The movie production industry offers society a reflection of itself and its problems, provides a distraction from reality, and tries to entertain the viewer. Whatever the primary aims of the creators, there is always a need to assess the quality of a movie to decide whether it is a worthy addition to the history of cinema. A movie review, serving as such an assessment tool, is a form of academic activity designed to illustrate and assess the quality of themes and topics present in a piece of visual art.
How to Start a Movie Review
Acquaint yourself with background information
Before watching the movie, it would be beneficial to gather some background information and learn more about the author, director, release date, the piece of literature on which the film was based, or other such details. These will add to your contextual awareness in which the film was created and allow you to garner further understanding of the director’s style and individual trends in his work. Since a review requires you to be critical, there is a need for your opinions to be based on knowledge and understanding of the broader background.
Watch the film multiple times
Unlike a normal filmgoer, you are tasked with writing a review, which requires you to form almost a professional opinion. Therefore, in addition to the first viewing, where you are free to experience the movie from the standpoint of an ordinary audience representative, you also need to demonstrate another level of perception. During the second viewing, you need to distance yourself from the overall experience and focus on details that draw your particular attention. You can make notes to use later in your writing. The items that you need to observe specifically are formal techniques of movie production and topics touched on during the film. The former includes cinematography, lighting, camerawork, acting, choice of actors, soundtracks, narration, mise-en-scene, and other issues. Thematic elements are usually intertwined with the plot, or may be discreetly mentioned in the dialogues, and typically relate to issues of gender, race and freedom.
Develop a central thesis
After the second or third viewing, revisit your notes and the knowledge you gained before watching, consider relevant technical or ideological sides, and form a general idea or argument on which you will base your review paper. If you experience difficulty with defining a central point, you may need to view certain scenes or parts of the movie again to ensure you have understood every aspect you consider meaningful. You should resist the temptation to search for other professional critic reviews as this may influence your own thought processes and result in copying ideas. The review needs to be original, even if it may or may not reflect the opinion of other people.
Writing a Movie Review
Like any other essay, a movie review needs to be well-structured to guide the reader and enable them to understand your point of view. Therefore, it has to contain an introduction, body, and conclusion. While you may be asked, or decide, to focus on a particular element, the coherency of the paragraph and good flow always need to be present in this type of work. Depending on the required length, you will need several well-developed paragraphs that support your thesis and lead to a logical conclusion.
In the introduction section, you may present the background of the film, including the name of the movie, year, director, main actors, or other specifics. In this part, you need to state the key thesis and present to the reader your arguments, addressing whether the film is successful or contains some critical flaws, and what led you to this conclusion. Usually, this argument is placed at the end of the introduction, although in case your essay is lengthy, you might also want to prepare your reader and acquaint him or her with its structure. It is also important to provide a succinct but informative title that informs the reader of the nature of your critique.
- A brief summary of the plot. It might be the case that readers have not watched the film prior to reading your review, which requires you to include a short recap of what happens in the movie. However, one needs to be concise and avoid mentioning particular plot twists or the ending so as not to spoil the readers’ future judgment of the film.
- Personal viewing experience. You may briefly describe the feelings that you had or ideas that the film inspired after you watched the movie for the first time. This will enable the reader to note what, in particular, stands out in the film, as well as raise awareness of its core negative or positive features. However, it would be impractical to extend this description into a full-length paragraph, as the main purpose of a review is examination and appraisal.
- Analysis and evaluation. This is the core part of the review paper and should occupy several well-developed paragraphs. Here, you need to assess the aspects of the film pertaining to formal cinematic techniques and themes in order to defend your thesis. Depending on what you have noted while watching the film for the second or third time, you may focus on just a few elements or review the movie as a whole, including what the goal of the film is, how well this is addressed, and how the movie utilizes formal techniques in the process. You need to demonstrate a depth of understanding and analysis to present a thorough basis for your central argument. Supporting claims with examples and comparisons from movie classics is also good academic practice.
In this section, you need to restate your thesis and main arguments, especially if they are lengthy and complicated, to ensure your purpose is clear to the reader. It might also be useful to incorporate a broader topic or a final idea as something for the reader to contemplate. Some topics that are touched on in the movie may be too broad to summarize, and you may mention how a movie succeeds in the task of addressing and developing its theme in the context of its length and presentation techniques.
Proofreading a Movie Review
An important element of any writing process is proofreading. This will ensure that there are no writing mechanics or narration logic violations present in the final paper. Also, do not be discouraged from rewriting some parts or changing arguments that appear to be weak. As long as it benefits the quality of the review, changing content is always warranted. However, last minute changes are generally considered poor practice (Corrigan 122). Therefore, it is important to finish and revise the work well before the submission deadline if possible.
- To navigate the writing process and assist idea articulation, one may utilize outlining and consecutive argument building prior to writing. Such a practice will help revisit your ideas and aid any changes that are needed.
- If in your argumentation you use something from external sources, make sure the ideas and words are accurately cited to avoid any accusations of plagiarism.
- Start working on your review early to enable you to watch the movie several times, outline, draft, and finalize the review paper.
- Remember to focus on a crucial aspect of writing and employ critical thinking phrases such as “a particular strength of … is in…”, “the main inconsistency in … is …” or other useful collocations.
- Keep in mind the fact that you should identify the film’s purpose and uncover what the author wanted to say by his or her creation. Critiques need to touch on the subject and assess how well the author has presented his or her idea.
Using this guideline should clarify the procedure of writing a movie review. Firstly, appropriate preparation and several viewings of the movie are needed in order to form ideas for the review paper. Secondly, one needs to structure, outline, and draft the paper to ensure clarity of narration and argumentation. Arguments should all be supported with evidence from the film under review and complemented with examples and comparisons, if possible. The final step is to proofread and expand or shorten sections where needed.
Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing about Film. 9th ed., Longman, 2014.