In the days since the release of the Warner Brothers disasterpiece Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the internet and social media has exploded in pockets of white-hot rage as the film has garnered – ahem – less than scintillating reviews. These responses fit a range familiar to anyone who has watched any of the recent superhero films. The film is judged by the “true fan” meter, and negative comments are dismissed with statements like:
“They don’t understand the material.”
“They’re just paid to be critical of everything.” (Author’s note: Paid! HAHAHA!)
“They’re not true fans.”
There is, entirely, a chance that the next film I’m looking forward to–X-Men: Apocalypse will be a bad film. I hope it is not. I have been reading the Chris Claremont era X-Men comics since my childhood, and I want to enjoy the movie. But wanting a good film doesn’t mean getting one.
That’s how films work. Sometimes they’re great! Sometimes they’re not. There can be bad films with really cool things in them. There can be really good films you never watch again because nothing in them inspires you to do so.
The comic book film movement we’ve seen gather steam in recent years is really part of a larger movement that has been, for the most part, catering to a Gen X and later nostalgia movement. It takes a multitude of forms outside of just superheroes. It includes things like the new Star Wars, the Platinum Dunes horror and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboots, the Transformers and GI Joe film franchises, the last couple of Star Trek films… Things that made some sort of indelible impact one way or another on the psyches of a generation of children and teenagers.
With the explosion of the exploitation of this nostalgia market there’s been an increasing tide of siding for properties or products not based on the quality of said properties or products, but on the basis of the brand loyalty. If one says Transformers 4 or TMNT or whatever is not good, one lacks the appropriate reverence for the source/brand to appreciate it, therefore, one’s opinions on quality are not relevant because one is not a “true fan.” Any criticism is irrelevant because to criticize is the mark of not being a “true fan.”
This is bollocks. This “it must be accepted because it exists” mentality is rubbish. It allows for no nuance or room for growth. It takes away the voice of the audience who might be attempting to enjoy something on its own merits as opposed to through the rose-tinted lenses of a childhood love of a mid-eighties cartoon that was made to serve as a series of interconnected toy commercials. There can be both good and bad, they CAN coexist in the same product, and it does not devalue the precious fandom status quo item to state such. Remember, at the end of the day, no matter what that product is, it’s ultimately coming into existence because a few guys and gals in suits who like big profit margins are stating that it should exist.
That it exists is not the victory. That it exists and was made well is. And, of course, everyone has their subjective line as to what makes it “quality.” THAT’S fine. Dismissing someone’s criticism with a blanket statement that they’re not a “true fan” is not. When you use that “true fan” line you’re implying that you’re a sheep that’ll buy into no matter what so long as it’s your precious nostalgia property.
You’ve become an ATM.
And so I go into a movie knowing it may be bad. I hope it won’t be. But hey, things happen. I don’t have to defend a movie if it’s bad. My opinion of a movie’s quality has nothing to do with whether I’m a “true fan.” It has an awful lot more to do with my just wanting a quality attempt made to bring something I’ve enjoyed to the screen.
That’s where the magic is.