Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Worst Movie Review

Six years ago when I went into university I went with a dream of one day writing movie reviews for a big daily like the Toronto Star or the Globe and Mail. Of course, four years later when I graduated newspapers were dropping more people than they were hiring, the Internet was becoming the best source of news and that romantic vision I had of people reading newspapers because they cared about the personality of the writers quickly evaporated. Nevertheless, I still love the art of writing criticism. So few people write good film criticism anymore. Anyone can access a blog, post on a message board, etc. but criticism has lost what makes it so special: the skill and personality of the writer (good writers who know what they are talking about). Because I love it so much, not only do I cherish it when I find it, but I also must call it out when it is bad. There is one review I will never forget. It appeared in the Calgary Sun (The Sun, to give you an idea, is basically a daily tabloid parading as a newspaper and written at around a third grade level) and was written by their nearly incompetent critic Louis B. Hobsen. It was in regards to the third Matrix film Revolutions, which he gave 3 out of 5 stars, which is kind of a cruel irony when you think about it ,but don't let me spoil it, read for yourself: Fans of The Matrix have waited four years to learn that everything that has a beginning has an end. This is the great revelation in The Matrix Revolutions, the conclusion to this sci-fi trilogy that opens today.

When this amazing insight finally dawns on the saviour Neo (Keanu Reeves), he heads for Machine City to negotiate with the artificial intelligence which has enslaved mankind for more than two centuries.

He wants to share this great revelation with the machines who have launched a final attack on mankind's rebel city, Zion.

Neo hopes to convince the machines to side with man against the rogue computer virus known as Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), who he predicts will turn against the machines.

It's more gobbledygook and convoluted logic but, once again, it's dressed up with incredible visual effects. Even if The Matrix Revolutions fails to mesmerize your mind, it will dazzle your senses.

Its cutting-edge technology almost disguises the fact that, instead of breaking new ground, Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski have simply recycled everything from Greek mythology and Christian theology to Star Wars and Terminator.

The Wachowskis try to give their final chapter some heart. Neo and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) articulate their love as much as Reeves and Moss can articulate any emotion. (They have to be the dullest actors on this or any other planet.)

The prophet Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) gives his former lover Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) some forlorn looks but their mission to save mankind is too noble to include anything such as genuine human emotions.

Reeves, Moss, Fishburne, Pinkett Smith and Mary Alice as the Oracle speak in forced whispers, as if to convince us of the importance of their meanderings and their roles as icons.

It becomes as boring as it is pretentious, especially when they are conversing with each other.
What gives Revolutions life is several outstanding action set pieces, including a battle in the foyer of a sex club. This time, when Neo and Agent Smith battle, they send each other flying into space and toward the centre of the earth.

The battle at the gates of Zion demonstrates just how far computer-generated effects have come. The marriage of live action and computer images is seamless.

The set design for Machine City makes it look like something out of Dante's Inferno, while Zion resembles the caves Christians inhabited to escape the Romans.

It's a fitting way to show how the Wachowskis strive to make everything old seem revolutionary.


You know things aren't looking good for your movie when Ewoks get brought up as a point of reference.

The singin' and dancin' teddy bears were considered the worst thing about Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, which itself is seen by most fans to be the weakest link in the original Star Wars trilogy. Nub-nub this pointy stick right in your eye, you furry little demons.

While Return of the Jedi still managed to wrap up the original Star Wars trilogy on a satisfactory note, both from a story standpoint and as a decent (if flawed) movie in its own right, things aren't looking quite so rosy for The Matrix Revolutions, which opens in theatres today.

"We were laughing in parts I don't think we were supposed to be laughing in," said one friend of mine who caught a preview screening of Revolutions yesterday. "It was two hours of my life I'll never get back," said another.

The so-called professional critics haven't been much kinder to the much-hyped final film in the trilogy about Neo and company's rage against the machines, which many felt needed to redeem the series after the baffling and disappointing middle film, The Matrix Reloaded.

On the website, early reviews of the film were landing decidedly on the rotten side. By late afternoon yesterday, out of the 30 reviews, only one-third gave Revolutions three stars or better out of five.

Christopher Null, a reviewer for, had this to say: "With their third (and hopefully, final) Matrix movie, the Wachowski brothers have delivered a dud so disappointing, they may as well have bused in Ewoks to save Zion."

In a word, ouch! Some of the other zingers:

* "A clamorous, soulless barrage." - Christy Lemire, The Associated Press.

