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Ratings Explained

As you will have no doubt seen from my film reviews, I score every film I see out of 5. I admit that I also use half points (3.5 etc) just because I can’t break them down to simple whole numbers – how do I define between Ocean’s Thirteen and The Great Gatsby when the latter is the better film? I’m not just going to hand it a 4/5. “So why not rate them out of 10 then?” you might ask, somewhat impetuously. Because I don’t like scoring out of 10, that’s all. I’m a film geek, I’m allowed to have eccentricities.

For those of you that prefer to see a film scored out of 10, just double what I’ve given it. For those of you who prefer percentage scores (and if you are one of these people, I think you’re weird), double my score then multiply by 10. Simples.

So, my reviews. I usually look at a film from a number of angles to get an overall score, but the following are my main reference points.

Script – Does the script work? Are there obvious plot holes? Was it written by a monkey with access to Final Draft?

Soundtrack – Is the music any good? Does it complement the film or is it a distraction?

Direction – Simple enough, is the camera pointed in the right direction? Are the actors framed well? If it’s an action sequence can you actually see what’s going on? Michael Bay’s Transformers movies are serial offenders in this category.

Cinematography – Have they made the film look good or does it have that “filmed on your Dad’s video camera” look? I use this header to cover everything from lighting to camera filters to production values.

CGI/3D/IMAX etc  – Have they used it and if so, have they used it well?

And so, with all of the above taken into account (and a little bit extra depending on the film), I rate them thus:

0.5/5 – Terrible film across all categories. Poor script, bad acting, bad direction. It’s not even entertaining in a “so bad it’s good” way. Ooga Booga is the poster boy for this category.

1/5 – A slight improvement, something like the direction or the production value might be good, but it’s let down by pretty much everything else. Uwe Boll’s films usually slot into this rating – production value is usually adequate and he has a strange ability to get big names to appear in his movies, but that’s the only nice thing you can say. Examples in this category include Asylum movies like Atlantic Rim, or terrible horror films like Bear.

1.5/5 – My best analogy for this is a direct-to-video Steven Seagal film. It has a script, an attempt at a plot and it looks decent enough for its no doubt modest budget, but it’s full of tired cliches and doesn’t try to do anything original.

2/5 – It’s getting there. After Earth is my best example at the moment – you can see what they were trying to do but you’re left feeling as bored as Will Smith looks, and liable to spend most of the film’s running time thinking about what you’d do to improve it. It’s often a fine line between a film scoring 1.5, 2 or 2.5. When the jury’s out, 2/5 is the likely result.

2.5/5 – Middle of the ground, average. At the time of writing, a third of the films I’ve reviewed have received a 2.5 score. The film’s either lacking a solid story or it’s one of those “so bad it’s good” affairs. A lot of films in this category, like Jonah Hex or GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra are modern examples of cheesy/ridiculous but entertaining films, but you can also include generic action films or those family films where you can telegraph the plot from the opening sequence.

3/5 – Good, not great. Entertaining. It does enough for you to ignore plot inconsistencies or bad direction, and in some cases spotting these even adds to the enjoyment factor. I usually throw most comedies into this scoring region. See Predators or The Purge.

3.5/5 – Lots to recommend, and for the wider audience (that’s you, Joe Public) it will do enough to justify itself, but a few sizeable niggles stop it from scoring higher. The best example is my review of World War Z – the script isn’t up to the task and they haven’t provided a satisfactory ending. If they had fixed this (and by all accounts, they tried), it would have been a 4/5 easily.

4/5 – Strong story, direction is solid and you’re engaged for most of the running time. Points are knocked off for plotting issues (I’m looking at you, Star Trek Into Darkness), or something like Man of Steel where it often degraded into “Superman punches other Kryptonian, buildings get destroyed, repeat ad nauseam.” Any obvious problems are taken into account when granting a 4/5 score.

4.5/5 – Well, it’s between a 4 and a 5. Almost perfect but there’s probably one element that stops it reaching perfection. Something like Jurassic Park or The Wolf of Wall Street for example.

5/5 – A perfect or near perfect film. It has a great story, Allowances are made for minor plot problems or where any element of the production (direction, soundtrack, cinematography etc) slips momentarily. Any slips or issues are limited to one or two throughout the film’s running time, but they don’t get in the way of your enjoyment. See Toy Story 3 or Inception.