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World War H – or hate’s not all that

What do Shyamalan, World War Z and Man of Steel have in common? Hype - and hate.


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World War H – or hate’s not all that Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Monday, 01 July 2013 10:56
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World War Z - haters

In the 1990s, M. Night Shyamalan helped to write the screenplay for She's All That. No one saw that one coming.

But while everyone now goes into an M. Night Shyamalan movie expecting a surprise twist, there's one thing you can almost always predict: people looking to snipe at Shyamalan.

It may be my imagination, but it seemed to happen more than ever with After Earth, as people lined up ready to dump on the sci-fi film starring Will Smith and his son, Jaden.

That’s not to say Shyamalan hasn’t earned the reaction he gets– his movie The Lady in the Water openly presented critics as the bad guys, arguably inviting some ire from the inked-up hordes.

“He's done it again. M Night Shyamalan has done it again. Again. Done it. Again. He has given us another film for which the only appropriate expression is stammering, gibbering wonder that anyone can keep making such uncompromisingly terrible movies with such stamina and dedication.”

That was one well-written tirade against the sci-fi movie from Little White Lies, but a lot of reactions seemed to have already been decided before writers even saw the movie.

In the case of After Earth, perhaps it's just that the film is (apparently) naff.

But reviewers on the internet love to rush to form an opinion. When it was announced that Green Lantern’s writer was hired to pen the Blade Runner sequel, the reaction in my Twitter feed (and, from what I can see, on the wider web) wasn’t one of curiosity, or even hope that Michael Green (one of four Green Lantern writers) would look to improve upon the Ryan Reynolds flick. Instead, it was decided straight away: this was a dick move.

The Hangover Part III. Adam Sandler. It’s natural to go into a movie with some expectations, but as reviewers, isn’t it our responsibility to discard that baggage?

The predetermin-o-meter was turned up all the way to 11 for World War Z. Marc Forster’s zombie flick had a famously troubled production, with last-minute rewrites and reshoots completely changing the third act. (Slight tangent: after reading the original ending, I think I actually prefer Damon Lindelof’s unexpectedly low-key finale.)

Right from the moment the first trailer arrived, people seemed to be prepared to be disappointed. It was nothing like the book. The CGI was bad. It was shot in Glasgow. For whatever reasons, World War H had started. And the hate kept building. Reviews seemed concerned with the production problems rather than the end product itself. The fact that the film is, taken independently from the book, really rather fun is neither here nor there; for many reviewers, it was going to be a disaster.

It’s daft considering there are so many troubled productions that churned out classics. The Wizard of Oz, Jaws, Star Wars, Apocalypse Now, Blade Runner and even Gremlins were plagued by problems on the way to the big screen, but are all wonderful films.

World War H exploded just as Man of Steel arrived on our shores as well. And that's where the other H comes into play - hype.

I've ranted about this before (see The Best Blog Post EVER) but we've reached a point where critical reaction among the online reviewing community seems to go one of two extremes: love or hate. With marketing an increasingly big part of the film industry – reviews have become promotional material, while many sites talk about posters/trailers as much as the actual films - the campaign of hype shapes those preformed expectations more than ever. If a film lives up to them, it's the greatest movie of the year. If it doesn't, it's the worst. Hype breeds hate. (It's interesting to compare it to Pacific Rim; with no major marketing push yet and no reviews out, there's no critical narrative to shape anticipation.)

The truth is that there are a lot of films out every month that are just fine. Not bad, not amazing, but decent. But who wants to read a measured evaluation of a three-star film instead of a poster-quote-grabbing five-star gush – or a scathing one-star bitch?

Man of Steel (in an echo of last year’s Prometheus debacle) suffered from overly high expectations - two trailers designed to attract different people didn't help; first, the art house crowd then later, the blockbuster fans - but both After Earth and World War Z suffered from the opposite: negative buzz. Two of the trio were good, not great, with excellent potential for sequels. All three were hated on by haters – or, if not, saw reviewers “surprised” by them not being total pants.

That's another thing. I don’t understand how people can hate a movie. A rapist, yes. A dictator, absolutely. Hay fever, sure. But something that people have invested their time and money in to create? The only kind of film I can hate are ones that are hateful themselves, such as The Hangover Part II. (The Hangover Part III, on the other hand, I went into with an open mind - and found it mediocre, but not unforgivably crap and certainly not detestable.)

It comes in all forms. For example, it’s become a growing trend now to laugh at films that flop. Danny Dyer’s Run for Your Wife was openly kicked by national press and blogs alike when it didn’t do very well at the box office – and to what end? I have trouble taking a single negative comment on any article that gets printed, let alone a major drubbing of something I've created after a couple of years’ work.

Being mean just for the sake of it – or because you may (unintentionally or not) have already decided to be – helps no one.

The box office success of Man of Steel and World War Z suggests that audiences are swayed more by the marketing than the rushed online verdicts of quality – or, perhaps, that they're content to keep an open mind and make up their own opinions regardless.

If World War Z does get a sequel, here’s hoping reviewers are prepared to do the same. Because hating? Yeah, it's not all that.