Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Roger Ebert Rebukes Transformers 2 Fans

Robert Ebert is one of many critics that disliked the movie but his review was one of the most vicious. He hated the movie on a fundamental level, liking nothing about it. His review is essentially a series of insults that comes down to a crappy plot with stupid characters and loud confusing visuals that lasted too long. Only he didn't put it in such simple terms. Personally I just thought he clearly isn't the audience for this movie (much older males) and his review very clearly reflected that. I think my review more accurately reflects the audience this movie was aimed. He is a good example of why I read more than one opinion to get a wider viewpoint as often most mainstream critics have a set of expectations that I don't.

His review apparently led to outrage from Transfan that loved the movie and they let him know what they thought of his write-up. His response to that is a blog post entitled "I'm a proud Brainiac" (found via MB.com). At the heart of this, he basically believes that those that like Transformers 2 are idiots. In turn those that liked the movie think Ebert is an idiot. His response, essentially comes down to "no I am not stupid, you are!" What I have a problem isn’t that he disliked the movie, so what many people did. My problem is I think he (and many others) fail to do their jobs as a movie reviewer.

He says "it's not a critic's job to reflect box office taste. The job is to describe my reaction to a film, to account for it, and evoke it for others. The job of the reader is not to find his opinion applauded or seconded, but to evaluate another opinion against his own." Except this is bulls#@t. If this was true, reviews would come after the movie reaches theatres not before. How can I evaluate my opinion against his when he has seen the movie and I have not?

A critics job, in reality, is to provide an opinion (i.e. a "review") and "account for it" to assist their readers in making an informed decision on how they will spend their time and money. If a job of a movie critic is only to watch out for the next great piece of cinematic art then he wouldn't have a whole lot to write about. His job is to inform with his opinion and arm people with the information they need to commit to a choice. That he doesn’t seem to know this after all these years disturbs me.

A primary problem is Ebert seems to think his job is to judge a movie on its artistic merit only. If his audience was other critics, that measurement would be sufficient. However, he is speaking to more than just fellow critics. He is speaking to the average movie goers and their criteria tend to extend to entertainment value. As a result, a critic should judge a movie not just artistic value but by its entertainment value and provide readers with the proper set of expectations for a particular movie. All three should be a core to any review. Often only one is. The result is you get artistic films that gets loud accolades from reviewers but lacks in any entertainment value or vice versa. Often films may achieve both but still fall short for the average audience because the critic fails to set the proper expectations for a film. The thing is this disconnect between what the critic says about a movie versus what the audience ultimately decides on entertainment value occurs after the money and time has been spent and when this occurs the reviewer has ultimately failed at their job.

He felt the movie had no meaningful artistic value as his snarky review and blog post makes clear. What about entertainment value? Will it entertain me and why or why not. He was focused on how loud and poorly developed it was. I don't really argue that but I still found it to be highly entertaining. His review never indicated if that event could occur because it probably never crossed his mind because his expectations are set to a far different set of criteria then mine were.

I went into Transformers 2 expecting a loud, CGI fest with great action scenes with minimal story and character development and that is what I got. Can I demand more? Sure. The movie is made though and you should go in to any movie with a certain mindset appropriate to what is coming and what you want. If you wanted just a fun two hours of entertainment, then Transformers 2 probably met those expectations nicely. If you wanted something with more story and character development you were probably very disappointed. A properly written review would have prepared you for either scenario so you could decide if it was worth your money to view the movie.

Does this mean a critic can't demand more? Of course not. Most of the reviews that measured the film on more than just artistic merit (even the overwhelmingly positive ones) were quick to point its flaws but they also made sure to inform you of its entertainment value and set your expectations accordingly so if you spent your money and time you were less likely to be disappointed.
Ebert can feel like a "Brainiac" all he wants, his bruised ego isn't important to me. I just want him to actually help me in making an informed decision on my movie choices. Instead he has become the opposite of that. When he likes a movie, I become concerned as he consistently fails to measure a film on entertainment value and that is my (and many others) primary consideration when choosing what films to see.

