With its sequel Justice League already released, you might think that Batman v Superman was done giving up its secrets. But as more of Zack Snyder's vision for Justice League is revealed - and just how far the studio's final cut strayed - more and more of the director's original intentions and storytelling hints, clues, and foreshadowing in BvS has come to light.
The fans have been quick to embrace these epiphanies and revelations of even greater depths unknowable at the time... but the critical consensus isn't changing. Which raises some serious questions about the role and responsibilities of a modern movie critic. If the assumption brought to mind by terms like a "film critic" or a larger "film criticism" is that it will entail a "critical conversation," then BvS continues to show how modern movie reviews may have changed.
Obviously, that all depends on one's definition of a "critic." Is that role charged with a firmer grasp of film theory, able to act as a bridge between artist and audience, illuminating the form, function, and effectiveness? Or is it to be "critical" in the pejorative, and measure a film's faults and successes, arriving at a score - telling paying consumers whether a movie is 'good' or 'bad'?
To say that movie reviewers, critics, or pundits "failed" the movie audience may sound accusatory, but an objective look at the responses online (and surely extending to real life) show that in this instance, large swaths of passionate fans weren't reached, and even fewer made to feel included.
Because from even before the movie launched, it was clear no honest "conversation" was going to take place.
- This Page: How Modern Film Criticism Failed The BvS Audience
- Page 2: How Fans Embraced Film Theory for Themselves
Batman v Superman Fans Felt Ignored By The Critics
We're not interested in claiming who was "wrong" or right" - this is art, after all, meaning neither exists - but that isn't needed to spot the places where modern, online film criticism fell short. Many fans of varying levels of enjoyment or even passion observed that in many cases, critics or reviewers were overlooking, ignoring, or applying an inconsistent yardstick as part of the larger negative wave of reviews, hit-pieces, and scathing indictments of Snyder and the DCEU.
Those who created them were entitled to, and their opinions were as valid as many fans. But more voices than normal spoke up, claiming that they weren't just interested in a critic or reviewer's personal opinions - they were hoping to see the movie put under a critical lens. Again, not to determine "if it's good or bad," or even if it "fails or succeeds," but simply what is it doing? How is it doing it? What does it bring to a rapidly growing, formulaic genre?
Critical conversation starters, every one of them. And if the critics moviegoers turned to weren't supplying them, then the fans would start and guide that conversation on their own.
Fans Showed The Snyder Hate Wasn't Just About Criticism
The quick responses, sadly, showed how clearly the dislike, scorn, and negative feedback for anything Batman v Superman, or indeed DC or Snyder-related wasn't coming from a critical source. Those who disliked the film weren't part of a homogeneous group, but for the most prominent voices, it wasn't enough to simply make their opinion that Snyder's work was objectively bad, creatively bankrupt, or terribly misguided known. Going a step further, anyone who questioned that consensus, highlighted overlooked elements, or sought to engage with the work was foolish, pitiably zealous, and deserving of less than respectful response.
There is simply no grey area: that response or attitude is NOT a critical one, in the spirit of the word or philosophy. As time passed, many online personalities or pundits who considered themselves "critics" took this same stance against the idea of criticism as a conversation and investigation, outright refusing to question, consider, or respectfully engage with opposing opinions.
So it's a good thing the fans were there to do it themselves.
Fans' Criticism Has Revealed More Than Critics
One might think that when a critic's stance was challenged, often with evidence buoyed by Snyder's personal confirmation of details most missed, it was more often dismissed or scoffed at. The fact that a director would need to confirm his intent at all claimed as proof of his failure. As a single example, the horses in BvS were not, as it turns out, mere "Easter Eggs" or references to Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, as many fansites explained. When asked by a fan if the horses signal death, Snyder confirmed the link to The Book of Revelation 6:8 specifically, "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."
Those who simply appreciate the film took this as a thought provoking bit of imagery: parade horses carrying Superman's symbol, as humble plow horses carry Clark Kent back to the Kent farm. But many of the film's harshest critics (and a majority of those tasked with writing up Snyder's comment as news) implied that this missed detail wasn't enough to "make up for" the film's other successes or failures. Like all other overlooked themes, dualities, or messages noted by fans before and since, the consensus opinion or reputation couldn't be swayed one bit.
Fortunately, it no longer needs to be.