Mr. Plinkett: King of the Critics
So there was this movie that came out almost 12 years ago called THE PHANTOM MENACE. You’ve probably heard of it. And you probably also know that it’s widely considered one of the biggest botch-jobs in cinematic history.
After more than a decade of derision, it seemed like everything that could be said about the movie, had. And then there was Plinkett.
I’m actually very late to the party on this post, as Plinkett’s review of THE PHANTOM MENACE went off like a truth bomb over a year ago on YouTube, and most of my readers have already seen it. If you haven’t, it’s a 70-minute takedown of Episode I, point by point, available in its entirety on his website, RedLetterMedia.com.
Plinkett’s gotten flak from the obligatory anonymous haters, commenting about how all he does is recycle all the same tired arguments people have made about the prequels for the last ten years. But I don’t see that at all. Internet bitching has primarily centered around midichlorians and Jar-Jar Binks, both of which get only passing mentions in Plinkett’s commentary. The point I never saw anyone make, until Plinkett, was the fact that the movie has no protagonist. The moment he says it, you know that’s something which always bothered you and you could never quite put your finger on it. He keeps that kind of insight going the whole time.
He also gets attacked for reviewing, at length, a movie which is over a decade old, people saying they’re “over it” and he should be too. I think that’s kind of a crap argument. If it’s still valid to have conversations about BLADE RUNNER and 2001, it’s still valid to have conversations about THE PHANTOM MENACE.
But as I said, perhaps I’m more sympathetic because I, too, am late to this party. Why am I posting now, instead of last year when this first went viral? Well, because he continued his reviews with a 90-minute ATTACK OF THE CLONES review, and now, just this weekend, completed the journey with a whopping 110-minute review of REVENGE OF THE SITH. In the interim, he reviewed several other movies including STAR TREK and AVATAR, and had also reviewed all the STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION films before making his splash with TPM. All of which are available on his website, and all of which worth watching, showcasing a spectacular insight and a mind for story detail sorely lacking in most screenwriters, let alone critics, today.
Mr. Plinkett is a creation of filmmaker Mike Stoklasa. Plinkett is a droning, curmudgeonly, and occasionally outright psychotic elderly man who — it is first implied and later explicitly stated — has a rather unpleasant hobby of kidnapping and murdering hookers. Plinkett was initially created as a character in Stoklasa’s 80’s creature-feature homage FEEDING FRENZY — originally portrayed by a different actor entirely. In interviews after the viral success of his TPM and AOTC reviews, Stoklasa says he chose to use this character as a review persona because he felt that his reviews would be too dry if he did them as himself.
I’m not a big fan of the interludes revolving around the serial killer/psychotic episode subplot (which, fortunately, make up a very small portion of most reviews), but they do have the interesting side-effect of making Plinkett a perfect example of why the ad hominem fallacy is, in fact, a fallacy. Yes, he kills hookers in his basement. Yes, he thinks World War II and the French Revolution were the same historical event. None of that changes the fact that in his indictments of the logical and factual inconsistencies of whatever movie he’s got in his sights, he is spot on the money.
I’d like to think that’s why Stoklasa chose to use this character — as a kind of postmodern comment on how people tend to agree with critics even when they’re full of shit (*cough*Ebert*cough*) based solely on who they are and their aura of authority. By having a guy — who by all rights should possess no authority at all — be demonstrably, bang-on, objectively correct in his observations about why movies fail, we have to confront the realization that it doesn’t matter who says something, it’s what they’re saying that either has value or doesn’t. Can you bring yourself to accept that you agree with someone on one topic, while on another topic he’s completely, abhorrently out of his mind?
I’d like to think that’s what he’s going for. But quite probably he’s just got a twisted sense of humor.
Either way, the critiques themselves are among the most insightful I’ve ever seen, and have taught me more about analyzing the structure and effectiveness of a narrative than many, many books on the same subject.
Plinkett may hang up his reviewer’s hat now that the prequels are completed. I hope he doesn’t. He will probably get a significant drop-off in his viewership, since a lot of them only wanted to see his prequel reviews. But if he keeps making ’em, I’ll keep watching.
- Although it was shot before he began doing his reviews, FEEDING FRENZY was only recently completed, wisely using the viral success of the Plinkett reviews to their marketing advantage. Despite the fact that the Plinkett in FEEDING FRENZY is the actual, original Plinkett, having watched many hours of Plinkett reviews I’m left with the unshakable feeling that I’m watching a merely passable impersonation of the character.↩
- It’s perhaps worth noting, regarding my jab at him, that on just about everything besides movies, I seem to find myself in agreement with Roger Ebert. Which makes him, effectively, the anti-Plinkett.↩