While critics and audiences have always had different tastes and opinions when it comes to certain movies, over the past few years it seems those differences have become overly radical. Nowadays, audiences seem to loathe movies that critics praise, and vice versa. If you were to pinpoint one movie over the last that started this great divide, then arguably it would be Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive.”
With a marketing campaign that made the movie look like your usual conventional action movie, casual movie audiences felt cheated to find that what they got instead was a slow-paced arthouse movie. Not that it’s the movie’s fault, but you can’t blame audiences who felt cheated or lied to and ended up hating it.
Aside from false advertising, another factor is that critics view movies as an art form that can challenge and subvert expectations, whereas the casual audience member is looking for good old-fashioned entertainment for their escapism.
The three recurring genres that seem to cause the most divide are horror, comedy, and action movies. Audiences want what’s to be expected from those genres; not to say that they don’t want something new and fresh, but not to the point that it becomes something completely different.
1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
What it’s About: Picking up where “The Force Awakens” left off, Luke Skywalker encounters Rey, who disrupts his solitary existence and shows strong signs of the Force. He begins giving her Jedi training while Kylo Ren and the First Order face off against the Resistance for galaxy supremacy.
What Critics Loved About It: Where does one start with this one? “The Last Jedi” is one of, if not the most divisive, polarizing and controversial movie of the 21st century. Critics loved the movie’s willingness to add new elements and the expansion of franchise’s mythos that’s been going for 40 years strong.
The amazing visuals, passionate performances, and Rian Johnson’s strong direction that balances the film’s many emotions. Special praise was given to story’s twists and turns and exhilarating action set pieces. Praise was also given to the unique and fresh themes with some critics going as far as calling it the best installment of series next “The Empire Strikes Back.”
What Audiences Hated About It: Star Wars fans hated everything critics loved about Johnson’s entry to the extent that the director has been harassed online. The biggest complaint and issue being Luke Skywalker’s characterization that betrays all of the characters values, beliefs, and personality traits for which he became iconic. Even Mark Hamill had issues with his character’s new arc.
Aside from that, fans also found issue with the movie’s lack of continuity, not only with its predecessor but with the series in general. While a lot of people were disappointed that fan theories failed to materialize, they also thought the film failed to substitute that with a compelling storyline. To say that a lot of fans despise “The Last Jedi” would be an understatement. It’s viewed as a series worst that ruined its legacy solely in the interest of being unpredictable.
2. The VVitch (2015)
What It’s About: Set in 1630 New England, a family tears itself apart after their youngest son vanishes by what seems to be witchcraft. The family’s faith in their religion and each other is tested as panic, paranoia, and guilt seep its way into the clan.
What Critics Loved About It: Aside from its technical excellence and powerful performances, critics loved the slow-burn approach Robert Eggers employed in his debut feature. Critics especially appreciated the atmosphere of the film, which doesn’t resort to cheap jump scares but instead takes its time getting under your skin and terrifying you in subtle ways.
A fresh and unique take on the horror genre that accurately portrays its historic setting and leaves you with something to think about. Some critics even called it a masterpiece that will stand next to other horror classics such as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist.”
What Audiences Hated About It: Surprise, surprise, the misleading marketing campaign which painted “The VVitch” as gripping and terrifying horror. Audiences who bought into the hype were shocked to find a slow-moving horror that failed to deliver any of the crowd-pleasing scares they were expecting.
Another complaint was the Puritan dialogue that some people weren’t able to follow or understand, which exacerbated things with the dialogue-heavy storyline. The film’s take on its religious themes especially in the story’s conclusion rubbed some people the wrong way especially because of the ‘devout’ Christian characters. Some audience members also weren’t able to suspend their belief with some of the film’s riskier supernatural elements.
3. It Comes At Night (2017)
What It’s About: Two families share an uneasy alliance and home when the world outside is ravished by an unspecified terror.
What Critics Loved About It: The ‘less is more’ approach, where the unknown and unexplained is always more terrifying. Reviews also praised the film’s brilliant acting and character relationship with interesting dynamics.
Critics also appreciated the unique premise and slow-burn storytelling with Trey Edward Shults’ tight script and atmospheric direction being highlighted. The movies blend of horror, drama, and psychological-thriller with touches of a post-apocalyptic setting was also another highlight.
What Audiences Hated About It: The common question amongst audiences is when exactly does ‘It’ come? Followed by the answer of ‘nothing at all’. Some people have even renamed the film “Nothing Comes At Night.”
Aside from the marketing, the biggest point of false advertising is the movie’s title, which blatantly promises something it arguably doesn’t deliver on. Audiences found the constant bickering between the characters and ambiguous storytelling painfully boring. Not to mention the anti-climatic ending. Horror fans were especially angry with a film they wouldn’t classify as a horror. At this point, it’s just safe to assume that audiences aren’t fond of A24’s horror movies.
4. Annihilation (2018)
What It’s About: A group of military scientists embark on a research journey into ‘The Shimmer,’ a mysterious and quarantined zone that’s slowly spreading over the area while mutating animals and the landscape.
What Critics Loved About It: Breathtaking visuals matched with a thought-provoking script and strong performances. Alex Garland’s adaptation was also praised for its ambitious storytelling and challenging themes. Uncompromising to end that Paramount sold the movie’s international rights to Netflix after a disappointing American opening (the bad marketing surely didn’t help) with fear that audiences wouldn’t able to grasp its intricacies.
Critic’s also found “Annihilation” to be the right mixture of entertaining and intellectual. It was seen as a movie that requires multiple viewings to fully appreciate, and to unpack its many complexities and mysteries.
What Audiences Hated About It: First, some readers of the book found the movie to be a disappointment that added more Hollywood clichés to the story. Although everyone can agree on the amazing visuals, audiences also found the movie to be ‘bland’, ‘boring’ and ‘uninvolving’.
Many detractors also couldn’t ignore some of the script’s awful dialogue, plot holes, and illogical character actions that have been posted and discussed at length all over the internet. What’s most hilarious is that some people don’t think “Annihilation” is that ‘thought-provoking’ at all because of some of its more ‘dumb’ moments.
5. Hail, Caesar! (2016)
What it’s About: A fictional account of a real-life Hollywood fixer in the 1950s who works to ensure that the private lives of the studio’s actors stay private in other to maintain their public image, and that filming schedules and budgets stay on track. Oh, and George Clooney goes missing right in the middle of filming the biblical epic.
What Critics Loved About It: While it’s true that critics and people who work in the film industry usually have a soft spot for movies about making movies, critics genuinely loved the Coen brothers’ spoof/ode of/to 1950’s Hollywood. From the committed ensemble cast playing different Hollywood stereotypes of the time to the various movie productions taking place, critics loved the different scenarios throughout the story that give insight to the studio system of old.
What Audiences Hated About It: As usual, the number one complaint was the misleading trailer that made the movie look like a fun caper involving a missing star with lots of laughs in tow. What audiences got instead was a very loosely plotted story where none of the characters or various storylines connect in any meaningful way and the laughs are far and in-between.
“Hail, Caesar!” spends more time on the contemplative side and aside from Josh Brolin’s central character, all the other famous actors appear in just a scene or two. Plus most audiences found it ‘boring’, ‘dry’ and lacking in any emotional payoffs.