How To Criticize A Superhero Movie
Batman V. Superman is out, and that means the reviews are out, and that means, once again, most critics reveal how bad they are at their jobs. Not that calling a movie bad means the critic is bad, it’s just that facile thinking and lazy writing are endemic in every genre, criticism included. So, as a humble public service, I offer the list of things that make your review of a superhero movie terrible.
Superhero Movies Are For Kids!
I’m going to blow your mind: Most movies are for kids. Or, at least, teenagers and the teenager that resides deep within us all. They’re the ones with disposable income who show up opening weekend. Also, criticizing a Hollywood product for being juvenile is kind of pointless unless you’re going to do it with every movie Hollywood puts out because most of them are, in their own way, every bit as facile and dimwitted as any movie about gods punching each other. The Revenant is Rembrandt painting a gaggle of frat bros having a hot chili eating contest. Spotlight is a movie that takes the bold stance that sexual molestation is bad and reporters are good for stopping it from being covered up. Hollywood does not and never has catered to the intellect, but to the emotions, and to pick and choose when to acknowledge this is just bad criticism.
By the way, if you go to a superhero movie with a kid and let the kid review it for your column, you are not being witty or clever. You’re being that kid in high school who goes around telling people how mature he is because he doesn’t watch TV. Insisting you’re too smart for this part of your job just emphasizes that you have, at root, a silly job.
This Isn’t The Superhero I Rememb-
This comes in one of two flavors: The critic who vaguely remembers some TV show or movie from years ago and for some reason expected a rehash, or the nerd who probably also hasn’t bothered with a comic book or anything else featuring this hero in years either, but has A Serious Opinion About The Way Things Should Be. If nerds had a cable channel where all they did was argue about pop culture, it would be virtually indistinguishable from Fox News.
Anyway! OK, so? It’s different. This isn’t a good or bad thing. It just is. Most movies, even remakes, are different from each other. Let it go, tell us how it is on its own merits. Nobody cares what you wanted to see, tell us what you actually saw.
This Dumb Movie Has Profound Things To Say About-
No, it probably doesn’t. The closest a superhero movie has ever gotten to genuine profundity is Christopher Nolan using Batman to examine the fundamentally inaccurate cultural narrative Americans carry with them about terrorism, and even then, he didn’t exactly challenge that narrative, just said it wasn’t really a justification for the shit we were pulling at the time. Most other superhero movies are just movies about punching. And that’s fine! It doesn’t have to be serious. Honestly, it’s probably better for us as a society if the movies about billionaire ninjas and Space Christ stick with the punching unless you have a Nolan in your corner.
This Dumb Movie Has Made Me Realize I Have Profound Things To Say About-
STOP. PUT THE POLITICAL CAUSE DOWN. Notice I am posting this on Medium, instead of the site I am paid to write on. I didn’t waste my editor’s time on this crap. Nobody wants to watch you jerk yourself off intellectually.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call a movie out of its shit, of course: If, say, a movie features a white arms dealer flying into a sovereign country to murder a bunch of brown people because he has feelings, which is seriously something that happened in Iron Man, and that disquiets you, you should call that out! Just don’t pretend it’s a jumping off point for your political polemic.
In The Wake Of A Tragedy, This Movie-
There’s a point where it’s OK to talk about this, in my opinion, in the sense that dumb movies are supposed to be escapism, and if they don’t work for you on that level, that’s a problem. If you use a tragedy as a way to pee on a movie you don’t like, and just Google “The Dark Knight” and “9/11” for more examples of this you could possibly ever need, then you’re really just being an asshole.
Because So-And-So Is A Hac-
So what? Hacks can make great movies all the time. Don’t believe me? Familiarize yourself with the career of one Henry Hathaway, a man capable of turning out movies of shocking beauty and sheer ridiculousness in equal measure. The guy who made Casablanca, Michael Curtiz, made some classics and also made a whole string of movies nobody remembers. Sometimes a director surprises you. If you don’t give them a chance, why bother watching their work?