critics. The movie has a mistake or logical flaw in it. Based on whether critics dub the movie as good or bad, this flaw will either be used to praise the movie or point out the soullessness of the movies as a product.
‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ (1977) and ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ (1987)
Both Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) and Jaws: The Revenge (1987) have the same criticism: a character comes out of the water or appears wet, only to be dry in the very next scene. The difference between comes from the fact that A New Hope represented something that the audience had never seen before while Jaws: The Revenge represented something that audiences had seen done poorly twice.
The Stars Wars scene occurs after Luke (Mark Hamill) gets sucked into the terrible water of a garbage chute. Mark Hamill noticed the continuity of this because they filmed the scene after the trash compactor first. He brought it up, but co-star Harrison Ford said that it was not that sort of movie and that if people were looking at his hair, they were all in a lot of trouble.
Siskel & Ebert & Jaws
Jaws: The Revenge was the fourth film in a franchise about a man-eating shark. The first film had come out in 1975, made tons of money (470 Million dollars on a 9-million-dollar budget), and solidified young director Steven Spielberg’s career. Jaws 2 had come out three years later to much more disappointing results (it still made 200-million-dollar budget on a 30-million-dollar budget). In 1983, Jaws 3-D emerged with its titular gimmick. Jaws: The Revenge followed in 1987 and pretty much ended the series. On top of all this, star Lorraine Gary (who had appeared in the first two and had come out of retirement for Revenge) was married to Universal executive Sidney Sheinberg. Universal released all the Jaws movies.
In the film, Hoagie Newcombe (Michael Caine) falls overboard. In the next scene, he emerges from the water dry. This point became one of the primary points against the film on Siskel and Ebert. Both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert discussed it as one of the most egregious errors in movies.
With Star Wars, neither Siskel nor Ebert noticed this error. They praised the series throughout the years and even defended it on television against other critics. The difference between the original movie was that it was new and innovative, while Jaws: The Revenge was considered the latest in a long line of disappointing sequels. The fourth Jaws sequel had truly become the movie that Harrison Ford talked about ten years earlier.
‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ (2014) and ‘X-men: Apocalypse’ (2016)
The 2010s saws reboots and new incarnations of successful franchises. Sony tapped indie filmmaker Marc Webb to reboot the Spider-Man franchise. He directed The Amazing Spider-Man and its 2014 sequel. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox brought back their X-Men franchise with a series of prequels that focused on youthful versions of older characters. The studio also brought back director Bryan Singer, who helmed the first two films of the original franchise. For the new series, Singer would direct X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and X-Men: Apocalypse (2016).
In both The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Apocalypse, a hero wastes valuable time performing jokes instead of saving people.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens with villain Rhino (Paul Giamatti) rolling down the street in a large truck, causing mass destruction. Instead of stopping him, Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) taunts quips at Rhino.
X-men: Apocalypse features the super fast Quicksilver (Evan Peters) having to save all the students from professor Xavier’s school. During this time, he performs various actions before saving certain people. This includes drinking a Tab, playing darts, and finishing a whole pizza. Many times, he saves people nanoseconds before they will be incinerated. A similar scene occurs in the previous installment X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). In it, Quicksilver has to save multiple mutants from getting shot. The last thing Quicksilver actually does in the scene is move bullets out of the way. He barely notices it because he is too busy taking a security guard’s hat.
In the X-Men scenes, Quicksilver saves everybody (including a dog and some fish) from the destruction. Wreckage ends up happening with Spider-Man. In the Spider-Man scene, the audience does not see anybody hurt but does see multiple cars get smashed into.
Youtube critic Chris Stuckmann reviewed both of these movies. Stuckmann disliked Amazing v 2 and liked Apocalypse. With Amazing Spider-Man 2, Stuckmann uses the rhino as an example of the studio inserting quips to appease fans rather than making a coherent story and portraying Spider-Man as a hero.
In his Apocalypse review, Stuckmann discusses how the filmmakers topped the scene in Days of Future Past. Arguably, Stuckmann makes the point that Apocalypse does appease him as a fan.
While Stuckmann argues that Amazing Spider-Man 2 uses quips poorly, he adds an extra meaning to it: this one moment illustrates the film as a soulless product. They put that scene in just to please the fans and not because they were actually passionate about it.