The primary lesson here isn’t so much about Ebert but to try and figure out what information is important to you when reading reviews and find critics that consistently meet them. Equally important is to read more than one review to make a truly informed decision. Use Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic to try to find a set of reviewers that tend to meet your taste in movies and when they reach a consensus, you know what to do and when they don’t maybe more research is needed. Better yet, just let your friends are the guinea pigs.

36 comments:

  1. i notice when critics like a movie like speed racer is because it has heart story comedy drama and action. when critics dislike a movie for example transformers 2 is because the story is bad the cut scenes are bad all action but no heart no drama and bad comedy moments. roger ebert is a movie critic and judge movies in a deeper level so if a movie was cool but left a point less story then he will critique the movie by what he saw feel and hear. so for roger ebert there is no expectations just "tell it as he sees it" the point of view for character arch motivation and develoment. for transfans were just glad we see our favorite transformers in a movie version and have some moments take us back to those good old cartoon/comic days when we were younger.

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  2. I very much agree with you on your review of crappy reviewers. lol I am totally fine if someone didn't like the film. But to call someone an idiot for liking it is just dumb. I just had about the same expectations as you did with the movie. There were flaws, and some things story wise i wish were different, but the movie still entertained the hell out of me, and i still thought it was great. You review was the best one i read about this movie, for real. lol

    Anyway, thanks for keeping this site going, i found your site the day after Transformers 1 won best movie at the MTV awards. And i have been checking your site everyday, multiple time till the movie came out, So like a year. lol Keep it up, i still check it every day, even with the movie out now. I will keep checking your site for when Transformers 3 rolls out. Thanks again for your site. :D

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  3. i personally don't like my friends family or critics to make or brake my intrest in a movie. i like to hear from them and know what they thought of the movie but not decide for me what could be a good movie or a bad movie. i like to come out of a movie and compare my thoughts with those i heard and read like friends family or critics.

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  4. I solved this problem throwing in the bin ANY review, I decide what movie to see and I go see it, no matter the reviews, if I want so bad to see a movie (like ROTF), I directly don't read ANYTHING about it till I've seen it. If I have a doubt about a movie I'm going to see I go to see it the days when the ticket costs less (i.e. Terminator - a delusion on all the line). Critics can say what they want, I don't care how intelligent they feel, I find their work useless garbage.

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  5. I agree with this post. Critics just want great stories and nothing else. I mean, there are other elements in a movie besides a story. To say you didn't like the story, ok I'll give you that, but not even the CGI and action is ridiculous to me. That's why I don't listen to critics at all.

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  6. Slow news week. I understand.

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  7. Awesome post, could not agree more.

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  8. critics have no need in the movie industry, basically. they're just extra people who feel they are superior and that the whole world will listen to them over a movie. they're just wannabe people who feel they have an importance in industry. i only read reviews to get the idea if the movie is BAD or GOOD. rotf was good. star trek was good. terminator was good. some movies are BAD like dragonball, super baby geniuses, or son of the mask. like anonymous at 5:29, critics are garbage. they're like the bullies in high school.

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  9. I'm 34, I've loved Transformers since I was a kid, and I loathed this movie. Ebert has a long track record of praising popcorn flicks that are better than they should be, or as good as they should be. Knowing his history; I am sure he would have praised ROTF had it at least tried. The reality, though, is ROTF is rife with sloppy narrative, continuity errors, bad editing, cliches, weak characterization. Notice how there was almost no dialogue between Autobots in this movie? Why? Everyone but Optimus seemed to be set decoration. I followed this blog for the past year and a half because I love Transformers and I had hopes that the filmmakers would do them justice. It pains me to see people accept this drivel just because they love Transformers so much. It's OK to love Transformers, but I'd feel better about Transformers fans if they hated what Bay has reduced them to.

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  10. I waited for rotf for two years and when the movie stated i had goosebumps.What i got out of rotf was what i expected and more.Bay and co gave us fans what we asked for.I knew the movie would do good just by watching the trialers.I don't pay attention to critics if i want to see i movie i go see it.I was just shocked the bad reviews that rotf got.

