'Kong: Skull Island' Director Pinpoints the Problem With CinemaSins

Jordan Vogt-Roberts took issue with a new video in the series: "They’re often just wrong or think they’re smarter than you."
Warner Bros./Photofest (Kong); Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage/Getty Images (Vogt-Roberts)
'Kong: Skull Island'; Jordan Vogt-Roberts (inset)

In the past, it hasn’t been hard to find people on Twitter arguing against CinemaSins, a popular series of YouTube videos that point out apparent errors and other "sins" in movies.

But on Tuesday, a more notable critic spoke out: Jordan Vogt-Roberts, director of Kong: Skull Island. The filmmaker was inspired to comment after the latest CinemaSins video took aim at his revival of the King Kong franchise from earlier this spring. In doing so, Vogt-Roberts pinpointed what has made CinemaSins, and videos like Honest Trailers, so popular as well as — in the videos’ vernacular — what’s wrong with them.

“Mystery Science Theatre [sic] built something artful, endearing and comedic on top of the foundation [of] other people’s work,” Vogt-Roberts began. From there, the filmmaker went through a series of so-called “sins” that the video’s creators call out from Kong: Skull Island, rebutting each one with clear evidence that prove the “sins” aren’t mistakes at all. In one example, the CinemaSins subtitle identifies a character in a screenshot as Shea Whigham’s Cole, when in reality, as Vogt-Roberts notes, “That’s not Shea Whigham’s character. Try actually watching the movie.” In another example, the CinemaSins video asks, “[I]f a land mass has this much of a reputation, why is it just now being discovered?” Vogt-Roberts’ reply was simple: “Because it’s inaccessible by boat and thus only discovered when we launched satellites in the ‘70s with cameras looking down at the earth.”

Check out the video below.

The director’s following tweets encapsulate the problem with CinemaSins videos: “They’re often just wrong or think they’re smarter than you.” Defenders would argue, and have done so Tuesday, that they function as a parody of film criticism. However, examples like what Vogt-Roberts points out prove that intent aside, these videos feel like they’re meant to “solve” a movie, as if spotting mistakes (actual or imagined) proves the viewer to be craftier than the filmmaker. As Vogt-Roberts pointed out later in the thread, there’s nothing wrong with film criticism making compelling arguments, even if it’s criticizing a film of his. The problem is less the target of criticism and more the manner and execution of that criticism.

What is the purpose, for example, of mocking an establishing shot in Kong: Skull Island for depicting a rainy night in Saigon? As Vogt-Roberts notes, it’s the last time in the film when there’s any rain. But even if that wasn’t true, who cares? The subtitle in the screenshot from CinemaSins could lead to the argument that the film’s FX budget was too low to handle the various creatures depicted in Skull Island. That, however, would be substantive criticism, as opposed to a random suggestion that there’s too much rain in a film with very little of it to begin with. CinemaSins is popular because it boils down a two-hour film into a brief video highlighting a handful of seemingly silly things without digging too deep, but masquerading as something more insightful.

What Vogt-Roberts said isn’t new, but it’s certainly the most notable example of someone within Hollywood pushing back against the popularity of YouTube videos that list “mistakes” in movies. It’s hard to imagine people no longer watching CinemaSins because of filmmakers speaking out against them, but Vogt-Roberts’ final conclusion is apt and correct: “Go watch a movie you’ve never seen before & actually discuss it with someone instead of focusing on reductive crap.”

Here are his statements, in part:

And here's CinemaSins' good natured way of addressing the controversy:

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