Alphabetical Movie – Gunga Din
I think it is harder to dislike a movie that is considered a “classic” than it is to criticize a popular modern film. I mean, if the movie is seventy years old and people still love it, who am I to say that I don’t really enjoy the film?
Take The Dark Knight. A great many geeks (and movie fans) thought the movie was exceptional. There is, however, a small but vocal group that will say the movie is a complete piece of crap.
You can start a similar debate over such modern “classics” as Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Star Wars, and so on. These films have their devoted fans but also a vocal group of people willing to argue that the fans are complete idiots who fail to recognize that Fight Club is the greatest film ever made.
But if you try to assail a critically acclaimed “classic” like Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia or The Searchers, you are likely to incur the wrath of cinephiles that goes beyond simple disagreement and into the realm of internet fisticuffs. For the record, I love all three of those movies I just mentioned.
Gunga Din, on the other hand, just doesn’t quite work for me. It feels quixotic. There is a slapstick comedy married with a war movie married with a romantic subplot and it all goes together rather clumsily. It was also the second highest grossing film of 1939, behind Gone with the Wind.
Now we all know that box office has nothing to do with quality. If that was the case, Twilight would make nothing at all.
But Gunga Din is a classic! It had Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine and Douglas Fairbanks Jr! It also had an elephant!
Yes, I know all of these things.
That still doesn’t mean the movie works for me.
As I’ve matured, I’ve reached the conclusion that while there are definitely some movies that are objectively horrible, a great movie must have an emotional impact on the viewer. If a viewer genuinely doesn’t have that kind of impact, they are right to state that they didn’t like the film. I think that people go to far when they say that they think a film they didn’t like “sucks.”
Look, we can all (or most of us) agree that Gigli sucks. It is a horrifying mess of a movie.
But when a huge contingent of normal people and critics love a movie like – say – The Dark Knight, I don’t think that it is fair to say that the movie “sucks.”
First off, how insulting is that to the people that love the film? I mean, maybe they don’t know a damn thing about movies, which is why they own Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on Blu-ray. On the other hand, maybe they watch a shit ton of films and have a pretty good idea what makes a movie good.
You don’t have to agree with them. Hell, I freakin’ hate Gone with the Wind. By telling them that the movie they love “sucks,” you are essentially saying that your opinion of the film is more valid than theirs.
I don’t think Gunga Din “sucks.” In fact, I can see a lot of the reasons why someone would really enjoy the film.
It doesn’t work for me, though. My reaction is completely acceptable. When someone tells me that Star Wars just doesn’t work for them, we have no argument. That is completely fair.
When someone tells me Star Wars is a terrible film and they think people who are fans are crazy, we have an argument. Because they are being a dick.
Hardcore film fans are a snobbish lot. We all love to discover films for the first time and while many of us will secretly enjoy the latest Harry Potter film, we’ll sniff and complain about the fact that people just don’t appreciate the great obscure French film we streamed on Netflix last week. Moreover, we love to hate films that have mainstream popularity.
Pulp Fiction can’t be a good movie, you see, because too many people think that it is a good movie. What the hell do they know? I know what a good movie is – I took a film study course in college.
Thing is – even snobbish film fans like what they like. They are (possibly) more capable of objectively evaluating a film and saying “no – look – this movie is shot like crap and the acting is complete shit.” Still, if they like that crappy camerawork and wooden acting, they are gonna like the film anyway.
Really all I’m trying to say is that I don’t care for Gunga Din. But that doesn’t mean the movie sucks.