Story Pile: Batman V Superman

I don’t need to talk to you about this movie. General wisdom is that this movie is bad and you have a bunch of different sources giving you different reasons for it to be bad, and there’s even a comprehensive, thoroughly done, four hour long video essay breaking down a whole host of the problems I had with it.

Honestly, if you’re into movie criticism it’s a very engaging, thoughtful and thorough examination of the movie’s failings, complete with a very reasonable perspective on Zack Snyder’s work, and a recognition of some of the movie’s virtues.

That’s if you want to go look into the movie. It seems pretty unnecessary though.

What’s interesting to me, though is the people who love this movie.

By the way, just wait someone’s going to give me shit for linking Moviebob as if that proves the movie is good.

It’s sort of generally accepted that Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is a bad movie, which is a pretty non-meaningful phrase when you think about it. What does it mean when we say a movie is bad?

I feel the best broad way to answer that is ‘we’re saying it’s not worth seeing,’ which is, when expressed like that, a reasonable, meaningful statement. I’ve seen it three times now, one of which was More Of It. When I see a movie or a show I like, I want to talk about it, I want to engage with people about it, and that’s a really cool feeling. The desire to share, the desire to engage is strong. That means to me, a movie is good enough to share, or it’s not.

That really is all it – I can’t really imagine having a fun or interesting conversation about why I don’t like or didn’t enjoy Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. I can maybe clown on it on twitter a little bit, but it’s not going to really be funny or interesting or great outside of a very specialised audience of people who like dissecting movies for their failings. That’s all, though – it isn’t a movie worth dragging for even its own sake, since it’s kinda boring.

Like, it’s a bad movie, so what, right?

But I have encountered a surprising number of total strangers who want to patrol the internet, who want to use open online spaces like Youtube and Twitter and Tumblr to find people who didn’t like the movie, and tell them they are wrong.

One of the things in this dumpster fire of a social moment though is how the people who demonstrate utter antipathy towards critics and criticism and media studies, the people who sneeringly dismiss people who dislike this movie as being eggheads or critics or liberals (weirdly often) or socialists (even more often) or feminists (why), are almost always clamouring for the opinions of people in critical positions who have something positive to say about the movie.

This doesn’t so much project seeking analysis or cultural criticism, but instead looking for validation from people who are in some way considered exalted. People with media platforms, people who are able to position themselves as a voice of authority. This is why some of the Youtube dinghole brigade, you know, just the worst people, are suddenly weighing in on why these movies people enjoy are Bad, Actually, and how this movie is Good, Actually.

Then, equipped with these arguments, often from people who don’t really understand what they’re talking about as it pertains to media, framing and lenses, they go out into the world to defend their movie fave from the critics.

I think the real surprising thing to me about the defenses of this movie is how they are constantly quantum. The movie is both meant to be straightforward fun watching two cool characters having a fight, and a much bigger work that requires an ultimate cut to be worthwhile. It’s not fair to mock the movie based on one line of dialogue and four minutes of fighting in a 154 minute movie is all it needs to be worthwhile. The movie is too low-brow for critics to like it. The movie is too high-brow for critics to like it. The movie is too avant-garde, and the movie is too basic. The movie’s structure is a Platonic five-act, but no wait, it is a three-act that you didn’t properly notice.

Now, I have experience with people who are unpleasable and want to set parameters that are conflicting and impossible to fulfill, so I am naturally leery of when I observe this pattern of behaviour. It’s behaviour that ensures the other person, if they’re striving to reach a compromise or a point of equality with you, are always going to lose. It’s a pattern of behaviour that’s abusive, but it’s also a pattern of behaviour, strategically, that you might recognise in game terms.

It’s a game practice about presenting a scenario where there’s no good answers. It is a way to establish control.

Oh, videogame cultures, what haven’t you ruined.

I kid, honestly. It isn’t even videogames here, this time. This is squarely on toxic masculinity, that permeating massive fog that tells people, many of whom are not even actually men, that they have to view things in terms of wins and losses and conquest and triumph and dominance and violence, and that therefore, the value of Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice as a thing you like can’t be simplified down to ‘Hey, I enjoyed it, shrug,’ but has to instead be about finding people on the internet who do not care about your opinion and yelling at them, because that’s how you show you were right to enjoy it, and they were wrong not to and you win at liking a movie.

You’re allowed to like movies people think of as bad, and honestly, if you told me you liked Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice I’d hardly think that was a worrying sign about you or even a warning flag the way that some far more egregiously uncomfortable works like 300 or Idiocracy. Really, I’d be confused, because the movie is really dull, and even if you like the spectacle or the aesthetic so much of what it’s doing is like, really plodding.

There is that one really excellent line, though – I’m older now than my father ever was. That’s a cool, good line.

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