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The hotly anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice has finally landed, and to say it's causing debate is putting it mildly. In case you've been living under a rock for the past year or so, the movie I'll call BvS from here on out (for brevity's sake) serves a dual purpose. It's a sort-of sequel to the 2013 Superman reboot Man Of Steel and a launching pad for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). DC are hoping it will be their answer to the wildly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), from which we can expect a slew of superhero outings and a big Justice League team up. It all starts with Batman and Superman facing off.
BvS also serves as an introduction to a new Batman, as well as Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and a whole host of other characters. So it's understandable that the movie has had comic book and superhero fans in frenzied excitement since it was announced almost three years ago. After all, every boy or girl who grew up with the comic books, cartoons, action figures or even the Superman and Batman live action movies of the 70's, 80's or 90's has at some point wondered who would win in a fight between the defender of Gotham and the man from Krypton. Now, finally, everyone would get to see it happen.
Still, there were worried voices from the fringes as the time ticked down towards the release date. Zack Snyder's previous effort, Man Of Steel, had its good points but was far from universally beloved. Some of the casting decisions - particularly that of Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor - were questioned. With every announcement and rumour of yet another superhero cameo, people wondered how and why DC were planning to launch their ensemble superhero team-up with just one movie. After all, Marvel had five standalone efforts before The Avengers, while a bloated running time suggested it could be over-stuffed with characters and overlong.
In the few days since the first BvS reviews landed online, the battle between the excited fans of the movie and the less enthusiastic critics has been as massive as that between the two caped comic book characters! At the time of writing, BvS has a rating of 8/10 on IMDb from almost 30,000 votes. A whopping 56% of them have given it a perfect 10. While there might be some professional reviews in there casting votes, it's safe to say that the IMDb rating is a bellwether for how the fans feel about BvS (though I think you should always take IMDb ratings with a pinch of salt, in the past I've seen people give high marks for movies they freely admit to not having seen but that they "know will be amazing").
Things are a bit different elsewhere. Over at movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, BvS is ranked at a dismal 32% (that's the percentage of critics who have given it a positive review). Its average score in those reviews is 5.2/10. A similar site, Metacritic, awards the movie an average of 44. It's not in the realms of the most terrible movies, but it's not great either.
The result of this polarisation - fans who love BvS v. critics who don't - is that BvS is wildly divisive, and many supporters of the movie have been loudly proclaiming online that critics are useless, stupid or biased (some have even been accused of being bribed by Marvel!). Some fans have even said critics who are negative towards the movie should be sacked, or worse. Take a look at the below, from the Twitter feed of TIME critic Stephanie Zacharek (and that's just one Tweet picked at random, there are LOTS of them).
@szacharek GO TO THE HELL, WITCH!!
— Leonelson (@LMLOLLM) March 24, 2016
It's an interesting side note that the fans who loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens shouted down dissenting voices by pointing to overwhelmingly positive critical reviews and now, those same critics views are considered to be worthless. You can't have it both ways!
So why are fans responding to negative views in this way? Bear in mind that some people were saying critics were wrong to dislike BvS before they had even seen it for themselves. I genuinely cannot recall another movie whose generally less-than-positive reception got fans so mouth-frothingly angry.
I've been thinking about why people would get so angry about something as simple as a total stranger having different tastes in cinema and all I can think is that it speaks to the echo chamber of consenting opinions that we surround ourselves with.
Generally, we surround ourselves with people that like the same things we like. The same movies, the same music, the same sports, the same political views - it's natural to be into the same stuff as our closest friends. We do it online too. Our Facebook news feeds will generally promote status updates from friends with "interact" with more (with likes and comments) and those are more likely to be people we like and agree with, rather than dissenting voices. At the same time, we "like" the pages of organisations and news sites that provide the kind of content that appeals to us. On Twitter, too, we follow and retweet people who express opinions we agree with and ignore - or "block" - those that we don't.
The result is an echo chamber, both online and in real life. We only hear the opinions we already agree with. Leading up to BvS, my news feed was filled with excited statuses about it, people posting the trailer, talking theories and generally getting hyped - and I don't even have a lot of comic book fans among my Facebook friends. I imagine it was the same, or more so, for a lot of people.
The fact is, we love having our feelings affirmed. If you are/were one of the many to be pumped for BvS, you will naturally gravitate towards people who share that excitement, and away from the dissenting voices that suggest maybe, just maybe, the movie might be a let-down.
If you've seen or heard nothing but positive things and praise for BvS, it's easy to jump to the conclusion that those who don't like it are wrong. But remember, they aren't wrong. They can't be. And I'm not saying that because I've seen BvS and I'm siding with the negative reviews. I have not seen it (yet) so cannot form my own opinion. I'm saying it because people can't be wrong about BvS, whether they are positive or negative, because opinions are subjective.
So what does the epic fans v. critics battle say about us? Maybe it says that listening to differing opinions than our own might be healthy, and surrounding ourselves with the voices of those who agree with us does not prepare us for the real world - a world where we're not always right. There's nothing wrong with liking what we like, but we need to understand everyone won't feel the same. And that's absolutely fine. The sooner we all accept that, it will be nicer to be a fan - and a critic!
Sources: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, The Day, Warner Bros.