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  11. Luis Cotovio7/07/2009 12:18 PM

    I loved this movie. The fact that critics bash it doesn't make me love it any less. The fact that MovieMistakes.com found it to be filled with errors (most of wich only nitpickers would notice) doesn't make me love it any less. The fact that i have, myself, found a few details in plot don't make that much sense, doesn't make me love it any less.
    Why? Because i love it for what it is, 2 and half hours of fun, with giant, beautifully animated, robots kicking the crap out of each other.
    I do have issues with some plot points and the use of (underuse) of the robots, theres's more than a couple of things i would have done differently, but do i focus on that and let that ruin it for me? No.
    I don't care if the pyramids aren't close to the water, i don't care what model submarine Megatron rams into, i don't care how clean Megan Fox's pants are (anyone noticing how clean her pants are instead of how good they look on her has serious issues). What i do care is that i had a lot of fun watching it and for me, thats what counts.

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  12. last time i checked out a movie because a critic said it was good, i went to that movie and fell asleep (Zodiac). that was the 1st and last time i listened to the critics. the critics are just as much a part of the entertainment, saying things to get their opinions heard.

    - Hud

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  13. So, I don't really use movie reviews to decide what movie I want to see (I only see movies that really interest me, so I'm rarely disappointed), but where I do use reviews *very* extensively is in buying video games.

    It works exactly the same way as you mentioned in the post - video games are expensive (I probably spend ~$400 a year on them), so I want to make an informed decision before I purchase. I use the reviews to do that, because while a bad movie costs you 2 hours and 10 bucks, a bad game (which is much easier to make) will cost you 6-10 hours and 50 bucks.

    In the case of video games, critics' reviews are pivotal in my decision of whether or not to purchase, so it's important that they be as unbiased as possible. I've learned a trick: First, I look at the most postive 3 reviews. Then, I look at the most negative 3 reviews. This lets me get a feel for where all reviewers are coming from and how good, in reality, the game is likely to be. I've found that doing so often keeps me from being disappointed in my purchases.

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  14. To the owner of this site, I completely agree with your take on Roger Ebert's way of reviewing movies. Roger Ebert and many other reviewers are quickly becoming disconnected from the average movie-goer. Transformers 2 is just the most recent, and most obvious example of this. Roger Ebert called us idiots for liking it, but I wouldn't call him an idiot for not liking it. But then I also don't consider myself better than the next person, which Mr Ebert obviously does. The problem with Ebert and most other "professional" reviewers is that they have lost their objectivity.

    By the way, to the guy who said that Speed Racer was a good movie ... really? I only enjoyed the High Def visuals. Thought the movie and story was very cheesey, dialogue was bad and unrealistic, and acting was only ok. As for heart, I never felt any connection to the characters. But then the cartoon it was based on sucked too. So no surprise there.

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  15. Part 1

    Reading his original review its obvious he wasn't interested in the movie at all (not even in a professional level where it is his job to see it unbiased) Read his review and you'll see that he never talks clearly about the movie and in fact it looks like he really just ignored parts of the movie.

    "The plot is incomprehensible."
    So decepticons just wan't to capture Sam for the information he has to get something, Sam escape capture and goes to get what the decepticons are searching for and in the end there is the battle for the possession of the precious object; not really incomprehensible, I don't understand how a more mature, "intelligent" man can't understand this simple plot.

    "Their accents are Brooklyese, British and hip-hop, as befits a race from the distant stars." In the first one its clear they learned the human languages (and all their unique dialect and accents) and they just decided to talk in the way they pleased (jazz, twins, ironhide) After all they are living beings but with a mechanical body, with their own personality, so they choose to talk in the way they identified better. In fact in the first movie, when Jazz presents himself, Sam reaction is to ask "Where did he learned to talk LIKE that?" because he recognized that he talked with a very informal style (unlike optimus).

    "Their appearance looks like junkyard throw-up." So he didn't liked the design of the transformers and that makes it a bad movie; this is just his opinion winning over a professional view, and a completely lack of respect for all the people that worked so hard in the design department.

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  16. Part 2
    "They are dumb as a rock."
    Really I don't get this, any ideas what he´s talking about?

