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January 11 2006

The 7th Annual Golden Tomato Awards! Last year Serenity got an Tomatometer rating of 80%. So how did it fare against every other film?

So without further ado.

In the Best Reviewed Film of 2005 in Wide Release category, Serenity came 13th (hmmmm there's that number again, it's like Lost).

In the Best Reviewed Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films of 2005 category, Serenity came 3rd.

And in the Complete Best to Worst Film Listing for 2005 category (which includes films in wide and limited release), Serenity came 42nd (ah forget Lost, we're moving in Hitchhiker's territory now).

Probably been pondered a million times before but I really don't understand why RotS rates so highly. Especially in this across-all-critics round up. Did they feel obliged after panning his last two? Were they bought? Or has my perspective been distorted by the quality of standard Whedonverse writing?
I think the reason RotS rates so highly is mostly because there was a huge sense of relief that the movie didn't suck as much as was feared. I myself enjoyed it quite a bit, even though there's still very obvious (and pretty big) problems with acting and script. But when compared to the previous two efforts, it stands out as better. To me there's no question that RotS is the best of the prequels.

Couple this to the inclusion of some things everyone's inner Star Wars-fan (and most people still have that residual love for the original trilogy) wanted to see and there was a wave of initial enthusiasm. This seems to get tempered as time moves along, though. I've seen DVD reviews which rate the movie slightly lower than the original theatrical reviews that seem to prove that.

What I find more surprising in these results is that Serenity actually rates higher than Sin City and Crash, which were both considered obvious critical darlings and ended up in the end-of-year lists of many critics. Which makes it extra strange that we didn't see Serenity pop up in many of those.

Also weird is Serenity rating lower than Red Eye, which was admittedly fun but had a weak ending. I had the feeling the movie wasn't reviewed very well across the board, but apareantly I was mistaken.

I'm also wondering what constitutes a 'wide release'. Some of the movies missing in the first list seemed/felt like major releases to me (March of the Penguins, Brokeback Mountain or Pride and Prejudice - to name three that got more press than Serenity did), but I may just be wrong there, I guess.
They define wide-release on the first page.
GVH, I think your assessment of the reviews of RotS is right on. I myself was at first very impressed because "it didn't suck", only to then see Serenity and realize, through that scope, that RotS kinda did suck. I remember walking out of my first screening and talking to my friends about just that, particularly in terms of the dialogue.

What I wanna know is why Aeon Flux is listed in the action/adventure category (as well as scifi/fantasy) but Serenity isn't. It would have been 3rd there, behind Batman and King Kong.
I've said elsewhere, that I'd compare the critical success of RotS to what happens before political debates where the debating skills of presidential candidates are downplayed so that their spinners can then claim a great victory that their gate didn't, say, curse or soil him or herself.

It works even better if the candidate has proven himself to actually be a weak debater. Twice.

I also think that there was a groundswell of sentimental feeling that the this trilogy not be a total loss and people sort of willed the movie to be better than (IMO, of course) it actually is. To me, it's at best a 5 on a scale of 10.
Yeah, interesting that Aeon Flux is listed on both Action/Adventure and Sci-Fi/Fantasy, since it specifically mentions on the front page "Each movie is eligible in only one genre." Otherwise we'd rock the Action/Adventure category, too!
I consider myself lucky as I saw RotS the night before I saw "Serenity" at the May 26th screening, so I was able to enjoy it on a limited basis, although I still found myself saying "Joss would have done this - or not done that" at various intervals throughout the movie. I loved the original trilogy so much that I was able to enjoy "Phantom Menace" when I saw it in theatres, but I have been very disappointed in the last two. Once you have seen what an excellent writer/director (namely Joss) can do with the genre - ie actual story and characterization - it's hard to settle for anything less.
...or maybe they just liked Episode III.

And call me crazy, but other movies do not impact me like that. When I saw Blade Runner I didn't hate Star Wars. Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan didn't make me feel like chucking 2001: A Space Odyssey out the window. In the same vein, Serenity didn't really impact my view of Star Wars because they're different movies.

Did I like Serenity more? Yeah. But I don't think it was so incredibly better than Ep. III that you'd have to be blind not to see it.

[ edited by The Dark Shape on 2006-01-11 20:49 ]
Like samatwitch, I first saw Serenity on May 26th, mere days after seeing RotS, hence the comparisons. In my case, it was the dialogue that stood in stark contrast. After Serenity, I remember before even making it to the car, I was saying to my friends that after cringing at so many lines in RotS, it was great to see a movie where every line of dialogue was solid, and the ones that stood out made you cheer, not cringe.

