Let's start with an important preface: Batman v Superman is not a perfect movie. I'm not saying "critics are evil!" or "all critics are biased and wrong!" That would be stupid, ignorant, and unfair. It has its fair share of flaws, and, even as someone who really, really liked it, can see where plenty of sound criticism comes from. But the reality is, as anyone who's visited sites like Rotten Tomatoes will tell you, critics aren't just split on the movie like Man of Steel (though audiences seem to be- some hate it, some were disappointed, and some downright adore this movie), the divisiveness extends into a realm of downright vitriol and contempt for the film, as if several of these reviewers were downright assaulted by it. What this article is going to do is remind you just how sites like Rotten Tomatoes work, where I think some of that vitriol is coming from, and, above all, why it's so important to make and stand by your own opinion, whatever that may be.
Now, again, don't get me wrong- there are great positive reviews out there I personally sympathize with, and there are also plenty of fair-minded and rational more negative ones which I acknowledge and concede some points to, even if I don't necessarily agree with them. But some of them (I won't name names, but they're not hard to find at all if you take a scroll through them) seem to revel in the film's shortcomings and relish in the prospect of its failure, stopping just short of slurring the film's caterers and lighting team slurring just about everyone else involved. Let's take a look at why that might be.
The casting controversy, the creative team attached, and the prejudices.
Ever since the day of Ben Affleck's casting, it seems, there has been a real divisiveness attached to this film. From that moment fans cried "boycott!" organizing petitions and slurring the movie; and in the end, it turned out, despite some of those same bandwagoners still existing, Affleck is just about the damn best Batman ever put on screen, and everyone, both dissenters and lovers alike, are excited for the prospect of what an Affleck directed Batman solo film could bring. Then came Gal Gadot- "she's too skinny, she can't act!" Yet another cast member proving this wrong, she's actually the biggest draw to see the film, and about the only aspect of Dawn of Justice which is universally loved (my own two cents- it's worth seeing just for her!) Then came Jesse Eisenberg, and we all know the outcry that produced, and people are still split on him. The point? This film has made many controversial decisions since the very start, fully aware it was making them, and all of those considered, it seemed it was making enemies day by day (admittedly people who hadn't actually seen the movie) which would ensure a level of divisiveness. I love that it made all of those decisions, by the way.
Zack Snyder is yet to make a widely acclaimed film, and it's highly doubtful he ever will. Amy Adams says it well- "he doesn't make movies for critics." While already some critics have (totally unsurprisingly) balked at this, she's quite right. He makes movies which are very much for a certain audience and aesthetic, and, full disclosure, if Warner Bros want a loved and entirely successful (the box office numbers will be the most telling) DCEU, maybe he does have to go. But that's not what I'm here to debate. A lot of critics really, really don't like the man, for whatever reasons, and it's as if he's personally attacked them in their lives (highly unlikely). I think back to a tweet just a few weeks ago by an actual, paid film critic whose reviews appear on Rotten Tomatoes (though she didn't review Batman v Superman, it should be said)-
Pretty damning, right? Many fans and critics alike went in with this mindset, and, sure, it's an opinion, but it's also not one that was ever going to do the film's reception any favors. While it's totally unfair and I would never suggest all critics had this mindset, plenty did going into Batman v Superman, and I dare say Snyder's name alone was destined to make this movie divisive from the start.
The now infamous 'smear campaign.'
Again, ever since arguably Ben Affleck's casting as The Dark Knight, it's no secret for anyone who's followed the movie that many news outlets, including some of the major ones like i09, have treated it with the utmost cynicism and latched onto the details which support the aforementioned narrative of its failure. What was really, surprising, though, was the lengths which people went to to try and see the film held in a negative light- just a while back, a Reddit user discovered a Twitter smear campaign (well worth the read if you're interested in social media, and how bizarre people can be, if nothing else), driven by hundreds of bots endlessly claiming the movie would be a "two hour tracking shot of all DC characters standing in the rain." While I wouldn't say this particularly influenced many reviews, it just shows you that there are people out there who were and are desperate to see this movie panned and fail, and that really lends support to the notion of that hate narrative. Another one, pictured, was discovered soon after, which aimed to spread negative buzz.
It doesn't help that a lot of the reporting of the film was attached to quite damaging rumours. Drew Mcweeney of Hitfix (fairly and arguably just doing his job and reporting what he heard) covered how Warner Bros were allegedly worried about Batman v Superman (and, perhaps they were- who knows?) and while this was largely an editorial, many sites ran with it that Zack Snyder would be replaced for Justice League, that Dawn of Justice buzz suggested it was a total disaster, and all of this built towards the ongoing narrative of hate and scorn towards the movie before anyone had even seen it. It got so bad that at one point both ABC News (Australia) and Recknews (while it's since been deleted) wrote articles covering, with the headline for the latter, "DC Ignores Cancer Patient Early Viewing of Batman v Superman" after the apparent failure of the #Batman4Bazz campaign, the latter explicitly targeting Warner Bros and Snyder personally for this. In a heartwarming turn of events, though, Barry did indeed get to see the movie early, and loved it.
