9.24.2004

Vera Nazarian on types of online Criticism (or ranting)

Vera Nazarian has has some interesting commentary over at Anna Tambour's on the ethics of criticism and on how different moods can change what a reader or viewer wants. I tried to codify why we want what we want earlier and hope to codify more thoroughly and specifically tonight or tomorrow.

Sometimes all we do want is guilty pleasure--it's true. But I will contend with this statement briefly since it indicates a degree of relativity that I do not subscribe to:

I have not seen the latest popular hate object of the erudite online critics, "Van Helsing," but I bet I’d enjoy it. So what?
Stories have to do what they are aiming to do well. That means a consistency of artistic purpose (even if that artistic purpose is lowbrow entertainment). My brother and I enjoyed a horribly acted, cardboard-characterized, straight-to-DVD movie called Epoch simply because it had some fascinating sense of wonder pulled by an interesting plot. My bro rented the second in the series and told me not to bother. It didn't have anything worth watching. I trust his judgement. Why should I? Bro watches mostly for entertainment and emotional involvement. He does not have the vocabulary to critique a movie and, like the rest of my family, couldn't give two farts about what the critics think, yet he still sensed a bad movie. How did he know it was bad? Because he's watched and read enough stories to sense a good one from a bad. Criteria do exist for critiquing every sort of story there is. There's a reason why, which as I mentioned above, I'll go into later.

Van Helsing is enjoyable in a brainless sort of way, but it fails in character consistency. Lucius Shepard captures much of my sentiment except with more vigor than I might have stated it. Compare this to the Frankenstein Legacy collection, which apparently inspired Van Helsing's director Stephen Sommers and which I, too, was much taken by as a whole. The wonderful humor of, say, Bela Lugosi's character, Igor, springs out of Igor--not injected into his mouth by the narrator. If you don't mind the spell of transport being subconsciously broken by auctorial interjections, by all means go forth and enjoy Van Helsing. Since I plan to review this in full for SF Site, I'll save much of my argument for that time. But to encapsulate the pivotal problem with fully enjoying Van Helsing even guiltily is that the characters are inconsistent.

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