In all examples given, the critics ascribe praise to the good movie and motive to the bad movie. The examples given are used either as consolation of quality or evidence or shoddiness.
The movies that reviewed positively often had these flaws forgiven. The audience did notice or did not care.
In his great movies review, Roger Ebert’s review says that the original Star Wars is a masterpiece in spite of its flaws. His opening paragraph contains these sentences:
“It’s as goofy as a children’s tale, as shallow as an old Saturday afternoon serial, as corny as Kansas in August–and a masterpiece. Those who analyze its philosophy do so, I imagine, with a smile in their minds. May the Force be with them.”
In his review of X-Men: Apocalypse, Stuckmann admits that the film is not perfect, but that he liked director Bryan Singer’s past three X-Men movies and gave this one a shot. He also says that every significant scene won him over after a slow opening.
In both cases of the movies labeled poor, the critics give the same motive: greed. The filmmakers and studio made the film to make money. In both cases, the movie had been one in a series that had previously disappointed the critic. Early on in the Siskel and Ebert review, Siskel says that Jaws star Roy Scheider learned to stop bilking the public by allowing his character to be killed off in a previous film. Siskel also ends his portion of the review by saying that every Jaws film except the first one has been trash. Stuckmann feels that the only reason they made both The Amazing Spider-Man movies was to appeal to fans to make money.
This rather simplistic narrative often proves wrong for many reasons. It assumes that if a mainstream movie does not work, it is because the people making it did not care and wanted to make money. Also, it assumes that a mainstream movie cannot be made for both passion and money and still not work.
The difficulty with such narrative binaries is that they do not often reflect the nature of reality. Most all mainstream movies that get made were and are made to make money and to appease an audience, from the original Jaws to the newest X-Men. The movies that get remembered probably at some point did make enough money that the studio thinks they warrant releasing on multiple platforms.
Motives for Making Films
Many movies and stories (including classics) came about not because the people involved were passionate about it, but because of business reasons. Mario Puzo wrote the book for The Godfather because he needed money. In the 1980s, both Bill Murray and Christopher Reeve made mainstream films so they could make other films. Murray made the well-received Ghostbusters (1984), so he could make the poorly received The Razor’s Edge (1984). Reeve made the poorly received Superman 4: The Quest for Peace (1987) partially so he could make Street Smart (1987). Street Smart received a middling response but launched Morgan Freeman’s movie career.
Interestingly, the directors of both Jaws: The Revenge and the Amazing Spider-Man movies did not see the movies as pure cash grabs or jobs they simply did for money.
The Directors of ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’
The difference between many of the movies mentioned and movies that receive bad reviews is that these movies are sequels to previous movies. However, neither director said that they set out to make a horrible product. In fact, what critics tended to respond poorly to had less to do with just technical problems, but with the basic concept of the movie.
Jaws: The Revenge director Joseph Sargent partially made the movie because studio head Sid Sheinberg gave him autonomy over the project by making him executive producer as well. Sargent got to chooses locations, writers, and so on that he would not necessarily have otherwise. Furthermore, Sargent that almost everybody involved wanted the production to work and it didn’t.
The reason Sargent gives for the movie not working has more to do with falling in love with an absurd concept than with making the film for money. Sargent needed “a great fresh approach” for the movie, so he and the writer came up with the shark seeking revenge against the Brody family. Since he wanted to shoot in the Bahamas, Sargent had the shark follow the characters there. In his review, Siskel mocks the notion that a shark would seek revenge.
Similarly, Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2 director Marc Webb does not blame Sony for what happened. Webb speculated that the filmmaking process might have sped up due to the Sony hack and Marvel wanting rights to the character, but felt that he made the movie he wanted to make both times. He also said that he probably would have done things differently. In another interview, Webb said that the movies were more complicated to make than people assumed. Webb also said that the second movie focused on how a hero cannot save everybody. Throughout his review, Stuckmann says that he dislikes how the film does not portray Spider-Man as hero that saves people.
When a movie is considered bad, its flaws get magnified. Sometimes, rather than simply saying something was poorly done, people ascribe a meaning to these minor flaws that they might not have.
Ironically, Jaws: The Revenge director Joseph Sargent replaced Jaws director Steven Spielberg on what was to be his first theatrical film (White Lightning (1973)) after Spielberg left to do a more personal movie.