The controversy over Man of Steel.
Everybody knows it by now- Man of Steel was arguably the most divisive comic book movie of all time (though it may be dethroned by this one). It's reviews went from hating it to calling it a masterpiece. When Batman v Superman was announced, I was rather sure that it would receive the same reception (though I admit I was taken aback when I found it was even less favorable) as Man of Steel, because it would be rather hard to convince the people who hated it and the tone it established for this universe to get on board, no matter how many criticisms it addressed (and make no mistake, Dawn of Justice often explicitly addresses those criticisms). Man of Steel already had a very mixed approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it seemed very unlikely to me without a massive overhaul of a creative team that that large portion of critics who disliked it would change their tune.
Is it a perfect movie? Of course not.
The movie is flawed in several ways which could have been easily fixed, in my opinion. Its editing and pacing, for example- I remain hopeful the Ultimate Cut coming in late July with an extra half an hour could remedy those issues, and spend a bit more time remedying that and showing off some more character study which I expected. But, in my opinion, it's not bad at all- and again, that's just my opinion. Someone else will say it is, someone else will disagree with me and tell me it's flawless. That's film. Remember- a lot of fans love this movie. Reviews and impressions from the premiere and many screenings still were wildly positive and adoring, and so it's perfectly okay to both love and hate this movie.
Now, to by far the more important part, and above all, the contention of this article- make your own opinions, and stand by them! Your opinions are your own, not to be constructed by someone else. As comic writer Gail Simone put it- "who cares?"
The vast majority of critics don't have some secret hidden agenda to hate this film or hidden prejudices; merely some were supporting and lending to a hate narrative from the start, sure, and many more were always skeptical, and that's fine. But I think there are compelling reasons enough why Dawn of Justice's approval rating is as unjustly low as it is beyond the quality of the film. Remember, it's an aggregator- it takes everything into account, and that's one of my main problems with it. It takes nuanced and complex reviews (as critic Armond White put it) and, with good intent and for simplicity, entirely negates that complexity but squashing every review into a "good" or "bad" category. While Batman v Superman's approval rating is low, few hated it as much as other films on its level; most reviews, both fresh and rotten, border on the middle. It's a very mixed movie, with most reviews ranging from 2 or 3 out of 5 (the difference between 'fresh' and 'rotten') rather than downright "what an awful disaster!" reviews. This is reflected in its average rating of 5.5 out of 10, or Metacritic- another aggregate's- 47 (at the moment) score of 100. I implore you to see the film and make your own opinion accordingly. I've always implored my friends- read the reviews. Don't just look at the score, because, to be honest, it's utterly meaningless in the long run, and most critics would agree.
The main thing to take away from this? You are perfectly entitled to love Batman v Superman, or to like it. You are perfectly entitled to dislike, or hate it. As John Campea also rather well put it-
And he's not alone, and if you liked it, neither are you. Grace Randolph of Beyond The Trailer downright loved the film. Mark Hughes of Forbes gave it an entirely glowing review, calling it a 'triumph' and 'remarkable achievement,' and most of the major comicbook news outlets, from Josh Wilding at ComicBookMovie (who's been cynical since the start) who lauded it, to Ashley Robinson for comicbook.com and so on loved it. The BBC called it a "four star epic" - Cultjer wrote that it was "Snyder's masterpiece." Alex Zane of The Sun called it "absolutely, positively brilliant." Formulate your opinion, whether glowing or scathing, from your own viewing and own thoughts, not on an abstract Tomatometer which merely shows a lot of critics disliked the film (and doesn't separate the well formulated negative reviews from the purely asinine and unfounded ones); not that you are obligated to dislike it. Don't be reluctant to make your own opinions.
You can love this movie. You can hate this movie. No one is going to make you conform to a particular opinion, and there is no overruling godly force which says you must.
Film is subjective. "It's the means by which the Internet takes revenge on individual expression," wrote critic Armond White in 2010, and I've never agreed more with him; "dumping reviewers onto one website and assigning spurious percentage-enthusiasm points to the discrete reviews. Offering consensus as a substitute for assessment." I wrote an extensive article last year, which I may revisit, on this very subject. See it for yourself and find out. And above all, whatever your opinion is, don't feel guilty for having it, wherever you stand and however many people want you to feel that way.
Like's far too short to get upset over what other people think. Have the confidence to make and stand by your own opinions, and not have to have everyone stand by you. That's movies.