    "The human actors are in a witless sitcom part of the time, and lot of the rest of their time is spent running in slo-mo away from explosions, although--hello!--you can't outrun an explosion."
    If I remember correctly there's only one scene in the entire movie when the characters ran in slow-mo from an explosion (Lennox, Epps, Sam & Mikaela). Also they didn't outrun an explosion, they run to get out of the targeted area, so they just had to keep running to avoid being caught in the carpet bombing, even you can see Ironhide getting hit by it but still managing to get out.

    "The humans, including lots of U.S. troops, shoot at the Transformers a lot, although never in the history of science fiction has an alien been harmed by gunfire."
    OK, if I understand this, he says that the U.S. troop were useless because other movies make aliens impervious to gunfire...? Remember Aliens, Starship Troopers, etc. And didn't he saw the first movie where they figured out that Sabot rounds could damage them and being used against Scorponok, Blackout, Megatron and Brawl; or this one he's "reviewing" when they killed some of the decepticons protoforms, Mixmaster was forced to use his shields for protection and Megatron was stopped from getting to Sam.

    "There are many great-looking babes in the film, who are made up to a flawless perfection and look just like real women, if you are a junior fanboy whose experience of the gender is limited to lad magazines."
    OK so for him 2 are "many", really the only ones we really know in this movie are Mikaela, whose character was always supposed to be this hot & Alice whose character was also supposed to be hot in an attempt to get to Sam. And really where do he went to college...? Where I studied it was full of hot girls, and even some of them are my friends, so nothing unreal there.

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  17. Part 3
    "[Ron and Judy Witwicky] Later they swoop down out of the sky on Egypt, for reasons the movie doesn't make crystal clear, so they also can run in slo-mo from explosions."
    Again the professional didn't pay attention to the movie, we get a scene of Soundwave searching them and calling to confirm the position, we get an scene of decepticons landing in France and another one them being captured. Then in Egypt Strascream orders Rampage to activate the trap, we see him in his alt-mode open a compartment and Sam's parents are thrown from there; and finally they are barely in the final act and they never run in slow-mo from an explosion.

    "I find it amusing that creatures that can unfold out of a Camaro and stand four stories high do most of their fighting with...fists."
    Then Optimus, Megatron, Strascream, Mixmaster, Longhaul, the Twins, Arcee, Ratchet, Sideswipe, and some Decepticons protoforms shooting was just in my imagination. So they use melee weapons and fists ALONG SIDE fire weapons, but from what we see in the movie, it's much more efficient to kill their mechanical bodies by destroying the right spot rather than shooting randomly (they won't bleed like us).

    "After writing the above I looked up the first reviews as a reality check. I was reassured"
    So the professional guy, secure of his own decisions and interpretations need to be see that others think the same as him.

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  18. Part 4 (Final)
    "Footnote 6/24: Does it strike you as a lapse of Pyramid security that no one notices a gigantic Deceptibot ripping off the top of the Great Pyramid? Not anyone watching on the live PyramidCam? Not even a traffic copter?"
    Again the guy didn't saw the movie, because he didn't notice the other guys that where swallowed by Devastator; and really what did he wanted the pyramid security to do? Also Startscream screw electronic systems in the area with an EMP, so the PyramidCam wouldn't be functional; in the end what would be the point of showing what other people saw, the important thing here was to stop the decepticons from activating the machine. If they want they would address that point in the next movie, as they did in this one with the internet rumors.

    His review of Transformer ROTF looks more like a IMDB troll rant than a professional review, he should talk clearly about what he liked/didn´t liked and why he think that. Also he's forgetting to be humble (in fact he's acting much like the way he criticizes Bay acts) because instead of say "this movie is crap" he should say "I didn´t liked" in his personal opinion this movie filled all his requirements.

    After all if this movie has won almost 600 million its because there's something that appeals to the different people around the globe. Remember Hulk (2003), it had one of the biggest openings but dropped 70% in the second weekend leading it to be a flop, this because it failed to appeal to the general public, that is to have something for every one to like, whether it be visual the effects, the characters, the story, the style, etc.

