Earlier this year whilst discussing film spoilers, Mark Kermode explained that as a writer for Sight & Sound he’d become accustomed to their style of providing an overview of the plot in the review. At last I had an explanation for all those plot heavy and (in my opinion) spoiler filled reviews in Empire by Kim Newman, who I just assume must write for Sight & Sound.
I like Kermode and Newman, I was slightly star struck when I bumped into the latter emerging from a screening at Hyde Park Picture House during a Leeds Film Festival many years ago. I respect both of their opinions and enjoy their writing but I can’t help feeling that this isn’t the best way to review a film. I’m really glad I read Newman’s Tyrannosaur review in Empire after I’d seen because for no real reason it tells you key scenes in the film, the review would still convey the same message without them, so why mention them at all.
But then again, what is a review? Literally I assume it’s suppose to be another look at something, viewing it again and evaluating it. In that case it makes sense to discuss the plot details and their impact on the film. The real reason people read reviews is to decide if they want to see/read/play/listen for themselves and therefore do we really need to be calling them something else? Previews are usually incomplete versions and so can’t offer fair recommendations. Do we really need something in between previews and reviews, tellings us what we should see without telling us what we will see. Or do we just have to avoid reviews until after we’ve seen things for ourselves? But then how do we know what we should be seeing?