Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is barely out in theaters, but already the internet has decided: It’s a dud. Not financially, of course. Surely this cinematic meeting of superheroic egos will do just fine at the box office. It’s already on pace to pull in more than $150 million over the weekend, and already clocked $27 million on Thursday.
I haven’t read any of the reviews, because I haven’t seen the movie. I don’t know if or when I will, but I like to approach films as objectively as possible (and then do a deep dive into Wikipedia and reviews AFTER the fact, just for funsies). If/when I see the movie, it’ll be because I genuinely want to. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with a lot of the people I know/follow on social media, people who you could probably safely say are comic book nerds. No, they have already prejudged Batman v Superman to be a travesty, yet they’re seeing it anyway. They are self-proclaimingly hatewatching the movie.
I don’t get it. It’s like people who complain about TV shows they watch. They don’t stop watching. They just keep on doing it, and keep complaining about it. Same goes for comic books. And probably any other serial medium. But films…this, I just don’t understand. Something either looks interesting to me, or it doesn’t. And I see it or I don’t. And then, yeah, I’ll make a judgment. But there are people who have legitimately said “I am going to see this movie even though I know it will be terrible.” Why would you do that to yourself? There’s a reason I had/have no interest in Zoolander 2. Because it looks dumb as bricks. And that’s considering I thought the first one was kinda amusing.
Then again, a movie like Zoolander 2 doesn’t have a built-in potential audience outside of the film world just based on the familiarity of its characters. It doesn’t have Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, beloved characters with rich, 75-year histories whose depictions in comics, TV and movies have shaped the culture in which we all live and share. And therein lies the problem: People have attachments to these characters. They want to see them represented well in all these forms of media. But they have preconceived notions of what “well” means.
For some (OK, a LOT of) people, “their” Superman will always be a grinning Christopher Reeve. Or “their” Wonder Woman is a spinning Lynda Carter. Maybe “their” Batman is the Bruce Timm-designed depiction from Batman: The Animated Series. And when they see a take on these characters that differs from “their” version, it’s difficult to reconcile that. Even if Batman v Superman was a GOOD film (and, really, 29 percent on the Tomatometer is pretty bad), the depictions of these characters on screen alone might make the film “bad” in those fans’ eyes.
But here’s the thing: That doesn’t ruin YOUR version of the character. Man of Steel or Batman v Superman making half a billion at the box office won’t ruin the 1960s Batman TV show, or the George Perez Wonder Woman comics, or the 1970s Super Friends cartoon, or whatever media appearance of these characters is your favorite. Those other things will always exist, either physically or emotionally. (Same goes for reboots/sequels/remakes. You’ll survive, trust me.)
And if you don’t want them “ruined,” then for the love of Pete, don’t go watch a movie you think will do just that! This is where “hatewatching” backfires. You’re voting with your ticket purchase. It doesn’t matter how bad the reviews are or how many times you tweet about how bad a movie is; if you spent the money to see it, you added to that box office total, and sent a message to the film’s producers that, yes, you love this stuff and want more of it.
Try lovewatching something instead. You’ll feel better. And my Twitter feed will hopefully be a less inexplicably angry place.