Evaluative Essay

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Essay #1 – Evaluation
English 2121 Writing & Research
Richard Carr, Hennepin Technical College

For this assignment, you will evaluate a movie or film (not a TV show; no concert films or documentaries; use good taste, please). The evaluation essay is kind of argumentative essay, and as such, you will argue that the movie is good, bad, a little of both, or something in between. This will tell the reader the overall value of the movie—your evaluation. While this essay is similar to the movie reviews we are accustomed to seeing on TV, in the newspaper and on the internet, our analysis will be more formal and our presentation perhaps more rigorous than the reviews found in the entertainment media. We will assume our readers are college educated like ourselves and that they are looking for focused, articulate film assessments.

In the course of your writing, you will make a number of judgments about the movie—this part is good, that part is bad—and taken together, these judgments will be your thesis, an overarching judgment, your overall evaluation. A thesis statement, remember, has two parts: a subject (i.e., the movie itself) and a predicate (i.e., what about it—your opinion). So your thesis is just your opinion of the movie—backed up by several specific judgments you’ve made about the movie.

In order to form your overall thesis and convince the reader to agree with you, it will be necessary to make a case for your position. You will do this by evaluating several different aspects of the movie. For instance, you could talk about the movie’s sets, music, plot and acting. After discussing each of these, you would add them together to make your thesis, which might be something like: “Although the sets looked cheap and the music was wrong for the time period, the exciting plot and brilliant acting overshadowed those flaws and made this a marvelously intense movie.” Clearly, in this example, a case has been made for a “thumbs up.”

The list of aspects to evaluate is endless, and it is up to you to decide which ones are most interesting or important. Here is a partial list of possibilities:
special effects
visual effects
sound effects
many others…

You might also want to ask if the movie (or part of it) is plausible or believable, or whether there are trouble spots (e.g., an anachronism or a continuity problem). Additionally, it could be interesting to discuss how well the movie addresses any social, cultural, historical, religious or philosophical issues.

As you evaluate individual aspects, it is important to cite specific examples from the movie. If you were evaluating a restaurant, for instance, you would need to provide vivid descriptions of specific menu items so the reader could “see” samples of the food that you’re talking about. Likewise, when evaluating a movie, it is necessary to provide evidence by describing the portion under discussion. If you are writing about the lavish sets, for example, pick a particular scene and describe all the details of the set so the reader can see that it is, in fact, lavish.

The following paragraph illustrates all three required elements of this essay. It uses examples to evaluate an aspect:

Compared to previous science fiction movies, the special effects in director Stanley Kubrick's 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey are remarkably realistic. He achieved this realism through the painstaking use of mechanical techniques. In the tubular corridor scene, for example, in which the space stewardess walks up the side of the curved wall until she is walking upside down on the “ceiling,” Kubrick rotated and the entire corridor set in tandem with the camera, which was rigidly attached to the set itself, thus allowing the actress...
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