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What if critics and fans are both right about Batman v Superman?

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Last week, film critics came together and pulverized Batman v Superman. "Blunt, humorless, and baffling," wrote Slate's Jonathan Fischer. "It collides the brutish directorial stamp of its director (he of 300 and Watchmen fame) with the most shameless instincts of our latter-day superhero franchise bubble." The words of Fischer and his peers didn't deter viewers, however. Batman v Superman nabbed $166 million in domestic ticket sales — the seventh highest opening weekend box office. So who was wrong: the critics or the fans?

Neither! In fact the entire framing of this question, which I see bouncing about the internet this morning, is bunk. A critic's job isn't to damage the sales of a film. Nor is a critic charged with reflecting or predicting the opinion of the general public. At their best, a critic — with their deep understanding of a medium's language, its history, and its function — presents an analysis in a sincere and concise fashion. The best critics illuminate the work of art for fellow viewers.

Neither side is wrong

Fan support of a film doesn't make it objectively superior or aesthetically worthwhile. If it did, Transformers would have permanent spot on the walls of the MOMA. A blockbuster film's success is as much, if not more, an achievement of marketing than it is of filmmaking.

A critic might make an eloquent statement about the boardroom cynicism that shapes a film's construction. Or a critic might pan the murky waters of a babbling blockbuster for flecks of gold. Criticism can be intellectually dense, but also be broad and light. While a fan might uncover a carefully concealed, laughable subtle reference or allusion. A fan can take the individual work, and mold it around some larger, deeply personal mishmash of cherished media.

Both sides win

What really fascinates me are the points in which hardcore fandom and criticism meet. Take for example "Batman v Superman best review on the internet," above. Creators The Third Pew might not even call their video criticism, but it is! Zod help me if I try to explain why the jokes work. But I encourage you to watch yourself, and spot many ways in which the goofs pivot on an understanding of film and comic book history. Few reviews captured what fans love about the film like The Third Pew's video, cutting from the boring introduction of Superman to clip of Batman beating a dude.

In the Critics v Fans match up, the outcome echoes Batman v Superman. Nobody dies and both sides win. Fans get the movie they wanted. Critics get press and readership. The two inform one another for infinite battles to come.


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