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Should Movies be Taken on Their Own Terms?

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Here’s an excerpt from Leonard Maltin’s blog review of the new Conan the Barbarian:

I try to take each movie I see on its own terms; this isn’t my favorite kind of entertainment, and some of its violence is extreme, but on the whole Conan the Barbarian is pretty good, for what it is. (Source.)

This is a common sentiment. But does it makes sense? Should a movie be taken on its own terms? What exactly does that mean?

Let’s take this sentiment to its extreme application. You probably already know what I am thinking: should Hitler have been taken on his own terms? If Germany had won the war, and the Third Reich was still going strong, would that have made Hitler right. On his own terms, it would have.

Why should a movie be any different? Why should the movie dictate the terms by which it is judged? If every move sought nothing more than to make a five year old laugh, must we say, “Judged on its own terms, which I must do to be fair to the movie, it is a roaring success.” Case closed. This means we are doomed because nowadays nothing a critic says matters all that much in any case. It’s irrelevant if a critic has a means of judging a film’s quality independent of the movie’s own terms, because the real judge of a movie’s value nowadays is, of course, its box office. If a lot of people pay to see a movie, it must be good, right?


Written by David Kilmer

August 19, 2011 at 7:30 am

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