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Dark Knight' mob attacks defenseless film critic

Darkknight Not that it matters of course, when it comes to a pop-culture tsunami like "The Dark Knight," but so far most of America's much-maligned film critics have embraced the Christopher Nolan-directed film, which is due to set all sorts of obscure box-office records this weekend. (Is there, for example, a record for biggest July opening during a presidential campaign year?) But there's always a skunk at every wedding. When it comes to "Dark Knight" fans, the skunk is New York magazine critic David Edelstein, who had the temerity to slag off the new Batman film, calling it "noisy, jumbled and sadistic."

And that was just the beginning: Edelstein hooted at the action scenes ("spectacularly incoherent"), the director ("Nolan appears to have no clue how to stage or shoot action") and the movie in general ("it's all fits and starts, fitfully suspenseful, fitfully scary... with jolts of brutality to keep you revved up"). "Dark Knight" loyalists did not take this lying down. Edelstein has been bombarded with so much e-mail abuse since his review posted that he felt obligated to respond to the vitriol. (The New Yorker's David Denby didn't like the movie much either, but he's somehow escaped being tarred and feathered by the angry mob, perhaps because everyone was more enraged by the Obama cartoon on the cover of this week's magazine.)

I'm not going to get in the middle of this maelstrom, since sadly, I'm such a cultural slacker that I haven't seen the movie yet. But I feel a pang of sympathy for Edelstein, who notes that the Batman fanboys seem to want to have it both ways--calling him a snob for taking the movie seriously, then mocking his pretentiousness for offering more than a "Wow!" as a critical response. The ranting and name-calling all takes us back to the primal question of today's moviegoing age: Do critics still matter?

You should read Edelstein's entire response, but here, in a nutshell, is his argument, which is worth pondering:

"There has been a lot of chatter in the last few years that criticism is a dying profession, having been supplanted by the democratic voices of the Web. Not to get all Lee Siegel on you, but the Internet has a mob mentality that can overwhelm serious criticism. There is superb writing in blogs and discussion groups ... but there are also thousands of semi-literate tirades that actually reinforce the Hollywood status quo, that say: 'If you do not like "The Dark Knight,'" you should be fired because you do not speak for the people.' Well, the people don't need to be spoken for. And a critic's job is not only to steer you to movies you might not have heard of or that died at the box-office. It's also to bring a different, much-needed perspective on blockbusters like 'The Dark Knight.' " 

Photo of Christian Bale as Batman in "The Dark Knight" from Warner Bros.

 
Comments () | Archives (78)

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I really disagree with the quote from Edelstein that you think we should be pondering over. To me, a movie that is filmed is done, whatever critics say are not going to help the directors improve the movie so I don't need their "professional" point of view. When I read a review, what I want to know is whether a movie is worth seeing or not - whether it will be worth the 2-3 hours of my life or not.

Now when a critic decides to offer an opinion that is completely opposite of my own, then I consider his review worthless and in fact misleading. Of course you can't expect everyone to like a movie. Perhaps all the reviews I read will make a movie sound great and it turns out that I didn't like it anyway; but the point is that I will have a higher likelyhood to be watching good movies, instead of being mislead into missing a film that I could've really liked.

To me, a critic whose opinion that does not agree with my own is worthless to me. Of course they can appeal to people other than myself and earn their position, but a critic whose taste cannot appeal to anyone (or only very few people), like in this case, deserves to be fired.

It' s interesting that some of those that say the critics (like David Edelstein) who are against TDK are frustrated because they receive criticism - they think they are making wise distinctions - I, however, beg to differ.

I don't know if you've viewed the critic's viewpoints or not, but the comments were not critiques. You see, a real critique would be knowledgeable and at least somewhat professional. Instead, the comments are angry and have resorted to name-calling. In addition, many of the comments were made before the movie came out everywhere. What does that mean? That many fanboys, who haven't even seen the film yet, blasted their opinions.

Therefore, if a bunch of regular people who want to hate critics that dislike their film and resort to name-calling (and want to unleash their childish demeanor), than they are not really critiquing - they are merely venting.

It is just too easy to be hateful on the Internet. We do not need all that vitriol to get the point or make a point. Of course, there probably are people who flatly hate the critic for simply criticizing Dark Knight. That pathology is no reflection on Mr. Edelstein or the movie

Where is John Simon when you need him? Had he seen "The Dark Knight" and found it wanting he would have skewered it with
such power of expression that no one would have had the cheek to call him out publicly.

God, how thin the skins of TDN fanboys are!

Deal with it: there is a sizeable portion of the public--more than likely the greater part of the American public--who have no interest in the movie, or for that matter, movies in general.

His argument is moot since it is not a case of critic vs "the mob," but rather one of critic vs the majority of critics. When a critic comes up with a view so opposed to the majority of the public one feels he is just out of touch with the public's tastes, but when a critic presents a view that flies in the face of 90% of his fellow critics one must feel there is something else going on. Perhaps there is some adgenda we are not aware of, or perhaps this critic is reacting to elements not present in the film it's self, such as the hype surrounding it, or a general distaste for the type of film it is.

Its all very simple. Movie critics judge movies on the basis of its "artfulness" or artistry. We, the movie audience--judge movies on the basis of entertainment value. Because we don't go to movies to look at art pieces. We go there to be entertained and escape from reality.

That's why highly praised movies turn out be such boring fare, whle many critically-panned movies turn out to be quite moving / entertaining.

Instead of relying on score aggregators like rottentomatoes, choose critics that have the same taste as you.

"if the movie is everything he says it is then why don't more critics fall in line behind his opinion."

Because different people can have different opinions about the same thing? I realize how bizarre that must sound.

one of the most greatest writers of all times Jorge Luis Borges says about critics:

"For be a good critic...you need so much preparation, that is convinient you dedicate to art"

is not important who is the critic or his preparation..is just an opinion.
criticize art for me is like complete a logical sequence...you can say anything, the justification of your words can be more simple or more complicate, just that.

pd:sorry for my english :(

greetings from Argentina

While the critic has the right to criticize and he defended his criticism appropriately, the criticism he had for the movie clearly indicates he just wanted some publicity for himself and the publication he worked for. He and the publication very well know that the spotlight was going to be on this movie and that it was destined for rave reviews. So by throwing the rotten tomato he stands out and hence gets to share the spotlight as the ugly duckling in the pack.

Well Played. In the context of the Dark Knight, this would have been the guy who wold have actually pressed the detonator in the climax just to stand out and given the Joker the satisfaction of complete victory.

This is not to discount that there will be people who wont get this film and wont like it. Most people I know don't like intense action and are satisfied with light hearted run of the mill servings of Kung Fu Panda. It is sad that the genius of movies like Wall-E or Dark Knight is exploited by critics like these for their 15 minutes of fame.

Enjoy the movie and let the whiners whine.

While the critic has the right to criticize and he defended his criticism appropriately, the criticism he had for the movie clearly indicates he just wanted some publicity for himself and the publication he worked for. He and the publication very well know that the spotlight was going to be on this movie and that it was destined for rave reviews. So by throwing the rotten tomato he stands out and hence gets to share the spotlight as the ugly duckling in the pack.

Well Played. In the context of the Dark Knight, this would have been the guy who wold have actually pressed the detonator in the climax just to stand out and given the Joker the satisfaction of complete victory.

This is not to discount that there will be people who wont get this film and wont like it. Most people I know don't like intense action and are satisfied with light hearted run of the mill servings of Kung Fu Panda. It is sad that the genius of movies like Wall-E or Dark Knight is exploited by critics like these for their 15 minutes of fame.

Enjoy the movie and let the whiners whine.

 
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