Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice premiered on March 25th, 2016 in American Cinemas. The film had been hyped for months promising the first look into the World of DC superheroes coming together, but when it finally came out it was hit hard with overwhelmingly negative critical reception. It was certainly a blow to the fan community who had been waiting to see the film. This negative reception just furthered the negativity surrounding the DCEU in the following years. Even the success of Wonder Woman couldn’t completely get rid of the mark that Batman v. Superman left. While I may have my own issues of the film the negativity surrounding it was a bit overblown for what the film actually brought to the table. With this in mind the film has somehow lingered around in fan discussions for over two years, which is surprising given how quickly superhero films leave the discussion in general. This is an interesting turn and I’ve noticed a trend that this film is still an extremely touchy subject for many fans with several debates still happening on a daily basis. It’s such a unique phenomenon I wanted to find out why this has continued and I think I may have found some logical reasons as to why over two years later the film still persists to be discussed.
DC’s First Live Action Universe Film
Man of Steel was released in 2013 to overwhelmingly mixed reviews. The film didn’t wow audiences like it was meant to, but it did make a good amount of money and has since garnered a sizable cult following of fans who truly love the film. Regardless of the critical reception, the film still was able to allow Zack Snyder the confidence to move forward with Warner Brothers on following the Marvel route and creating a Universe of Live Action DC films. Any fans of the comics, cartoons, or any other medium that DC has entered should have been excited that these beloved characters would be allowed to appear in the same Universe. It’s an extremely exciting promise with the potential to dominate the superhero film genre.
Speculation and worry from the media was felt around before even the first trailers were announced, but when something was criticized it would be followed up by something that would be universally loved by the fans. When the film was finally released it delivered something that a lot of people weren’t expecting. The overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics led to a disdain from the fans who actually did love the film and that love has persisted for more than two years. The disappointment in some, but an inherent love from others has allowed this film to stay perpetually relevant among discussions because arguably it was the most important entry in the DCEU and it still might be.
An important thing to look at when discussing this film is what is there that people love so much and what is there that people hate. The film is a unique blend of styles and inspirations. It is a big budget superhero film that sets out to be more than what it is. It tells the darkest on screen story of Batman and Superman living in a world driven by hate and fear. The characters have lost sight of hope and the world is reeling from the introduction of Alien life as seen in Man of Steel. Batman has become a much darker and violent allowing people to die at his hands. Superman carries the World on his shoulders and loses hope. The film is peppered with comic book lore and easter eggs alongside obvious religious symbolism with Superman as a Christ like figure. It’s certainly one of the most ambitious superhero films of all time whether or not you like the film.
The challenge of this film was that it had to be multiple things all at once. It was obvious that Zack Snyder and company had a vision of the film that embraced a lot of things from the comics while also trying to add deeper levels to it. They wanted this film to be smart, but a lot of the things that they did add were in contrast to what the film needed to be and that is an appropriate start to a multi-film Universe. The dark and oppressive tone mixed in with the changes to characterizations left a lot of people unhappy with the finished project. Even the Extended Cut that was released doesn’t change a lot of minds on the quality of the film. While I can see where fans adore the film I can also see how this film can be loathed. It was a fascinating mess of a release and that has just kicked the hornet’s nest when it comes to fan interactions and discussions.
The hype for the film among the fan community was out of this world. It was meant to bring everything together and when it finally hit theaters it let a lot of people down. It was a major disappointment to so many fans. The Extended Cut of the film was released only a few months after and while it improved the film it didn’t change the mind of those disappointed. The fans who loved the film did so with incredible passion which is inspiring, but it also allowed the film to reach a new level. It created an even bigger divide among fans.
It is a major hurt to have a film you love tarnished by other people and this criticism of the film has lead to fans of it to be a lot more defensive to their love and because of how big a controversy this film was it still constantly remains in conversations almost daily because of how unique the film is. The unique qualities make it either loved or loathed with the fans of the film getting upset to the point where things can be hostile and from my perspective it’s a fascinating reaction, but it certainly isn’t beneficial to anyone. I’ve often seen people who love the movie call people who don’t “stupid” for “not understanding it’s brilliance”. On the flip side I’ve seen people who hate the film call people who love it “in denial”. These opposing sides do absolutely nothing positive for the fan community.
There are those like myself that fall in the middle and watching the back and forth constantly is simultaneously fascinating and counter-productive. These hardcore fans on both sides will always remain and there isn’t much to do besides try to argue for reason. The entire debate is one of hurt feelings from one side and disappointment from the other. This perfect storm of emotions has in a weird way done the film a major favor.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice has done what very few modern superhero films have done. It has gotten people talking. It remains in the fan’s consciousness well beyond when it should have quieted down. It’s an interesting feat that even films with overwhelmingly positive reception haven’t been able to maintain. The controversy in a way has kept the film alive longer than it was meant to be and in that way the film is a success. There is something to be said about a film that is able to stay relevant for over two years and whether or not you like the film there is a layer of respect that must go into acknowledging that.