So I didn't revisit my entire scifi history after Serenity, but having seen RotS and Serenity in the same week, I definitely found the latter affected my view of the former.
I saw Serenity two weeks before Sith's release and a week after, and neither impacted the other. Serenity does some things better than Sith, and Sith does some things better than Serenity. At least I liked both films. I'd rather like something than dislike it (which still hasn't helped Return of the Jedi...).
Am I the only one that finds Rotten Tomatoes up or down, fresh or rotten, classification of movies overly simplistic? It's a useful site if you're looking to find links to individual movie reviews, but the "tomato meter" drives me crazy because reviewers can only classify a movie as good or bad.

Give them a 1 to 10 scale and several of these top movies would disappear from the list, leaving room for more deserving films. I can’t count how many times I’ve read a negative review classified as “fresh” or a positive review classified as “rotten.”

[ edited by Shakespeare on 2006-01-11 22:19 ]
They do have a 10-scale. Look at the average rating.
Shakespeare, I agree, which is why I prefer Metacritic, which relegates movies to one of five specific categories - and three general groups. It forces them to work a bit harder than "rotten" or "fresh" - which as you say is often misleading.
I'm another person who couldn't understand the RotS great reviews. But since I waited two or three weeks before it came out to see it, and had read all the great reviews, I went in with really high expectations. Needless to say, the movie didn't live up to them. It was better than the first two, but not by a lot, and I had numerous problems with it. It wasn't even close to Serenity, in my opinion (as many of the Serenity reviews noted). But then again, Serenity also isn't the iconic cultural touchstone that Starwars is, which might explain its lower tomatometer score, and certainly explains its relative boxoffice performance.
I don't think Serenity made people dislike RotS. It just pointed up some of the things that people already had problems with.

The original Star Wars did not make me think less of 2001: ASO but it confirmed what I already knew, that as great a step forward in Science Fiction movies as 2001: ASO was, its human factor was lacking. I think that is why so many people campared the RotS and Serenity. RotS was lacking many things which was a frustration to many people who really wanted it to be good and did not feel it really was...it just wasn't as bad as the previous two. Serenity made some people say, "That's what I wanted more of in RotS."

...and I saw Serenity a month after RotS. I did not think RotS was very good long before I saw Serenity.
I saw RotS months before I saw Serenity, and I thought RotS sucked without the benefit of any comparison. There were so many ways that the story in RotS could have been made interesting, and none of them were used. RotS felt to me like a long, weary trudge towards a destined end, looking neither right nor left, all creative spark exhausted. Lucas' particular talent is for visuals, not plot or (heaven help us) dialogue, but even the visuals weren't particularly fresh in RotS. And then, of course, there was the misogyny ... it was a sorry end to a lively first trilogy. I was sad that Lucas had lost so much of his early fire.

I think RotS was a sentimental favourite for all of us who used to love Star Wars, as several people here have already said. But Serenity was so very clearly the better film that I'm still really surprised that even given the 'sentiment' advantage, RotS could have scored better overall.
Ibowman said:
And then, of course, there was the misogyny ...

Woah, woah, back up. The misogyny? In Revenge of the Sith?
They do have a 10-scale. Look at the average rating.


They do have a scale, but they rate/recommend movies based on the "tomato meter" and not the scale (which most people don't even notice...my uninformed self included). So, a movie like RotS shows up with an 83% fresh rating when it only scores 7.3 with critics. The same could be said of Serenity, 80% versus 7.1.
You're right, Shakespeare, and that's why I prefer MetaCritic in the end. Still, since the critics themselves dictate whether their rating is fresh or rotten -- and choose the indicated quote themselves so that people will get a quick impression of the film -- I think it's a fair system.

I think there's inherit bias going into both movies (ROTS and Serenity). With Sith, so many people either a) loves the originals so much their expectations were incredibly high, or b) want George Lucas' head on a swivel (with no exaggeration), that it weighed in the ratings. Serenity, on the opposite side of the coin, had the disadvantage of being based on a canceled television series, which more than one negative review brought up.

In my mind, if Serenity was the exact same feature, but released with nobody having any knowledge of Firefly, it would've scored better with critics. On the other hand, I think if Revenge of the Sith had been released before A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, it would've pleased the general fanbase more.

Still, their respective IMDb (ROTS' 8.0/Serenity's 8.1), Yahoo! Movies (ROTS and Serenity: B+), etc. scores prove that most people who walked into both films liked them.
(I can't believe I'm commenting on Revenge of the Sith again, and I promise this'll be the last time . . .)

[T]heir respective IMDb (ROTS' 8.0/Serenity's 8.1), Yahoo! Movies (ROTS and Serenity: B+), etc. scores prove that most people who walked into both films liked them


That's right. The only part I can't understand is why. I promise I didn't go to see ROTS with schadenfreude in my heart, hoping it would be terrible. I really really wanted it to be good. It really really wasn't. Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson et al. have all proved they can be terrific actors, but they were so starved for decent material that I was left utterly unmoved by their plights. Utterly.

