In comic book circles right now, there is only one story. That's the story of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice - before the film has even been released! Even as I write, countless Facebook groups are absorbed in furious debate, critics are being trolled, and fans are stubbornly digging their heels in and determining to see the movie regardless.
How did we get to this?
DC's plans for Batman V Superman
DC's Man of Steel - introducing Henry Cavill as #Superman - had divided popular opinion. Critics had lambasted it for its heavy-handedness, while old-school Superman fans had fumed at the fact Superman broke Zod's neck. There still seemed no doubts that Warner Bros. would commission a sequel, but - just three days before making the announcement at Comic Con 2013 - the studio changed gears. What was actually announced took fans by surprise.
Far from being just another Superman film, the sequel would be the first step in establishing the #DCEU - pitting Superman against Batman himself!
The first controversies
DC could be forgiven for feeling as though they simply couldn't win. On the one hand, their desire to build up a Cinematic Universe at speed was quickly criticised for 'too much, too quickly'. On the other, every casting decision - from Ben Affleck as #Batman to Gal Gadot as #WonderWoman - drew ire on social media.
Fans of the #DC superheroes had everything invested in this. Since 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe had seemed like the only game in town. Now they had a shot at seeing their own favourites take to the big screen! But with the excitement came fear, as Warner Bros.' decisions simply weren't the ones the fans expected.
Soon DC's fandom was divided. You had some fans who were critical and concerned; you had others who, excited but protective of the heroes they'd loved since childhood, began seeing every criticism as "Marvel fans". In using Man of Steel as the foundation, and continuing to keep Zack Snyder as the leading-light, DC committed to a very different tone and style to Marvel. Some feared this would limit the movie's appeal (as it had done Man of Steel), while others just argued DC were building a different kind of superhero world.
The first trailer was received with excitement. Concerns over some casting decisions disappeared overnight - particularly over Ben Affleck's Batman, who seemed excellent.
But the studio's marketing department made a mis-step with the second trailer. The monstrous #Doomsday was revealed; and with that revelation, many fans felt DC had shown the "spine" of the movie. Fans argued that the film was clearly broken into three acts: a first, setting the scene; a second, with the core conflict; and a third, where the heroes teamed up against Doomsday. The structure is a traditional one as regards superhero team-ups, and some fans were left disappointed.
The first showings
The last week has seen the first opportunity for informed comments. An unusually strict embargo was placed on critical reviews, with NDAs signed to not disclose secrets of the third act in particular. Fans who got to attend these early showings, meanwhile, were under no such restrictions. Social media was soon buzzing with comments like this:
For a couple of blissful days, DC fans were in heaven. But the problem is, the emotional high of an early screening often leads to overly-positive reactions from general moviegoers. Last year's Fantastic Four - a superhero train-wreck, really - received strongly positive social media comments after those early showings.
Film critics, however, are used to this kind of context. When the embargo was lifted, they began to have their say.
It wasn't pleasant.
Zack Snyder's style and tone was criticised, and the script was attacked for plot holes. Although the film was felt to have a truly mythical quality, so much care had been taken to create a sense of grandeur that most critics felt the plot had suffered. More than that, the general atmosphere of the film was felt by many critics to be a problem. They just didn't find it fun.
At time of writing, the critic response to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice on #RottenTomatoes is a horrific 31%.
The fan reaction
The fan reaction has been furious. A common argument has been that the film is made for the fans, not for the critics, and so the critics' opinions don't matter. That argument has ignored the possibility that critics are fans, too, and strayed into the 'real fan' trope at times: a 'real fan' would enjoy this film.
Rotten Tomatoes itself has come under sustained attack, with fans arguing that it's unfair. Given that the critics' score is simply an aggregate of reviews given on other sites, the problem isn't with Rotten Tomatoes.
Most incredible of all, some fans have gone so far as to argue that Disney bought out the critics to attack their competition.
Given that some of the companies issuing the critical reviews are owned by Warner Bros., that seems fairly unlikely.
The reality is, the constant debate about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice - from the casting through to the trailer - has understandably left #DC fans feeling under pressure. They're determined to enjoy this film - it's the beginning of a Cinematic Universe with ties all the way through their childhood and adult lives! But by now, some fans simply feel they can't win, that they're under attack, and they're lashing out in anger.
One thing's for sure: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice isn't an unparalleled success. Critical responses to the film have been horrific; and yet, in spite of that, the film is still going to have a strong opening weekend. The might of the brands involved in it - Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and even the first hints of the Justice League - are too strong. Commercially, this film is sure to be a success.
DC have committed to retaining Zack Snyder for the two-part Justice League films. That looks like a commitment to continue developing their Cinematic Universe in the dominant tone and style of Man of Steel; so the controversy is certain to continue. This weekend will see popular reactions to Batman V Superman, so we'll really begin to get a sense of how the public take it.
For myself, I've been watching all the hype and all the debate, but I remain willing to have an open mind. Tomorrow evening, I'll watch a film that I continue to hope that I'll love, and as I walk out of that cinema I'll decide for myself what I made of it.
Stay tuned, because that's sure to turn into a review...