Putting two giant comic book heroes with impressive giant screen appearance portfolio in a yet again mammoth of a film is a sure-fire box office success. It’s not simply Batman and Superman, but Batman versus Superman. So people expect action, conflict, and everything in between, which the film graciously delivered. However, the critics—the writers who, for unknown reasons, have the clout over determining which film is passable to their delicate palate or not—say it is one big movie perforated with plot holes, bad acting, and incomprehensible narration.
Alex Abad Santos of Vox called it “A stink bucket of disappointment, [and] a sad and unnecessary PG-13 orphan fight,” while Michael Philips of Chicago Tribune made it as curt as possible with, “Humankind deserves a better blockbuster. Joe Morgenstern tried his hand at the terse and the witty with, “The Incredibles without the fun,” whereas Peter Howell of Toronto Star offered an alternative title, by saying “It should really be called Batman and Superman v the Audience.”
Certainly, almost 90 percent of all pundit reviews say that the film falls short of expectations, blaming its inevitable trip to oblivion on its unintelligible, if not totally garbled, storytelling. “No major blockbuster in years has been this incoherently structured, this seemingly uninterested in telling a story with clarity and purpose. It grumbles along for what feels like forever, jinking from subplot to subplot, until two shatteringly expensive-looking fights happen back to back, and the whole thing crunches to a halt,” wrote Robbie Collin of The Telegraph.
Still, there’s always someone on the other side of the fence. The likes of Erik Kain of Forbes and other unknown true comic book fans on the web are saying that whatever has been tallied on Rotten Tomatoes—wherein the film got a disastrous 28 percent fresh rating (as of this writing)—is just the other half of the entire equation. They liked it—calling the movie “fantastic” and the critics “crazy.”
The negative reviews and the cast members’ reaction to them have actually helped the film to gain more attention, even if it doesn’t need one really. It has become a word-of-mouthesque tool for Warner Bros., which catapulted the subsequent DC movie installments to audience consciousness, one thing that could turn the movie into an instant, needless to mention, unforgettable classic. The film instantly grossed $424 million over the weekend across the globe, which is the biggest opening weekend for a superhero flick.
Thanks to social media, as well as to companies such as 5BARz International or WeBoost RV 4G, “social voice” has become more powerful. Critics’ opinion are no longer the king of the game. Even cast members and directors have now the chance to defend themselves on their own social network accounts.
Nevertheless, what BvS is getting is not really an unusual case of a box office-stunner cum critical review failure. Fight Club (1999) despite being led by Brad Pitt, succumbed to negative reviews. The most scathing of which, was Roger Ebert’s “…a thrill ride masquerading as philosophy—the kind of ride where some people puke and others can’t wait to get on again.”
But the film gained immense following through the years, and gradually improved its ratings on various movie review platforms. And seriously, can anyone remember what Arlington Road and Superstar are all about? In case you didn’t know, these two were the other two top grossers in the same year, and critics somewhat loved them.
There’s a long list for this. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Gary Marshall’s Pretty Woman (1990), and even James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) had all enticed thousands of moviegoers at their respective opening weekends and at the same time earned dismal reviews from the experts. Still, they managed to become among the most-loved film by film enthusiasts, be put by some film professors on their own required watching lists, and be remembered by every person interested in the film industry.
Bottom-line is that filmmakers, most of them, aren’t really making films for these finicky critics. Auteur directors, or the likes of Wong Kar-Wai, Wes Anderson, Tarantino, Malick, and Van Sant, would make films regardless if these would contain usual elements critics would not buy. Big, straightforward, mainstream Hollywood productions like BvS, however, mainly care about ticket sales, especially if it already announced a long list of future adaptations that would make up a whole universe comparable to that of Marvel, which is, as we all know, costly.
As explained by Michael Cavna of the New Zealand Herald, it’s all about enhancing an existing brand recall: "And even attempting to hold up Batman v Superman as the people's box-office champion over negative criticism misses the larger point: The deepest reason for this commercial resilience isn't really about comic books. It's about branding. Whatever the source material, be it book or play or video game or toy, Hollywood is supremely skilled at selling you a name you already recognise.”
Indeed, the entire outfit behind the film is banking on these strings of negative revenues. Actors appearing sad on TV shows after hearing the unpleasant critic opinions are now memes that just make people hard to forget about it. A deleted R-rated scene has now surfaced on the web and it’s intensifying all the hype and attention it is getting. This said, it’s hard to say who really wins the game. The critics? The film outfit? Or the audience? Or maybe every one of us has our own share of wins and losses. Well, it all boils down to how you look at it.