Batman V Superman: Difference of Opinion… what’s with the Dawn of Justice reviews?

So, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opened this weekend amidst a sea of reviews ranging with sentiments ranging from mild disappointment to keyboard-smashing rage (and the occasional positive one, like this offering from our boy Laurence). 

The well-publicised Rotten Tomato score of around 29% (and dropping, less than the likes of Spider-Man 3, X-Men Wolverine: Origins and, y’know, that Colin Farrell Total Recall  remake) is being touted all over the internet as proof that the film is already a massive failure, with websites, blogs, newspapers and anyone with any real forum to express their opinions railing on how overly serious, confusingly muddled and infuriatingly bad the whole thing is.



And yet…

Going by these same analytic sites (Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, etc.), the feedback from non-critics – AKA “regular moviegoers” – has been pretty damn positive.  135,000 users on Rotten Tomatoes have given it an average score of 3.9 out of 5.  70,000 users on IMDb have it at around 7.6/10.  Which begs the question… what’s with the massive difference of opinion?

Are critics just smarter than the rest of us mere punters?  Are regular moviegoers simply easier to please?  Is there a shady cabal of Marvel executives operating in the shadows trying to derail DC’s attempt at building a cinematic universe?  In all seriousness though, surely has to be a justifiable reason for this huge disparity, right?

The burden of preconception is one possibility.  Most bloggers, reviewers, critics etc. have been involved in the promotional drive for this movie for years now.  They have been absorbed in every outpouring of internet rage that accompanied pretty much every announcement about the movie (Affleck as Batman?  Burn the internet!  Eisenberg as Lex Luthor? Shouldn’t that be HEISENBERG? Doomsday teaser in the trailer?  Movie ruined! And don’t even get me started on Gal bloody Gadot!), and – as impartial as we all try and be – that kind of grind over months and years takes its toll.  It’s difficult not to feel wary or apprehensive about a movie when you have tens of thousands of Facebook posts telling you it’s going to be dire.

The crime of comparison is another.  I touched on this in a rather inarticulate and profanity-laced Facebook rant the other day, but the amount of reviews I’ve read where Dawn of Justice has been slated simply for not being enough like Marvel’s cinematic output is truly worrying, and has to be a major consideration in explaining some of overwhelmingly low scores.  “Where are the jokes?”  “Isn’t all this geeky stuff supposed to be fun?”  For a lot of critics, their only real experience of comic book movies would be the Marvel Studios offerings, so it’s natural – if a little ignorant – of them to think that all movies featuring superheroes should follow the same glib, colourful, wise-cracking format.

However, like the comics themselves, that simply couldn’t be further from the truth.  It’s all too easy to use “superhero movie” as a genre, when in reality it’s only really a subject matter.  A superhero movie can fall into pretty much any genre; horror, action comedy, science fiction, heist, western, or a wonderful mish-mash of all of the above.  Just like the comics they’re based on, there’s no right or wrong way to ‘do’ superheroes, and a lot of the reviews that have accompanied Dawn of Justice seem to be overlooking that one fundamental point.

There’s also the glaring fact that, at the end of the day, it’s not a flawless movie.  Far from it, in fact.  The character development is a little sparse at times, some plot points are a little confusing and muddled, the third act isn’t necessarily going to be to everyone’s tastes – so yes, a lot of the reviews expressing their disappointment about the movie are entirely justified.

However, these are criticisms that could also be levied at all basically every Marvel movie, movies which have been championed extensively with glowing reviews and lots of juicy tomatoes.  Could it be that we’re holding DC to a higher standard?  Alongside Spider-Man, it’s arguable that Batman and Superman are pretty much the definitive superheroes, right?  At least to the casual observer, anyway. So it’s maybe natural that the fans would expect a little more from these icons? Or could it simply be that making the audience laugh along the way helps to cover up a multitude of sins, sins that otherwise become impossible to ignore in more serious movies.

Perhaps the relatively small sample size is the problem, and gradually over time the opinion of the critics and the opinion of the regular moviegoers will meet somewhere in the middle, for better or worse.  Or hey, maybe it’s just one of those weird things that will never really be explained.  Either way, it’s certainly an interesting phenomenon for a movie that has garnered all manner of attention – both positive and negative – since its very inception.
 So, let’s hear you thoughts in the comments, folks.  What did you think of the movie, and why do you think the opinions of the critics and the general moviegoing public is so drastically different on this one?  We’d love to hear your take.

