Tran$former$ and Critic$ | Buzz Blog
DONATE
Support the Free Press.
Facts matter. Truth matters. Journalism matters.
Salt Lake City Weekly has been Utah's source of independent news and in-depth journalism since 1984.
Donate today to ensure the legacy continues.

Tran$former$ and Critic$

by

comment

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen made a kazillion dollars in its first five days. Critics, on the whole, hated it. And therefore it's time to drag out one of the entertainment industry's favorite dust-it-off-and-give-it-a-new-coat-of-paint recurring story topics: Do critics matter any more? (This is just one example).

And once again, it all depends on how you define your terms. Occasionally, critical support can nudge potential viewers toward something they might otherwise have missed; occasionally, critics' indifference can keep a few people away. But when this has ever been true at all, it has been true of a very specific category of film: Those intended for adults. No chorus of critical disapproval was ever going to have any impact on the box-office take for Transformers, any more than it did for high-profile and critically-dismissed sequels to Star Wars, The Matrix, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. etc. Nobody is going to tell a chronological (or emotional) 15-year-old what to feel about a big dumb action movie.

We in the critic-ing field, however -- those few of us who remain employed, anyway -- have fallen into the role set for us by the studios: That we're just part of the promotional apparatus. If pop-culture criticism is going to "matter" in any way, it's not going to be about how many additional tickets we can help a movie sell, or how many we can prevent from being sold. It's in helping to provide a context for what movies, books, music and television shows tell us about ourselves, or about the artists who create them. Transformers' multi-kazillion-dollar haul proves exactly one thing: that a whole bunch of people wanted to see it. We can either stamp our feet and pout that no one listened to us, or figure out if we're saying the right things to the right audience.