Star ratings don’t serve any purpose and are ultimately unhelpful.
Okay, okay, let’s back up a little. As I see it, star ratings attempt to objectify films and present them as neat little consumable packages, which is both wrong and, in the in opinion of this humble blogger, impossible.
You see films are not rigid, hard blocks that need a stick on label attached to it. Films are fluid, personal and organic entities that one needs to wrestle with, their meaning changes over time for people and ranges from viewer to viewer. Objectification of films reduces them to simple matters of pros and cons, using an impenetrable set of – usually non-existent – criteria.
So the, star ratings are not useful to anyone but the reviewer who is doling them out because we do not know how they approximate their ratings. And I have a feeling (this is coming from personal experience) that reviewers don’t even know they themselves approximate their ratings.
The main problem as I see it is that they imply that reviewers have predetermined templates of which they judge a film to be 1/2/3/4/5 stars and that there is no flexibility. Which is simply not the case, both theoretically and with regards to the reviewers themselves. (I have more to say about this issue, but I will dedicate another blog post to that)
It also implies equivalency. If two films are rated 4 stars then are we to assume that they are of similar (or exact) quality? Of course not! Additionally, to give something 3 stars, to me, shows that it is mediocre in some way. Or boring to the point that it is not worth talking about.
I believe that you should judge a film by it’s own standards and not impose an outside force on it in any tangible way. Films are definitely not things where you should weigh up all pluses and minuses. And then when you add them all together if you have more pluses than minuses, presto! it’s a good film!
I do understand the partial usefulness though, to reviewers and reviewing publications. If you are flicking through a magazine (like say Empire) and you see they are reviewing a film you are sort of interested in, then you look at the stars to get a general sense of how they feel about, and from there, you decide whether you want to read the article and then if the film is worth seeing.
But that’s just it. A general feel. Star ratings are more useful than simply stating that the film exists, but that doesn’t mean they should be this widely used, or regarded as the barometer of the quality of the film. The most important thing with a review, is whether you agree/disagree with the points raised. That said, they are more useful for casual audiences who want nothing more than to relax at the weekend at cinema. Just take them with a pinch of salt.
I know I’m just starting out, but I don’t expect my long form reviews (which, surprisingly, don’t utilise star ratings) to be widely read instantly. Who wants to read a really long article – with no simple summary – by somebody they’ve not read anything of before?
Well, dear reader, if you’ve made it this far, then clearly you.