The writer of this piece was: 576682_510764502303144_947146289_nCraig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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6 Comments on Batman V Superman: Difference of Opinion… what’s with the Dawn of Justice reviews?

  1. Excellent article, definitely rings very true in several places and actually mirrors a lot of conversations I’ve had in the last couple of days on the matter. I’ve not yet seen the film (though will of course be doing so very shortly) and am staying away from actual reviews, spoilery or otherwise, but personally, the poor critical consensus don’t bother me in the slightest, for several reasons.

    I think most significant factor in the difference of opinion is the difference in expectations and outlook and also in what the viewers actually want from the movie; critics will be looking at it judgementally, assessing the quality of script, directing, performances, overall production values ect, and while that’s still important to the ‘average’ moviegoer, it’s ultimately secondary to seeing a good, enjoyable film. Having all these elements fall into place can definitely make a huge difference (as an example, Marvel’s Daredevil series, which really is superb on the technical level),at the same time, they might prompt a poor critical review but not at all bother the person going to see an enjoyable superhero action movie featuring cool characters and awesome visuals.

    On that note, I also agree entirely that anyone expecting a Marvel-esque film from BvS will probably not get that and thus be disappointed, but that’s not a fault with the film; if BvS were simply an Avengers script with DC characters substituted in, it’d miss the point rather spectacularly. This isn’t about the ‘DC=gritty and grim, Marvel=fun and happy’ generalisation as that’s very wide of the mark (CW’s Flash and Marvel’s Daredevil scupper that idea single-handedly), but the way DC handles their characters in the comics is completely different in tone, scale and style. As you say, ‘superhero’ is not a genre! Batman in particular needs a darkness to him, and needs to be taken seriously by the makers, lose that feel and you have some guy in a bat costume (or Batman Forever!).

    Finally, I think your point about Marvel getting a free pass, or DC being held to higher standards, is certainly a valid one. I am a huge fan of Marvel both in print and on screen, but I wouldn’t call even the best Marvel movies (in my opinion, The Winter Soldier and Avengers Assemble) masterpieces of the cinematic art! What they do deliver, though, is good stories starring faithful representations of the characters we know and love, looking awesome, kicking ass and letting us enjoy their adventures in a totally different way to any comic book. To end on a more positive note, I also have absolute confidence that Batman vs Superman will deliver exactly the same, and that I’ll walk out of the cinema having enjoyed it a great deal…

  2. thevilearts // March 26, 2016 at 4:15 pm // Reply

    Great stuff…. inspired a response from me… ‘a professional critic’

  3. I agree with much of your opinion on all of this. Especially with the reviewers who go in and try and compare it to the Marvel movies. Probably without even knowing they’re doing it.

    I think for other reviewers, the ones who do cover cape/sci-fi/etc movies, their review is based on two words: Zack Synder. Some of them hate him with a passion that makes them write the review before they even see his films and then just fill in the blanks.

    • The Snyder thing is something that didn’t initially occur to me, until someone else – and you – pointed it out. Very valid point, and a possible explanation for the “hate it before I’ve seen it” mentality I’ve seen from so many.

  4. You know, this is a tough one. I went to see the film this week, I enjoyed Batman V Superman, sure, its got flaws, I’m not sure it could ever live up to expectations tbh, but I don’t think its deserved the mauling its got from a lot – not all though – of the movie critics. Frankly, I wouldn’t say if it the movie critics offered some constructive critique, but it all just seems snarky tbh. Most of my friends have seen it now, and they liked it. Like me, they weren’t too keen on the portrayal of Lex Luthor in the film, they also thought the film was too long, but overall, they enjoyed it. TBH I never go by reviews or critics when I want to see a film, & always make up my own mind first. If you are a DC comcis fan I think you will probably enjoy the film, if you are expecting something more Marvel & lighter in tone then you probably wont. If you didn’t like Man of Steel, then I’d probably say you’d not like BvS either. Perhaps that what this is, maybe a bit of backlash after Man of Steel wasn’t as good as people expected, and BvS is taking the flack for it as well? I don’t think people will be swayed by negative reviews tbh, they’ll still go see it and make up their own minds. After all, “are critics really smarter than the rest of us mere punters?”, well, no, no way, but I think some of them like to think they are! There you go, rant over! LOL :)

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