And the proof that I care is that I just can't stop writing about it. I so wanted it to be a fitting end to the series.
The only part I can't understand is why.

You just didn't like it. Different strokes for different folks. I thought Hayden Christensen did fine as Anakin -- certainly as well as Mark Hamill did by the end of his run. And Ewan McGregor was the heart of the films for me. The true testament to him is that when I think of Obi-Wan Kenobi, I don't think of Alec Guinness.

I so wanted it to be a fitting end to the series.

Did you like Return of the Jedi?

My problem is I'm a staunch supporter of watching the films I - VI, but Jedi's the weakest of the lot for me. It doesn't come alive until Luke confronts Darth Sidious.

[ edited by The Dark Shape on 2006-01-12 04:17 ]
TDS, I mostly agree with you about Return of the Jedi. It had some good moments, but was flaccid overall. And the ending in retrospect was an incredibly disappointing retread of Star Wars (Episode IV), even though I found it fun as the 13 year old I was at the time. Still, The Phantom Menace and the Clone moive were infinitely worse to my mind - confusing, dull, lifeless things. ("Bilbo: What about the Ewoks? They were rubbish!
Tim: Yeah, but Jar Jar makes the Ewoks look like fucking Shaft!" - Spaced).

ROTS picked up the pace somewhat compared to those.
I wasn't super crazy about Return of the Jedi, but I found myself feeling really sad sitting through the prequels. The reviews of RotS were pretty good, so I, and all my friends, were really hoping to enjoy it. Speaking for myself, I did not go in to it with extremely high expectations. I don't think my friends did either. I just wanted to enjoy myself. Instead, as I have said before, I found the image of a clipboard coming to mind throughout the movie and a check mark being made next to each thing on the long list of items that had to be tied up or explained by the end of the movie. By the end, the clip board was just sitting there in front of me as things were checked off at a greater and greater speed.

My 9 year old enjoyed it. For all the adults, afterwards it was like we were at a wake of someone we had been very fond of but who had been ill for a long time and was now gone. He had tried to go out in style, but did not really manage it.

For me, Obi Wan will always be Alec Guiness. With that in mind, it also bothered me how old everybody got in 17 or 18 years between RotS and A New Hope. I mean c'mon.
KeithG said:

Woah, woah, back up. The misogyny? In Revenge of the Sith?


I'm not saying there was an active attempt to degrade women or portray them in a negative light (any more than there is in any Hollywood movie, say). But I had a huge problem with the dress-up Barbie-doll with brain, spine and guts removed that was the only female speaking part in the film. (And the lines consisted largely of "oh, Ani..."). this is a 12-year-old boy's fantasy about a perfect blowup doll, not a woman. Lucas did much better in the old days; Princess Leia wasn't perfect but she did have brains, guts, and spine. And, like so much else in the film, Lucas could have done so VERY much better, simply by, you know, observing the women around him for perhaps 5 minutes as he was writing the script.
To lamely respond to myself: compare the representation of women in the one female role in RotS with the treatment of women in anything every written by Joss and you'll see what I mean by 'misogyny'. Not intentional; but thoughtlessness is every bit as bad.
I have this pet belief that 95% of the time that someone accuses a creator of misogyny or racism, the real culprit is bad writing/dull or sloppy characterization.

With the exception of Yoda, just about all the characters in RotS are nothing more than stereotypes, regardless of gender.
Err... what are Anakin and Obi-Wan sterotypes of?
bobster said:

I have this pet belief that 95% of the time that someone accuses a creator of misogyny or racism, the real culprit is bad writing/dull or sloppy characterization.


I would be the last person to argue that Lucas was not guilty of bad writing, dullness or sloppy characterization throughout the entire 2nd trilogy. But the particular stereotype reiterated by his lame, sloppy, badly written single female character - and the mere fact that there IS only one female speaking part in RotS - reinscribes negative conventions re: women to a degree marked even in a Hollywood movie. It would have been possible to have a dull, badly-written, stereotypical female hero with, you know, brains, guts, spine. That's not what we got, though.
The film is misogyst in nature because there aren't enough female parts? What?

Padmé's role was much larger, but cut out due to the fact she was hard-headed and ready to fight... but in the senate. She was one of the creators of the Rebellion, for crying out loud. But those scenes were cut, and for good reason: they would've slowed an already wordy second act down to all hell.

And I don't know about you, but I don't think there's a place in the storyline for Padmé to fight on Utapau or take up a lightsaber on Mustafar.

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