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HOLLYWOOD HINDSIGHT: Criticising Movies Based On Their Era

July 27th, 2014 by Ciaran McNulty Comments


With reboots and remakes a constant presence in our cinemas these days, a new sort of critic has been born. Usually of the Millennial generation, this acerbic young cinema-assassin has seen his generation’s James Bond in the form of Daniel Craig and the modern version of Jim Kirk, whose gold Star Fleet tunic fits a little more easily over the physique of Chris Pine, and he likes them.

In fact, as far as our new-age mouthy movie detractor is concerned, these are the only worthwhile versions of the characters and any earlier attempt at realising them on screen was folly. Idiots in the 1960s – what did they know? Movies didn’t even have parkour back then.

This new form of critique is what I like to call ‘Hindsight Film Criticism’ – picking something apart (usually in a mocking way), with its reboot held up as the example of how to do it right.

Listening to people take cheap shots at 1989’s Batman is somewhat infuriating – especially for a child of the early 90s. Laughing at a film that really couldn’t have been done any more straight-faced or darker in the cinematic climate of 1989, means that you don’t appreciate how lucky directors are today, to be able to go as far as they do.

It’s sad that people watch a couple of well-executed Chris Nolan movies and suddenly see themselves as qualified to crap all over something ground-breaking, simply because it had the misfortune of being made over two decades ago, when the world of movies, and what could be put on screen, was very different.

Unfortunately, these people should remember that, without Burton’s Batman, you don’t get Schumacher’s Batman. And without Schumacher’s Batman, I’m sorry, but you wouldn’t have gotten Nolan’s version, which was as much a reaction (perhaps even cynically so) to the nipple-clad theatrics of the 90s, as it was a welcome fresh-start.

Movies can only be taken in the context of the time in which they were made. Oh, whilst watching an animated Superman or Bugs Bunny pulverise offensive Japanese stereotypes from World War II, we can understandably sit back with arms folded and acknowledge how that was misguided and wrong. But this after-the-fact criticism of material can’t be all-encompassing.

Our new friend, the Hindsight Film Critic, shouldn’t laugh at the flying effects of Kirk Allen or George Reeves. Instead, he should ask himself, with the means they had back then and in the world in which they used them, could Nolan or Whedon have done any better?

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Ciaran is a stand-up comedian, improviser and occasional actor. Growing up in a household where he enjoyed westerns and kung-fu flicks alike, due to the influences of various family members, he quickly came to fall in love with science fiction before (not so quickly) developing a taste for horror too. Since then, he’s eagerly enjoyed almost anything with a spaceship or gothic castle in it (even when it’s sometimes embarrassing to admit as much). Later, he found he rather liked talking about these weird obsessions… public.

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