A few weekends ago, I saw Mad Max: Fury Road. I sent this tweet right afterwards:
— Mark Lieberman (@MarkALieberman) May 24, 2015
My usual post-moviegoing ritual is to sit down at my computer and start typing a review for this blog. But after seeing Mad Max: Fury Road, the prospect of writing a review felt unusually foreboding.
Perhaps it’s because I haven’t seen the previous Mad Max series, which would probably give me a deeper understanding of what’s at work in Fury Road. Perhaps it’s because I’d already seen so much other writing about the film that I wasn’t sure I had anything to add to the conversation. Or perhaps it’s simply because I enjoyed the movie immensely but felt compelled to simply recall the experience rather than document it.
Regardless, I didn’t write a review of Mad Max: Fury Road. And I’m happy I didn’t. Anyone who wants to know my most basic opinion of the film need only ask. (I liked it.) Anyone who wants a more sophisticated analysis of the film’s sexual politics or the characterization of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) or the logistics of director George Miller and his team’s practical effects or the amusing marginalization of lead actor Tom Hardy or THAT DUDE WHOSE GUITAR SHOT FLAMES need only take to the Internet outside of this blog.
Part of me feels lazy for taking a pass, especially on a movie I like so much. But the other part of me thinks that part is annoying. I’m not contractually or professionally obligated to write anything on this blog. Choosing to see a movie and write no words about it doesn’t make me stupid – it makes me like most American moviegoers. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
I’ll always contend the experience of watching a film as a critic is hardly different from the experience of watching as a moviegoer. Critics are moviegoers. The act of criticism comes after the act of watching and (sometimes) enjoying. And sometimes the act of criticism won’t add enough value to the act of watching to make it worthwhile. That’s not an attractive impulse, especially for someone who aspires to maybe someday do this for a living (assuming that’s something people do in an era of downsizing in the film criticism industry). But it’s a necessary one.
Critics are meant to take the art we experience as leisure and give us a sense of what it might mean, or why it makes us feel the way it does. No critic sets out to tell you you’re wrong or to take a pleasurable experience and make it unpleasant. But obligating a critic to say something about everything only increases the likelihood that that critic will say something stupid, redundant or unnecessary.
We can get into whether or not I or anyone else who writes about pop culture on a personal blog is a critic. But for now, suffice it to say that sometimes having nothing to say about a movie is as much praise as a 1000-word essay would be. In this case, my experience with Mad Max: Fury Road (and with other things I choose not to write about for whatever reason) didn’t lend itself to written analysis. But it was an experience I’m glad I had. Now you know. Now go read some great criticism of the movie – or just go see it. No one’s judging either way.