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.
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.