Review Revue: Critics React To Kanye West’s ‘Runaway’

By: Becky Bain / October 25, 2010

On Saturday, Kanye West premiered his first foray into filmmaking, the 35-minute abstract musical short, Runaway. (Watch it here.) Filled with over-the-top imagery, heavy metaphors and unexpected Michael Jackson tributes, we definitely expected reviews to be a mixed bag, and we were right. We rounded up the web’s reactions to Kanye’s Phoenix love story — head below to see if you agree with the critics.

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MTV Buzzworthy questions whether the film was able to express its true meaning without Kanye having to explain it for all of us, but “regardless of its true meaning, ‘Runaway’ is really pretty to watch, the music is great, and it reminds us once again why there is only one Mr. West.”

But in the eyes of the Smoking Section the film represented a clear victory (and vindication?) for West: “Whether you have a crystal flute glass or coffee mug, feel free to toast to the game’s greatest asshole. It’s safe to say his artistic hustle deserves it this time.”

The Playlist wasn’t as entertained, finding the film more or less dull: “The short is laborious, the pacing and symbolism obvious and West’s impulse to rely on slow-mo while he contemplates theatrical gestures a bit painful.”

Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker thinks Kanye deserves praise for his efforts: “Given how controversial West’s every artistic gesture seems to have become, I have a feeling we’ll be in for a round of dismissals of Runaway as a pretentious piece. Instead, it deserves to be seen as a carefully modulated art-film made by a man on a mission.”

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Chicago Now’s Kyra Kiles tries to decipher the meaning of the abstract film in a scene-by-scene analysis. “Interesting imagery, excellent use of the soundtrack and it is something you think about long after you’ve seen it. Is it the 21st Century ‘Thriller?’ Hells no, but what is?”

Troy Cle at Marvelous World sees it both ways: “Some parts of ‘Runaway’ disappoint and seem lifeless, but that is oddly acceptable because some of it touches equally upon genius and that is a RARE find in anything.”

Jezebel does a shot-by-shot analysis, and notes that the “Runaway” ballet segment “is really beautifully shot. The choreography by Yemi Akinyemi is stunning, the music is spare, and the vibe is meditative.” They also pointed out that “his work exhibits quite a bit of sadness, which makes sense, following the year he spent being a punchline after losing his mother. But the ideas he’s exploring — feeding and nurturing your creativity and expressing yourself without harming yourself or others — is one many artists have tackled. But he’s done it in a lush, visually stimulating way that simultaneously promotes his album.

Pete Wentz (via MTV), who saw an theatrical screening of the film, said “It is the single most ambitious music video of the decade, if you could even put it in the category of a music video.”

And the only complaint Swizz Beatz (via MTV) had of the film is that it was too short. “On a 1 to 10, it was a 9… The reason why it was a 9 was because it should’ve been longer. It was a deep, deep story and you have to, one, know Kanye, to really understand it.”

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As for Idolator’s reactions to West’s film, our office is split — some thoroughly enjoyed it and were wonderfully mystified by Kanye’s choices, while a few others could barely make it to the end without their eyes rolling right out of their head. (Personally, I thought his cinematic endeavor was undoubtedly ambitious, but felt like it came from a pretentious and inexperienced first year film student with access to a huge budget. Plus, there was no reason for scenes to drag on and on, making much of it almost unbearable to get through — his “Power” video packed a stronger punch in 90 seconds than in Runaway‘s 35 minutes.)

However, we all can applaud Kanye for going above and beyond what’s expected of him. That, and the film’s 9-song soundtrack is totally making us crave his album even more.

What did you think of Kanye’s Runaway? Was it brilliant, contrived, or maybe even a bit of both?