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  19. to Anonymous at 3:18. Very good analysis. I have not posted on imdb since there are so many trolls and the haters will bash anyone who enjoyed the film like me. When I saw Eberts review I was like, did he see the same movie? Ok he didnt like it but its like he went out of his way to bash some of the work that was done. The robots look like junkyard throw up? Are you kidding me? Thats a horrible dis on the tremendous work done by ILM and DD. This film has its flaws but for me the good outweighs the bas big time. He puts for this opinion as fact. Its not fact just his opinion. I think at times he is out of touch. I want to respect his opinion in this matter but dont think I can.

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  20. I'm a bit of a movie buff, loving a wide range of movies, from Citizen Kane to 300, Casablanca to Crank. Roger Ebert is actually one of my favorite critics, and in the past, even he has shown an understanding of the benefit of popcorn flicks. (he loved Speed 2!) As an avid follower of his reviews I'm honestly shocked that he hated the movie so much. Does it deserve 4 stars? Of course not. It's not a "great' movie, but it sure is a lot of fun to watch and definitely does not deserve the venom he seems to have for it.

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  21. To the anonymous poster breaking down Ebert's review ... well done, sir! I've read his review as well and was thinking the exact same thing. The review seems to be written by a 13 year old, not someone "well educated in cinema".

    Ebert either didn't watch this movie, or went in hating it and so barely paid attention because he already knew what his review would be. And then on top of that he has the nerve to come back and bash those upset with his review, as if his review was completely free of bias.

    In the world of critics, he has joined with the fools.

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  22. I agree very much with the Anon @3:18 and the one @4:55

    Him calling US idiots, is just so childish. So now he's going to act like a child to get back at people that like something?

    Roger, You're F'n 67!

    Grow up.

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  23. I'm a film journalist from Belfast, Northern Ireland. I too reviewed the film and have to be honest it wasn't perfect in the slightly. Though I gotta say Ebert's review was far more harsh than mine

    http://the-book-thief.blogspot.com/2009/06/transformers-revenge-of-fallen-review.html

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  24. Made another 6 million on Monday. Worldwide the movie has made over 600 million. I think we can now say that this movie has legs.

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  25. What bothers me is this:

    "Those who think "Transformers" is a great or even a good film are, may I tactfully suggest, not sufficiently evolved. Film by film, I hope they climb a personal ladder into the realm of better films, until their standards improve. Those people contain multitudes. They deserve films that refresh the parts others do not reach. They don't need to spend a lifetime with the water only up to their toes. "

    So pretty much anyone who liked this movie, on any level, is "unevolved", and has never watched better movies.

    Blanket statements like that just shows out arrogant he really is.

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  26. Yeah see the problem is that I went to this movie expecting a poorly edited clusterfuck of horrible dialogue, gratuitous explosions, and lots of robots fucking shit up. And I genuinely expected to enjoy it. Well, apparently I didn't dumb myself down quite enough, because there was very little about this film that impressed me.

    Yeah, I think I have to agree with Ebert. While I'm not saying everyone should be a film snob, it's the attitudes of the people posting here that is killing the arts in America.

    You can't sustain yourself on a diet of steaming shit.

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  27. First like many others I take critics reviews with a grain of salt so with that saying

    Anon @3:18 great job breaking it down but you forgot one

    quoted from Ebert: " Ron and Judy Witwicky, who are the parents of Shia' character, sam who Mephistopheles threw in to sweeten the deal. They take their son away to Princeton, apparently a party school, where Judy eats some pot and goes berserk"

    Well have lived in New Jersey all my life and telling me Princeton is not a party school, well Mr.Ebert, you are dead wrong the 2nd highest party school in the state for over 15yrs and one of the best places to get some pot. Yes, if you live in NJ and have gone to Princeton for a visit most likely you didn't leave the same day because of all the partying you did. Princeton may be an Ivy League School but do you actually think the kids that go there stay locked up in the rooms and study all day, Come on Ebert where is you common sense there.

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  28. All I really have to say on the matter is this:

    Insulting somebody for liking a movie is NOT kickin'!

