CRITICS V FANS: DAWN OF MISUNDERSTANDING

by David Watson

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Something interesting has happened in the comic book movie world in the past couple days. It seems that Marvel Studios is already holding press screenings for Captain America: Civil War. The reaction has been really positive, though critics are on embargo until the 13th of this month. You can go to Twitter and see what some of them are saying (or hinting at) already.
But some sites are already running articles about these positive reactions, and the consensus from the Social Media crowd so far? “So What? Batman v Superman had positive word of mouth before the critics tore it to shreds”.
That’s the fundamental difference though. These screenings that Marvel is holding is for critics. The early world of mouth on BvS came from fan screenings.

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This seems to be lost on a ton of people.
I have no issue with admitting that I am an uber-nerd when it comes to things. The way film studios hold screenings, lift embargoes, or even allow press screenings in the first place, says a ton about not just what the studio thinks of the film but also what the critics will potentially think as well.
Most of the time, when a studio thinks it has a stinker on it’s hands, it won’t even have screenings, as they don’t need to have the negative word of mouth going around before the film has even come out. This is why I think people are having a hard time grasping the difference between what is going on at the moment in regards to CA:CW and BvS.
There was already some hesitation from executives at Warner’s in regards to BvS; this was making the circles before anyone outside of the studio had seen a single frame. So Warner’s did what they thought at the time was a smart thing. They held early fan screenings. The idea was simple: let fans spread early word of mouth, critics be damned.
This seems to have backfired, as both critical reaction, and general audience reaction has led to a bad word of mouth on the film. Hardcore fans of the movie itself seem to think there is some sort of conspiracy to tank the film, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.* As of this writing, Box Office Mojo has the film at a World Wide Estimate of only $743 million (I’m rounding up as well).
This is a film featuring two of the best known superheroes in the world. And it has only grossed $30 million more, in terms of box office, than Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  It has to almost double it’s current numbers to come even close to matching both Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, which both crossed the Worldwide mark of $1 billion.
This is the thing that bothers me. Especially coming from the lunk-headed hardcore fans of this movie. If it was that good, how could it not beat a film that is essentially cast with lower tier Marvel characters? This is the hard pill to swallow… The film is just okay. It’s not on the level of the Avengers or even, in my opinion, AoU.

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And before anyone attempts to call bullshit, or say I don’t understand this film, let it be known, I learned to read with comics. I have loved, and followed, these characters for almost 30 out of the 35 years that I have been on this earth. I remember the first Superman comic I ever bought. When people understand these characters they shine. Warner’s has put in charge a guy who doesn’t fundamentally understand Superman; hell, I’m not even sure if he actually gets Batman.
Marvel on the other hand has one guy in charge (Kevin Feige) who knows how to put the right folks in charge of handling these characters. You could go through a great list of some of filmdom’s best writers/directors who really care about the story they are trying to tell. Yes, Marvel shoehorns in Easter eggs, or story beats to serve their Universe. They are not free from critical thought. The majority of their movies take the care to tell a good story. BvS seemed to be concerned with setting up a universe where these characters exist.
The other thing that needs to be addressed, and for which I already talked about briefly on the Podcast: some of these critics that the fans are shitting on? They are fans, too. This has essentially become every comic book store nightmare I have ever had, where someone says I’m not a true fan because I happen to not like the thing they like. It’s simple-minded, and it’s crappy, and it’s stupid. It also shows, and this actually depresses me, that people don’t want to critically think about a movie. In all of the glowing reviews from fans of BvS, I haven’t seen one thing that tells me the movie is good. It has essentially been given the mono-syllabic mumbling of “Fights cool. It’s awesome”. And I don’t have time for this sort of thinking. If you can’t tell me why you think a movie is good besides a battle you have wanted to see you whole life, I don’t have time for you.
But understand this. The fact that critics are responding positively to Civil War, and not to BvS, says to me that the film is probably, actually good. It also says that, unlike Warner’s, Marvel has the faith in this film to allow critics to see it this early.
Again, this is the fundamental difference.
Early reaction to BvS was coming from fan screenings, Civil War reactions are coming from the critics. Marvel is allowing good word of mouth to spread from the critics, not because of some conspiracy to undermine DC, but because they actually believe in the film that they made.
Now Marvel, give me some of that good-word-of-mouth money!**

*Both the idea of a conspiracy, and the conspiracy theory itself, are asinine. Go listen to our BvS special edition if you want more of my, and my brother, Duane’s, thoughts on the film
**Seriously, Disney, I need some money

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