One of the most difficult challenges for artwork is; to be effective many times it needs to change our expectations of the reality around us. Sometimes art even needs to change our expectations of previous art. This can be a very difficult job. And let’s face it sometimes the audience does not make these goals easy. Audiences sometimes come to theaters expecting one experience when they need to be open to another.
Some of the evidence of this conundrum is apparent in the critical reception for The Rover starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. Because it is a dystopian tragedy set in Australia, many can’t help but assume similarities with a previous film franchise Mad Max (which incidentally starred Mel Gibson). The problem with this assessment (like a work of art) The Rover has completely different or unique goals of its own.
In production design Mad Max intended to describe how perverse, vicious, and apocalyptic the future would naturally become if the events of a nuclear war actually occurred. On a far more personal level The Rover aims to specify how horrific spiritual degradation would likely be in a far more recent or intimate circumstance (though the cause of the social breakdown is not specified). For the sake of portraying contemporary reality, the production design plays a far less significant expressive story-telling role in The Rover, for this reviewer the emotional and intellectual impact was far higher.
Though earning a Fresh Rating of 68% on Rotten Tomatoes.com, many dissenting critics claimed anger or resentment at the film’s ending. Yet, the ending helps explain so many of the film’s many powerful plot, character, and scenario contradictions. Think of the M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, without its explosive ending how would the rest of the film hold up? The same is true for The Rover. Was it some variation on Mad Max expectations that caused this misinterpretation? Or was it far more personal expectations that caused this kind of hostility?
If you don’t think this description is an oxymoron, normally somewhat level headed, critic and comic book movie advocate Grace Randolph of the Behind the Trailer movie Blog out right specified “Avoid The Rover!’ Is this because the ending was too unpredictable for people waiting for a prescribed, palatable and acceptable ending? Somehow respect from Cannes doesn’t rate as a reason to focus on the film.
Oddly I think this reception describes a prejudice on the part of many contemporary critics and film enthusiasts. They’re just too distracted by Hollywood events, innuendo, reputation, glamor and status to actually watch or pay attention to the actual film. Then they call it boring, pretentious or suggest they were offended or disregarded in someway when the truth is they were attracted to the work because of a list of things that had nothing to do with the actual story or what anyone did to tell the tale. Some side topics might be titillating, yet without back stage cliff notes about side motivations and other gossip — getting their attention is near impossible.
The Rover: The Truth is Never Sexy: Part-1