Jon Cassie is an educator, writer, podcaster and game designer based in Southern California. See his work at Game Level LearnIlinx and SchoolNEXT.

A New System of Film Review!

I know that no one's been asking for a new system for reviewing movies...or at least, no one's been asking me. But back in the old days, that is to say, the early 1990s, my friend James tried to sell me on this system whereby movies would be assigned positive or negative stars based on certain qualities. We discussed this over and over and did some rating, but never really systematized it. In the last month or so, I've seen three movies - Green Lantern, Thor and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And since I haven't seen three movies in a month since before I started graduate school, this old system came back into mind and I've been tinkering with it. The core of the system centers on 10 categories that influence the quality of the movie goer's experience. I have made them equally weighted, though that is perhaps not fair. Furthermore, it isn't like this is some stunning new insight into the filmic craft. Each category earns one of three ratings: -1 (this detracts from the film), 0 (this neither detracts nor enhances the film) or 1 (this enhances the film). A perfect film would score a 10, average 0 and dreadful -10. The 10 categories are:

 

Lead Acting: the performances by the actors who carry the main narrative.

 

Supporting Acting: all other actors' performances.

 

Direction: the degree to which the decisions of the director clearly add to the interpretation of the script.

 

Cinematography: the aesthetics of the principal photography.

 

Production Design: all of the artistic decisions that create the aesthetics of the filmed environment, including costumes, sets, lighting, make-up, matte paintings, etc.

 

Plotting: how successful the script is at moving the action in an appropriate way at an appropriate pace.

 

Dialogue: how successful the words in the script are at conveying what can't be shown; how the words enhance our understanding of the characters.

 

Character Development: do the characters change in ways that make sense?

 

Sound Design/Music/Score/Soundtrack: all of the artistic decisions that create the sound environment of the film.

 

Ephemera: all of those things that are not part of the above categories.

 

Given this system, how did Green Lantern, Thor and Rise of the Planet of the Apes fare? Fairly, I think.

 

Green Lantern's score is -1 based on a line of -1/1/0/0/0/0/-1/0/0/0. It's supporting acting  (by Peter Sarsgaard and Angela Bassett) was quite good. Blake Lively in a lead role…? Not so good...along with the dialogue. Otherwise, just OK, or a little below OK.

 

Thor's score is 1, based on a line of 0/0/1/1/1/-1/0/0/0/-1. Thor demanded a majesty and Branagh's direction delivered it. The cinematography of Asgard was beautiful, as was the production design of the plane, the costumes and Heimdal and the Rainbow Bridge. The plotting was too slow (editing, please!) and the product placements were jarringly obvious.

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes scores a 3, based on a line of 1/0/0/0/0/0/0/1/0/1. Andy Serkis' acting clearly translated through the motion capture technology. Caesar's character development was very carefully and successfully handled, as was that of the other apes. The film also gets a +1 for making us root for the apes, cleverly subverting key elements of the PotA mythology.

 

What's a 10 a 0 and a -10 for you? How would you score GL, Thor and RPA?

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