Posted on Friday, March 25th, 2016 by Ethan Anderton
After debuting with the usual preview screenings last night, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is in theaters everywhere this weekend. But before the film had even been seen by a majority of the general public, there was already an uproar on the internet when negative reviews started rolling in. And it wasn’t just a few negative words here and there.
Critics have largely been unkind to the film, resulting in a current 30%, with an average 5.1/10 rating, on Rotten Tomatoes (down slightly form earlier in the week), making it worse than the abysmal X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That upset some of the fans who were lucky enough to see it early, as well as tons of fans who hadn’t even seen the movie yet. It’s par for the course with a comic book movie.
However, this time there was some quick response from director Zack Snyder as well as cast members Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Amy Adams about the negative reviews. But there’s one particular response to the negative reviews that is really frustrating to see, and it opens up a discussion about film criticism and fandom at large that must be had.
So let’s dive into this debate stirred up by Batman v Superman critics and fans below.
Zack Snyder and Batman v Superman Cast Respond to Negative Reviews
First of all, let’s take a look at what Zack Snyder had to say in response to the negative reviews flooding the internet. The director is taking it in stride by simply telling Yahoo UK:
“I’m a comic book guy and I made the movie based as much as I could on that aesthetic. And so I don’t know how else to do it 100%, so it is what it is.”
The tone of his voice in the video where this quote comes from sounds a little sad, which is understandable with some of the things being said about his movie. In the same video, Henry Cavill points out that it’s the people heading to theaters this weekend whose opinion matters most:
“What is really going to matter, I believe, is what the audience says, because they’re the ones who are buying tickets. The audience’s voice is loudest and after this weekend the audience, at least partly, will have spoken.”
Amy Adams echoes those sentiments when she says:
“I know that Zack doesn’t make the movies — or none of us are making the movies — for the critics,” she said, adding that fan responses so far have been positive and articulating that they’re “making the films for them.”
It’s fine that Zack Snyder and his cast aren’t bothered by what critics have to say about Batman v Superman, or any of the movies they make. They’re artists, and they’re better off doing what they want to do, regardless of what critics say. But that doesn’t mean what critics say should merely be disregarded or taken as inconsequential by audiences. Furthermore, this differentiation between critics and the general audience is unnecessarily divisive and not representative of the fact that critics are movie fans just like you.
Because of these responses, I think it’s important to clarify some statements, accusations and assumptions that have been made from a variety of moviegoers when speaking about critics in general, specifically with regard and in response to the reviews they have written after seeing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. (Although this is something that happens all the time when audiences have a preconceived notion or excitement about any given movie.)
A Movie Review Is Inherently a Subjective Opinion
It’s crazy that this has to be pointed out, but believe it or not, there are some people who just don’t understand that any movie review written by a critic is not meant to be representative of an entire population, and it’s not meant to be the definitive final word on any film.
Readers must remember that each declarative statement written in a review which gives a verdict on any given element of a film (a performance, the score, cinematography, the screenplay, or anything viewers see and hear on screen) is inherently an opinion. Phrases like “In my opinion,” or “I think,” are not always included because that would be repetitive and unnecessary, especially when it’s implied by the fact that the piece you’re reading is, by definition, someone’s own personal thoughts and opinions on a film.
The function of a movie review is to give the personal impression of a given writer’s experience with a film, indicating what they thought was good and or bad. Again, that doesn’t mean that readers have to agree with what critics write, because they can form their own opinion. However, it’s probably best that you don’t express your own opinion or offer dissension to other opinions after you’ve actually seen the movie in consideration.
Why Rail Against a Review of a Movie You Haven’t Seen Yet?
Fans love to hear when a movie they’re excited about is good. For some reason, this is the only time that some readers like to hear from critics. But film criticism is not something that should be enjoyed when a personal opinion or excitement matches up with what someone writes and then disregarded and bashed when it doesn’t, especially when it concerns a film that a reader hasn’t seen yet.
In the case of Batman v Superman, negative reviews brought a plethora of negative, insulting responses to critics who were just doing their job. My question is, what good does that possibly do? Someone who hasn’t seen the movie can’t make a real case as to why the movie is good, and yet Twitter, comment sections and other places on the internet are riddled with these pointlessly toxic remarks. And this is where they begin to criticize critics. Some readers think that critics can’t handle criticism about their writing, but that’s not the case. But if you’re going to criticize critics (which most critics care about as much as filmmakers care about critical reviews), there are some points that have been made that just aren’t accurate or are simply irrelevant.