* "Louder, longer, more expensive and dumber than its predecessors, Revolutions is a mediocrity that will provide escapism only to those who head for the theater exits." - Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune.

* "(The Wachowski brothers') movie's tone of self-importance is so bloated it's bound to explode and does, long before the bright green graphics tell us the story has ended." - John Anderson, Newsday.

* "The Matrix Revolutions sucks." - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone.

I haven't seen Revolutions yet. I will, of course ... having invested this much in the story, I gotta see how it all turns out. (Matrix newbies would do well to rent the previous two movies first, since the final instalment will make zero sense without having seen them first.)

But to be honest, given what a mish-mash Reloaded was, I'm not in any hurry. Just as the original Star Wars movies are infinitely superior to the glossy, stupid and soulless prequel films, I have a feeling 1999's The Matrix will stand as the movie we'll remember fondly, with Reloaded and Revolutions being the barrage of high-tech pseudo-philosophy that came afterwards to sully those memories. But maybe I'm wrong. It's been known to happen.
That any daily, no matter how bad, would publish a review written by a man who has yet to see the film just baffles me. What were they thinking? Did they need Matrix coverage so bad that week that they simply allowed this man to pad a "review" with quotes from so-called "professionals" on Rotten Tomatoes? And besides Christie Lamire and Peter Travers, I'm not sure any of those critics qualify as respectable sources and even Travers is on the edge of that line. Christopher Null? Come on. What's maybe most shocking is that this kind of thing isn't rare to any of The Sun newspapers. Their entertainment section, with the exception of Bruce Kikrland in Toronto, pride themselves on writing stupid, vapid reviews and celebrity gossip and their achieves are filled with golden nuggets like this one. Maybe I'll have to make this a regular feature?


  1. It's hardly a review if he hadn't seen it. It irritates me no end when a critic says "I'm not even going to go see that film" (The first time I heard that was from Greg Palmer—who turned out to be a sweet guy, actually—announced that he wasn't going to see "Star Wars" because "what's the point?" Always remember that.

    I see a lot of that in haughty blog-posts and my reaction always is "you set yourself up as a writer about films and you don't do your job?"

    It irritates me. At least, don't announce it and prove you're incompetent and destroy your credibility.

    Rant done.

  2. I agree totally, as I've said before in Andrew's comment section I think bloggers that reviews trailers is kind of useless and so, using the same logic, people who give their comments about Friday new releases is kind of useless too. There are a lot of bloggers who do both of those things, good bloggers, but whats the point. I was really put off last weekend when a lot of those people said they'd be seeing Robin Hood but wouldn't even give Just Wright or Letters to Juliet a chance because they look cliche or whatever. Well yes, Just Wright was cliche, but it was also very good. You miss a lot of good movies with such an attitude.

  3. This pisses me off considerably. That is all.

  4. "So-called professionals"? " I'm not sure any of those critics qualify as respectable sources'? Harsh words, Mike. Have you spent any time reading my work, other than the excerpt quoted above? I think you would find it worthwhile, the effort of a serious and committed critic. Why malign people doing what you aspire to do? Create your own criticism. circulate it, and see if there are professional outlets willing to pay you for your work.

    Colin Covert

  5. Colin, that was fast, you found this the same day it was published. Do you Google yourself? I suppose my wording was maybe harsh and did not convey what I meant to say which is, not that your work is worthwhile or not, maybe it is, maybe it isn't, I'd have to look into it, but that, if Hobsen wanted to quote critics to justify printing a review to a film he had not seen he should at least be quoting the likes of Roger Ebert, Michael Phillips, A.O. Scott, J. Hoberman, Vincent Canby, etc, not the guy from, whose work, I will admit, I more often than not do not admire. At least then I'd be willing to buy into his concern for whether or not the thing is any good, which, as it turned out, I would argue, it was rather good. Not great, but good nonetheless and at least two of those great critics that I named agreed.

  6. What gets me about a lot of these articles is that they are inflammatory for the sake of it and seem to point out only the negatives. It's almost as if they are ticking the boxes on some virtual checklist, as opposed to giving a film a chance on it's own merit and trying to appreciate it as it is.

  7. Ronan, you are totally right, I've been saying for years that I hate reviews that instead of sharing the experience of the writers are just simply a check list of what worked and what didn't. If I want to know if a movie is good or not I'll go see it, when I read a great critic it's because I want to know how that specific person experienced that specific movie