In this column, I discuss "Annihilation" and wanting to dislike movies:
The first movie that I actively wanted to dislike was the 2016 film “Passengers.”
I was a relatively new critic, and I wanted to see a film I didn’t like because I thought that writing a negative review would give me credibility. In reality, going into a movie already hoping to feel a specific way should actually do the opposite.
But I had a good reason to hope that I would dislike “Passengers.” It wasn’t just for the cynical satisfaction of being able to hate on something — a fact of criticism that is beautifully elaborated on by my favorite fiction film critic Anton Ego in the movie “Ratatouille.”
“We thrive on negative criticism,” Ego says, “which is fun to write and to read.” He argues that the most daring kind of criticism is “the discovery and defense of the new.” It’s a speech that was clearly written by a thoughtful artist (Brad Bird) whose work had been the subject of criticism in the past.
But I digress. My good reason for hoping that I would dislike “Passengers” was that up to that point, I barely ever disliked anything. My unadulterated, passionate adoration of movies is what got me into the business in the first place, and I had transcendently splendid cinematic experiences all the time.
All that seemingly undiscerning enthusiasm for movies, though, made my friends skeptical of my recommendations. And for someone who was as passionate as I was about what I was recommending, that was heartbreaking.
I wanted the world to know that I could, in fact, see a movie and not love it, so that when I got back to giving A grades to “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” readers wouldn’t roll their eyes quite as much.
And the universe granted my wish. After seeing “Passengers, I released a sigh of relief, and then wrote a review that was titled, ‘ “Passengers” is the Titanic in space (not the film, the actual ship).’
Only now, I have kind of the opposite problem: Sometimes, I dislike movies that other people love. No longer am I the king of Cinephile-topia, unmatched in my positivity and capacity to adore.