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  29. The problem with all movie critics is that they cannot enjoy a pure action movie! they want a heart and soul to every movie, the want some sort of public injustice brought up in the movie like racial prejudices, gay rights, etc, etc. Roger Ebert is past his prime, he should have gotten his pink slip years ago and been replaced with someone of a new open mind and who is in touch with modern movie viewers. I loved the movie, yes the plot was thin, and some of the jokes we could have done without but overall it gave you that kick ass action movie you wanted to start off the summer with. Transformer 2 and the whole movie series as a whole will go down as one of the great movie series in the history of movies and be shown for years on every movie channel until the end of time. Roger Ebert will die someday and no will remember his name a couple of years after he is gone! One last thing to remember too, if you go up on the street and ask a person who Optimus Prime I would say 8 out of 10 would know. If you did the same for Roger Ebert, 3 out of 10 might know!

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  30. Film criticism hardly has purpose to a general audience, dare I say NO purpose to general audience. It's only worth something to future filmmakers or movie buffs, who need to know how and why certain things work. Listening to critics' consensus is just listening to a smaller populist crowd, who'll NEVER be able to accurately know what's good for YOU. One can learn something important even from bad films, no one can predict where fresh knowledge can come from. If I followed Ebert on what to avoid half my childhood would've be thrown out the window. He's shunned some really inspiring, imaginative movies. Critics need to stop making these half-assed useless reviews aimed at the general audience that will never care, and start writing complete analyses for those who do. A walkthrough from shot to shot of what it made you feel and why, if you call yourself a "film critic".

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  31. There's "art", and then there's "entertainment". Two different approaches to moviemaking that do not have the same criteria for judgment. Unfortunately, only 5% of critics realize that.

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  32. To Slidersq
    Here Anon 3:18. Yes I forgot about the "party school" thing but also I avoided it as I'm not from the US, so I don't want to talk of something that I don´t fully understand. What I thought reading that part was like this: So because we saw just ONE party (a kind of welcome party) now this is the dream school of all those who just want to party. And yes (sarcasm) young people never involve themselves in things that can compromise their studies like selling/consuming pot or partying all night; at that age we're sooo mature that even the night before the classes begin, we dedicate our time to prepare ourselves studying rather than of relaxing and enjoying our last free time.

    I don´t hate the man, I just hate the way he trashes a movie that obviously never interested him (and so never cared to understand) this movie is just a tale not an essay nor a poem.

    We have seen how many of the points he complains about can be easily explained with what the movie show us, you just must pay attention to the movie specially if you are supposed to write a review of it. For me that's lack of professionalism, I would expect a more clear, intelligent and constructive criticism from a man in his position.

    Finally, at the start of his review he compares the movie with the noise made by a boy and a chorus in the background, well his review reads very much the same, just some noise (bitching) made by a boy (troll); there's nothing intelligent said in that "review" written by an intelligent person.

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  33. @Pilot

    I'm sorry that you didn't enjoy it, and that's fine. But I don't think we're all sustaining ourselves on shit. I like good (i.e. Oscar-worthy) movies just as much as the next guy, but I'm also free to demand something like Transformers a couple times a year. That doesn't ruin the arts, it's just a part of the industry.

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  34. a movies primary purpose is to A. Make money for the studios so they can make more movies and B entertain the audience. In my Mind Transformers 2 has succeeded on both counts so to those who hated it...well dont go see transformers 3 then....

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  36. What amazes me here is how little people know about Roger Ebert. I read Ebert's reviews exactly because he LOVES "dumb" popcorn flicks. He's the sort of reviewer who's always open to a fun action movie. To call him out of touch is absurd. Ebert's great because he enjoys all kinds of movies. He gets angry because movies are his primary enjoyment, and if he doesn't like one he feels betrayed. Before you insult Ebert as "out of touch," see what he actually says about most movies. He gives Avatar 4 stars (out of 4), Terminator 2 3.5 stars, He gave Speed 4 stars. This is not a guy who hates on movies that aren't deep. He just didn't like Transformers 2 (he actually did like the first one). I don't blame him; I was bored, and I'm an action junkie. You people hating on Ebert really have no right.

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