We’re doing two weeks worth of this segment this week, because I was unable to write the one for last week. The purpose of Kaitlyn vs Critics is to look at the numbers that movies get on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic and compare them to my own scores here on Bleeding Cool. And to look at the similarities, the differences and the reasons for those differences. As always, the purpose of this is less to call out specific critics, but more to look at the numbers and the trends behind them. The industry places a huge amount of importance on those numbers, so let’s take a look at them for the four movies in the last two weeks; Fifty Shades Darker, John Wick: Chapter 2, The LEGO Batman Movie, and The Great Wall.
Fifty Shades Darker
Rotten Tomatoes: 9%
The Fifty Shades series is quickly looking to take Twilight’s honor of being “the worst reviewed franchise”. There was a consensus here that these movies are the absolute worst, and it is one I cannot disagree with. The consensus on Rotten Tomatoes pretty much hits the nail on the head but much kinder than I put it; “Lacking enough chemistry, heat, or narrative friction to satisfy, the limp Fifty Shades Darker wants to be kinky but only serves as its own form of punishment.” However, as someone who strongly believes in agency and healthy relationship dynamics, not only in real life but also in my media, I tend to come down harder on this series than most people. Fifty Shades Darker not only glorifies a stalker and a rapist but also tries to pass off actual physical abuse as romance. The idea that there are people who think this is how the BDSM community actually works is horrible.
There is a rather large difference between Rotten Tomatoes and me compared to Metacritic which shows just how unreliable these numbers really are. The only joy I get out of these movies is the series of comedic lists I do with my fellow critic at WatchPlayRead, Kyle Steenblik; Fifty Things To Do Instead Of Seeing Fifty Shades Of Grey and Fifty More Things To Do Instead Of Seeing Fifty Shades Darker. That and reading all of the “spanking” and “submitting” puns the media came up with after it came in second place to The LEGO Batman Movie opening weekend is the only joy to come out of this series.
The LEGO Batman Movie
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
There were a lot of people surprised by how good The LEGO Movie was, and when they announced the spin-off starring just Batman there was trepidation that the series was going to become just another terrible animated kids series out to sell toys. The LEGO movies are out to sell toys but everyone seems to agree that they have a sense of heart. The consensus this time is also very similar to my own; “The Lego Batman Movie continues its block-buster franchise’s winning streak with another round of dizzyingly funny — and beautifully animated — family-friendly mayhem.” The pattern that Metacritic appears to have had this week was that is was much more generous to the bad movie and came down a lot harder on the good ones.
The LEGO Batman Movie was a movie that I personally loved even more because of the details. While it is funny and the animation is beautiful, the sheer amount of Easter Eggs delighted me more than perhaps the average critic. As someone who has a lot of love for this genre it is very obvious when the filmmakers share my enthusiasm (Deadpool is another fine example of this) and I tend to love it even more.
John Wick: Chapter 2
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Perhaps I was a bit too generous to John Wick: Chapter 2 with the benefit of hindsight but I stand by the score that I gave the movie. The first John Wick movie sort of took the world by surprise since no one saw it coming. However, now there is precedent and the sequel rises to the task of besting the first by doing everything that a sequel should do. The critical consensus of“John Wick: Chapter 2 does what a sequel should — which in this case means doubling down on the non-stop, thrillingly choreographed action that made its predecessor so much fun” is extremely accurate. However, what elevated the movie was something that some critics don’t take into account; worldbuilding. While there are plenty of critics that did mention the worldbuilding in this series, worldbuilding is something I love more than most.
As a person who can get hyperfocused on details I appreciate when a movie takes time to craft the details of its world. John Wick: Chapter 2 does exactly that when it didn’t need to. This is a movie that could have relied on the excellent action scenes and the charisma of its lead actor, but the creative team behind this movie took the time to intricately build their world. That kind of attention to detail is something that should elevate any form of media, because it shows they not only take pride in their work, but also respect their audience.
The Great Wall
Rotten Tomatoes: 36%
The pattern of Metacritic being more generous to the bad movies holds true again this week, though the difference in the numbers is not nearly as extreme. There are a lot of things that went wrong with The Great Wall but the main problem that a lot of critics agree on is the weird tone. The consensus of “For a Yimou Zhang film featuring Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe battling ancient monsters, The Great Wall is neither as exciting nor as entertainingly bonkers as one might hope” is accurate. This a movie that could have been saved if it tried a little harder since all of the pieces were there, but they just didn’t fit. This is a movie that could have been a ton of fun for all of the same reasons that John Wick: Chapter 2 is a ton of fun, but what John Wick has The Great Wall lacks; attention to detail, or they have attention to detail but they only told WETA to do that to the armor and nothing else.
This is a movie that could have built an interesting world that straddled the line of reality and legend, but instead it doesn’t take the time. It feels very lazy in a way that many critics appear to agree with. This is a creative team that thought if you throw enough fighting and monsters at a movie it will come together. They didn’t take the time to build their world and the movie suffers for it.
Thus far this year has offered very little in the way of surprises aside from the divisive opinion about Split. The movies that people expect to be good have been good, the bad have been bad, but this is an odd time of year. In the coming weeks the spring season will hit, and some major blockbusters will come with it that need to succeed to justify their massive budgets. Whether or not any of them is worth our time or money remains to be seen.