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It’s pretty common for readers to write reviews that get basic facts wrong.

It’s not surprising. If the reader doesn’t like the book, isn’t engaged with the characters or the plot, they start to skim. Skimming means they miss character motivations or plot details. Missing those details means the reader thinks the story is full of flaws, and lowers their interest further.

As an example, I read a review of Peter V. Brett’s The Warded Man that one of the main characters inexplicably became a great fighter even though he spent all his time studying in a library. The only problem with that assessment? The text explicitly states that he spent hours every day learning to fight. It’s right there in the book, but a skimming reader missed it, so it might as well not be.

Anyway, this is why I stop reading books when I find myself skimming.

Which brings me to the Daily Dot’s review of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. You can mouse over that link to see their opinion, and I don’t have a problem with people not liking the movie. No piece of entertainment is going to appeal to everyone; it would be ridiculous to expect otherwise.

But when I read a review of a movie I have already seen, I want to see that the critic actually watched the movie.

[Minor spoilers]

Also, in this case, it pens in Miller’s capacity to establish the stakes of this world. For example, does Max have an opinion about being strapped to a car and driven into a war-zone? How unusual is this in the context of a wholly alien world? I do know it’s less unusual to be a bleeding hood ornament on the Fury Road than it is in our world (because Max isn’t crying and/or screaming about it as you would expect any normal person to do… also the massive blood loss he’s experienced doesn’t ever really seem to affect him), but I don’t know how different this is from day-to-day life in this hellscape, because no one gets to tell me; I also know that I don’t really see anyone else in that situation over the course of the film. I could really use Max’s voice to answer a whole bunch of questions…

Heh. Oh man. This quote.

… does Max have an opinion about being strapped to a car and driven into a war-zone? Well, yeah. Hardy’s performance makes that opinion clear, even if he’s no “using his words.”

How unusual is this in the context of a wholly alien world? Nux is the character who presents the idea to his buddy Slit, and it’s absolutely clear from Slit’s reaction how unusual it is.

And I notice comments like this: because no one gets to tell me and I could really use Max’s voice to answer a whole bunch of questions and I realized that this reviewer doesn’t understand the plot of a movie unless it’s explained to him in dialog.

Except when it is: Why did Furiosa pick this moment to free the five wives? Furiosa explains this in the movie. She explicitly says it.

I read slightly farther into the review, stopping at the point where the reviewer thought it was “understandable” that women held captive by a warlord would want to escape, but gosh, shouldn’t there be more intention in the characters as they make these choices? Which is were it gets obnoxious and dumb.

The truth is, not everyone is a good reader/watcher/whatever for commercial art, and many become notably worse when they are presented with something they don’t like. But it seems to me that, if you’re going to slam something, you ought to make an effort to slam it accurately.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 18th, 2015 06:07 pm (UTC)
Great analysis of this review/er. I left the theater after seeing the movie thinking it was clearly the best of the Mad Max movies, because the stakes were so clear and so broadly beyond Max himself, and that the worldbuilding was thoughtful, coherent, and clever.

I actually singled out the blood-bag thing that the reviewer called out as particularly confusing for being an awesome example of efficient narrative. We don't know exactly what is wrong with Nux, but without a bunch of tiresome "As you know, Bob," shit, we get a crystal clear explanation, and we fill in ourselves that the War Boys have some kind of bizarre anemia.

I guess mileage does vary, but your point that an engaged reviewer makes a huge difference is spot on.
May. 18th, 2015 10:34 pm (UTC)
The world was established so beautifully, from the casual shots of the vegetables at the start to the shrine of steering wheels. Great filmmaking.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )