Afraid To Criticize United 93

The very first thing I have to say in this post is that I HAVE NOT SEEN UNITED 93 YET. As you know I’m on location filming for a few weeks, and haven’t really had the chance to get to the theaters. Understood? Haven’t seen United 93. Got it? Good. On we go.

United 93 is a film I’m looking forward to seeing. But 2 things have jumped out at me this week that I thought was worth mentioning here and getting your thoughts on.

First of all, despite all the publicity and massive on air campaign (The ad campaign cost more than the movie itself), United 93 only managed to pull in $10 million on it’s opening weekend. The suits are putting on a brave face and saying that was a “good” showing… but you know they were expecting… or at least hoping for much better.

So why did United 93 not do better and attract a bigger crowd? I don’t think it has anything to do with it being “too soon” to have a movie like this. To be honest I haven’t talked to a single person who has thought that.

Personally I think the reason it hasn’t done better is because… well… it looks boring. There, I said it.

The TRUE story of the passengers on United 93 is one of great courage and bravery and is a story that should be remembered and taught to school kids for generations to come… but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a story that would translate well on the big screen. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact that this was a true story, there would be NOTHING interesting about this movie. You know how it ends, the trailers look slow and awkward and in general put me to sleep.

However, it IS indeed based on a true story and therefore holds interest for me… but that doesn’t change the fact that it sill looks boring. There, I said it again.

This brings up the second thought. As I peruse around and look at what critics are saying about United 93, they can’t seem to stop gushing about it. As of this moment, United 93 is holding a HUGE 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. All the critics are singing songs of great praise and exaltation about the film. Seriously, you’d think we were beholding the greatest motion picture of all time.

Now, as I mentioned at the beginning, I haven’t seen United 93 yet, so I can’t say if it was a good, great or bad film. But I am forced to wonder about something. Is United 93 really one of the great motion pictures of all time as the critics seem to be suggesting… or is there something else going on here?

Are the critics afraid to say anything but massive positive things about it out of fear that they’ll be bashed?

For example, I once wrote that I thought the only reason Brokeback Mountain got such HUGE positive reviews (don’t get me wrong… it was a good film… just not THAT good) was because the critics were afraid they would be labeled as homophobic if they didn’t. And I was right. 3 minutes after posting that I got over 100 emails from people calling me a homophobe just for writing that.

Sometimes critics call movie great just because they were brave topics to cover. Take Transamerica for example. It was also a good little film, that got far more praise than it deserved. Why? Because it was a brave topic. I’m all for filmmakers tackling difficult issues or subject matter in their films… but just because something is brave does NOT necessarily mean it’s good… or great.

I haven’t seen United 93 yet. But with the massive amounts of critical praise it’s been getting, I can’t help but wonder if it’s because critics fear to say anything bad about it. By saying something negative or less than glowing about United 93 some people may start accusing them of being insensitive to the tragedy of 9/11. They’ll be called “un-American” for having the audacity of being honest about United 93 as a movie, not as a historical event.

When I do see United 93 upon returning home, I’ll review it. But when I do I’ll be looking at it and evaluating it as a film… not evaluating the tragic real life event of 9/11.

The only question is (or should be) is “Is this a good movie”? I hope that if I say “it isn’t”, people won’t suggest I’m being insensitive to the events of 9/11 or baby seals being clubbed to death or little kittens going hungry in the streets.

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