Should You Watch Bad Movies To The End?

Being a film critic sounds like the perfect job. They get paid to sit and watch movies all day and then write about said movies. They get the chance to mull with and interview stars at festivals. They get early access to all the big movies. And did I mention they get to sit around watching and writing about movies all day?

Yes, it sounds wonderful. But as with any profession, there are, in fact, a few drawbacks that are easy to ignore. As great as it sounds to be paid to go to a film festival and see everything, you have to go to a festival and see everything. That means everything from the brilliant new Scorsese movie to some indulgent, experimental piece of tosh that’s 5 hours long (not to mention somehow crank out several reviews each day). See, it’s an unwritten rule in craft that it’s the responsibility of a critic to sit through the rubbish as well as the good stuff, because that’s part of the deal. It’s not just a case of recommending great films to Joe Public; it’s also about admonishing them from sitting through a turkey. They have to take the figurative bullet.

If there’s one thing us non-professional critics can be thankful for, it’s that we don’t have that responsibility on our plates. We may be stuck in the Rat Race, shuffling back and forth between jobs we hate every day, but at least we don’t have to make it to the end of the new Smurfs movie. But that then begs a question for us muggles: should we still be watching bad movies to the end even if we don’t have to? Is it wrong to leave a film half-way through, no matter how terrible, or is it even worse to continue watching something as insultingly bad as Suicide Squad when it can barely even be defined as a ‘film’? That particular DC offering was so carelessly thrown together that I actually did feel a bit guilty staying to the end, as it somehow felt like a validation of its existence.

Suicide Squad, DC, movie, film, Batman, Joker, Jared Leto

There is the fact that some people will want to get the most out of their money if they’ve paid for a ticket, but what really throws up the uncertainty here is that endings are arguably the most important part of movies, for good or bad. A weak movie with a great ending generally leaves people feeling positive, while a great movie with a weak ending will do the opposite. Take Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. For my money this story about a group of astronauts on a world-saving mission to reignite the sun is the accomplished director’s best film (though I’m not a huge fan in the first place, but that’s another story). Unfortunately the final 10 minutes hinder it from being a masterpiece, when out of nowhere it incongruously devolves into a slasher movie, seemingly in an attempt to clean up a few straggling characters. I don’t think too much less of the film because of it, but for years it’s been the perfect example of a film that I certainly would have been raving about if not for that stumble at the last hurdle.

To take an opposing example, look at Frank Darabont’s The Mist. This is a film which has torn audiences for various reasons (often it’s the dodgy CGI – if that’s the case I’d recommend watching the kinder black and white version), but the most divisive moment is the very end. Some people hate it, others (like myself) think it’s brilliant. While the majority of the movie is fine but nothing special, I always think highly of it because of the utterly gut-punching note we’re left with. It’s the defining moment of the film, the moment everyone remembers, and it comes in the final two minutes. It was probably a similar case for Night Of The Living Dead’s infamous ending, before its pop-culture status spoiled it for everyone.

The ending will generally tie a movie together in some way like this, or provide the final nail in the coffin. Think of it like leaving a sports match early because your team is losing, only to realize you missed a three goal comeback in the final 10 minutes. Whether it’s your team who came back or the opposition, there’s often a case to be made for sticking it out to the death, just to experience whatever was supposed to happen. And even if the ending doesn’t change your mind about a bad movie, it might just give you extra ammunition for that slaughter of a review.

It’s a different case altogether with TV and books, which are a lot more time-consuming. Maybe it’s just because I do it, but I think it’s more acceptable to give up quickly on either of these mediums if they aren’t working. A book shouldn’t take 50 pages to get good – if you’re not invested by then, perhaps it’s time ditch it and start something new. Because you’re not just sitting there for 2 hours waiting for it to end; a book takes more time and a different kind of dedication. Who cares if you’re ‘supposed’ to like it because it’s a classic? I’ve persisted with many so-called classics for this very reason (ever tried reading American Psycho?) until I eventually realized that I didn’t care what other people said I should like: I only cared about enjoying something.

The same goes for TV. If, say, you’re 3 episodes into something but are yet to find yourself caring about the plot or characters, I would recommend just trying something else. There are only so many hours in a day, and there’s SO much to watch. While again the same can be said for movies, they’re at least short enough by comparison that they don’t waste too much of your time. Of course, there are exceptions with TV – a regular annex to someone recommending the brilliant Parks & Recreation is, “Make it through the first season, then it gets amazing.”. And, indeed, it does. While I think the first season is fine, it’s really seasons 2 – 5 where the show finds its genius, and without the warning, it would be all too easy to give up early and move onto something else.

Though I understand I’m being a touch ambiguous and contradictory here, as there are certain movies which, to this day, I still regret not walking out of. Your Highness, Epic Movie, The Pyramid, I, Frankenstein and, of course, Suicide Squad, all rubbed me the wrong way. I was also tempted to walk out of Die Hard 5but I stuck with it out of respect for the franchise, rather than the film. I stuck with the rest of these movies because I always try to stay to the end at the cinema, and do my best to give films the benefit of the doubt. I was so bored during I, Frankenstein that I randomly starting trying to name all of Snow White’s dwarves in my head before realizing what I was doing, yet I stuck it out with the faint (and in hindsight, hilariously misguided) belief that it might improve. It was also done with a self-imposed sense of duty to take in the whole thing as I knew I would be writing a review – even though I knew its readership would be limited.

Had I been watching these films at home, I probably would have switched off.

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