The Green Knight was one of the most anticipated movies of the summer for many. A medieval fantasy adaptation with a dark twist of one of the most loved Arthurian legends sounds like a lot of fun. Especially since good fantasy epics can be hard to come by. The fact that it was under the A24 banner only served to excite film fans even more.
When the early reviews of the film were released, it further stoked anticipation. The movie was lauded for its stunning visuals and deep story. It seemed like this strange summer movie season was also going to include an exciting good old-fashioned story of knights and chivalry.
Then the audience reviews came in. Moviegoers were nowhere near as enamored with The Green Knight as critics were. The story was called pretentious and boring. The ending was seen as nonsensical. The entire thing seen as underwhelming, artsy, and a lie. (The film’s look was universally praised, however.)
So, why is their such a huge divide between critics and audiences? This is commonly seen in gaming, but that community is much more toxic. Film fans can be obnoxious and there can be a high barrier of entry, but there is usually not the same disparity between those who review movies and those who watch them. What makes The Green Knight different?
One possibility is that A24 gets cut a lot of slack. Due to their impressive resume, some critics will see the logo and immediately make a decision. These reviews are easy to find. They usually praise a movie for “A24’s signature look” or talk about how it will be “another worthy addition to A24’s impressive library”. It would not be a stretch to say The Green Knight was judged less on its own merits and more on the studio that released it.
Audiences could care less about this sort of thing. When I go to see a movie, who releases it catches my eye the same as the director, writer, or actor would. It is definitely a draw, but it has no bearing on my final opinion. Like most other members of the audience, I just want to be entertained. That means different things to different people, but who released a film never factors into it.
Critics also spend more time trying to find the deeper meaning of a movie. The Green Knight has been said to deal with mortality while deconstructing tales of chivalry. While the movie does deal with impending death and it does look at a familiar story in a different light, this does not mean audiences will immediately be on board.
The story is a little too abstract, never really focusing on Gawain’s feelings of his upcoming challenge beyond some throwaway lines. It is clear he is not the normal hero of these types of legends, but there is not much depth. The Green Knight does not compel the audience to think more about the story. And if you are not writing a review about it, then why would you force yourself to spend more time examining its plot?
In the end, films like The Green Knight hurt all movies. When there is this kind of division, two camps ending up forming. There are those who will defend the movie by saying it is not mainstream Hollywood and those who like it do not understand is complexities. On the other side will be people who decry it as just another arthouse movie that people say they like because it is different.. Unlike polarizing movies like Mulholland Drive that encourage discussion, The Green Knight demands people pick a side.
And if you cannot have a fun talk about movies, then what is the point in watching them?
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