Batman v. Superman and The Divisive Nature of Cinema

Watching two recent comic book movies – Deadpool and Batman v. Superman – brings me to a rhetorical question. If cinema can unite, can it divide as well?

No, not divide, as in, create wars and end friendships in between moviegoers. I’m talking about divisive ratings. When I started my tenure as a film enthusiast, I always cling to movie ratings. I referred to IMDb for a long time, until I realize that there is life outside IMDb (y’all, The Shawshank Redemption is in no way the best film of all time). Now, I’m referring to IMDb, MUBI, Letterboxd, Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes, and countless of other review sites. But, I don’t cling too much to review sites now. If I want to watch a movie, I’ll watch it, regardless of the reviews. Especially if it’s made by my favorite director, or if it stars one of my favorite actors. Or, if I just have the will to see it. Review sites are just guidance for me on how to set my standards.

Knowing Batman v. Superman, I set my standards super low because I didn’t really like the first film in the franchise, Man of Steel. Even though I feel super hyped by the idea of having Wonder Woman in her newest onscreen incarnation (since I used to watch some of the episodes from the Lynda Carter series), I urged myself not to overhype this movie. Then the reviews came. The fans’ reviews came earlier, obviously, and everybody is giving stellar reviews. It’s up for a 9.7 in IMDb, and of course, it pumps my expectations up. But I have to, again, remind myself that I might not be as amazed as a DC fan might be, because I don’t read the comics and I have no idea what will happen to the characters. The revies came in again – this time from the critics. The critics hated it, it got a 30% at Rotten Tomatoes, and now I think to myself that I’ll just have to watch this movie to prove it.

Turns out – I don’t know how to comment about the film. I mean, it’s a beautiful mess. The cinematography is stellar at times (but, sadly, floppy at times) and the music is Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL at their best (I didn’t expect their collaboration in a film!). But, the plot is downright embarrassing. It’s far from cohesive, it’s all over the place, it has so much plot holes and could-have-beens, so much that it ruins the watching-digesting experience. It didn’t ruin the watching experience, though. It’s fun, in a dark and gritty Snyder way, as long as you don’t think of it too much.

Nevertheless, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is my new woman crush.

Same goes with Deadpool. I had such high expectations because Deadpool is going to break the comic book movie chain – it’s R rated, super profane, and has lots of fourth wall breaking. I read a few volumes of Deadpool and I was so hyped to see the movie. Turns out that it’s not that good, at least, for me. The plot is your standard three act structure with the same old “saving the one you love” motive and the jokes are not profane/creative enough to be enjoyable for me (I think I watch too much The Thick of It and Tarantino, haha!).

Meanwhile, there are lots of divisive opinions regarding the two movies. Well, Deadpool, not so much. Since the film broke the mould of a standard comic book movie, it is regarded well among both critics, comic book fans, and casual filmgoers. Now, Batman v. Superman is a different case. I am still enthralled on how a movie could generate different, extreme opinions.

People appreciate films in different aspects. Some people are drawn to the plot of the story. Some people are drawn to how the story is presented visually through editing, cinematography, and acting. Some people are drawn to the actors’ performances. These people like films because of different reasons, and they will perceive a film’s value differently as well. But, basically, people can take a general consensus of a movie, whether it’s good or bad. I think what makes films divisive is that some films might be powerful in an aspect yet weak in another aspect. Maybe the film has great cinematography, yet wooden acting. Maybe the film has thrilling, breakneck editing yet such hollow plot. Some people would compensate the weak aspect to a strong aspect, yet some people would feel like the weak aspect has affected their entire viewing experience. Maybe some people would compensate Batman v. Superman’s messy plot with its incredible music, yet some people feel that the plot has taken the film to a point of no return.

The chills brought in after watching Batman v. Superman, and the epic fights and atmosphere, could also garner different opinions to the film. The atmosphere might bring chills and amazement to some viewers, but some viewers might feel like the feeling of amazement is not totally worth it due to the messy plot. There are so many factors that could affect a viewer’s opinion on a film, especially a very divisive one. Yet, these factors does not define if someone is a “good moviegoer” or a “bad” one. These factors does not determine whether a person is a “pretentious high-class cineaste” or “watching films just for excitement”. Hell, those labels aren’t even valid!

I’m not one to judge, though. I haven’t watched Showgirls (1995), one of the most divisive films in history.

Basically, all I want to say is that if you like a movie, go like it. If you hate a movie, go hate it. But, don’t bash other people just because they hate a movie you love, or, they love a movie you hate. Cinema can unite, and cinema can divide as well, but what matters most is that we all go to the movies for the same reason – to let loose from the world for a while, and get engrossed in amazing stories of other people’s lives in an audiovisual form.

Also, don’t get swayed by any review or any opinion if you want to watch a film. If you want to watch it, go watch it! Only you can have your very own judgement of a film.

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