Can We Just Stop Bashing ‘Batman v Superman’ Already? [Opinion]

Yes, everyone who’s getting all jazzed up about the Razzies, I’m looking right at all of you.

I mean, it’s been almost a year, guys. At this point, any mocking you do has already been done. We’ve heard it all already — it was too grim, too dull, too focused on angst, Superman not smiling is out of character, Batman was too sad and too violent, Zack Snyder can’t hire a decent colorist to save his life — so, really, nothing you say at this point is illuminating criticism, not that it ever really was.

It’s gotten even worse since Logan came out, really. I’m not going to go into it because first of all, I haven’t even sat down to see Logan yet, though I am so excited! Legitimately! Really, really excited about Logan.

And why wouldn’t I be? It’s vaguely desaturated, violent, grim, and apparently we’re gonna get to hear Sir Patrick Stewart drop a metric f-ton of F-bombs while Wolverine learns how to be a dad. Basically, it’s the best thing you could give me that doesn’t include any gays.

But yeah, basically, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice cleaned up at the Razzies, the “awards” aimed at the worst films of the past year. It won in the Worst Supporting Actor category (for Jesse Eisenberg), Worst Remake, Rip-off, or Sequel category, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Screen Combo category (for Ben Affleck & Henry Cavill as Batman and Superman). That tied the movie, according to Entertainment Weekly, with the year’s Worst Picture, a documentary called Hillary’s America. And yeah, I’ll admit it, I’m a little bit annoyed by the subsequent upswing in negative attention, partially since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is basically my favorite movie ever.

Because come on, nerd-bros. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was basically made with you guys in mind. You have Batman with all the brakes taken off, a reference to a dead Jason Todd, and thematic and visual homages to The Dark Knight Returns and Injustice. You’ve got Ben Affleck playing the most damaged Batman ever put to cinema, and playing it to the hilt. You’ve got Henry Cavill as Superman, who looks a disturbing amount like Tom Welling did in later seasons of Smallville, and his Superman is a Superman taken seriously!

Batman and Superman in the Rain
Batman and Superman in the rain. [Image by Warner Bros. Entertainment]

Isn’t that what you guys wanted? Like, the whole reason to be excited about the renaissance of geek culture into the mainstream was because finally, the world would get to see that our favorite forms of media were art, too.

You would have thought, but the biggest criticisms of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were that the film was too dark, and you had to think a little bit — not a lot, just a little bit — to understand what was going on. It was an art film, a psychological thriller writ large on the silver screen. It asked the tough questions — What would we really do in a world that had Superman? What would a man like Lex Luthor really be like? Can Batman really sustain being Batman for 20 years?

It’s just that the answers it gave us were answers that made you sad.

Humanity loved Superman until it got scared. Then it wanted Superman dead. Lex Luthor was a teetering-on-the-edge, manipulating con man who very nearly won, but was at no point suave or cool. Batman was so damaged he was marking people for death and didn’t care. It took Superman sacrificing himself for everyone, including Batman, to get morally back on track, and the film begins and ends with funerals — first Batman’s parents, and then Superman’s two funerals.

Those aren’t bad things in the least, though! They’ve all been written into comics before — like I said, The Dark Knight Returns and Injustice get explicit references, with Batman and Superman’s climatic fight even lasting exactly the same length of time as their battle in the animated The Dark Knight Returns movie, but even the Lex Luthor characterization comes from Secret Origins and Birthright down to the chin-length red hair!

All that said, I get why people who aren’t invested might not be into the deep dive Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice provides. So I get that mainstream newspapers and media outlets might rank the film pretty low, especially since people like to gently mock Batman for being dark, and most of the recent superhero movies have been pretty light in tone. That’s a skewed experience of the story genre, but an understandable response.

But geeks? You guys weren’t into this? Websites like The Mary Sue and Den of Geek panned the film, saying in the first case that Superman “acted like a petulant teenager” and in the second case that the Batman v Superman was “hollow and empty headed as an action figure.” Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 27 percent rating from critics and a 64 percent rating from audiences. Metacritic did it a little better, with a 44 from critics, and a 7.0/10 from audiences. Overall, audiences liked it more than critics did, and critics seemed to hate it no matter their background.

I have a theory about why. I can’t prove it, but here it is:

You wanted to see yourselves in Superman and Batman, but instead, you found your sharpest mirror in Lex Luthor.

Lex has the coolest dialogue; is the successful, rich nerd; and runs a tech company and dresses like he invented Google in somebody’s garage on a Saturday afternoon. On one level, he’s everything every nerd dreams of being — he’s the ultimate nerd. He even has the guts to put Batman and Superman in the same room, a room where not even they know they’re talking to each other. He kidnaps Superman’s mom to control him and manipulates Batman into wanting Superman dead as soon as possible.

Lex Luthor is every darkest impulse of a comic book nerd: he wants to own everything, wants to be able to dominate and subjugate figures like Batman and Superman to do his will, and he’s homicidally terrified of anything and anyone who could hurt him, which is why he wants Superman dead. He even gets the line “the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world. Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham!” in the trailer.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice requires us to confront the idea that we are not, as nerds, automatically our heroes. And I don’t think a lot of nerds were totally cool with that.

Again, that’s just my theory.

Lex Luthor behind bars at the end of Batman v Superman
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, scaring nerds and winning his Razzie, apparently. [Image by Warner Bros. Entertainment]

It’s a theory that also explains why people are loving Logan so much, despite it having all the qualities that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice got panned for: Logan doesn’t make us see ourselves in the bad guy. Every geek dreams of being Wolverine. So a movie about him killing people and being “brought low” emotionally is okay because we know he’s killing the bad guys. We get to see ourselves in him, first and foremost.

I can’t wait to see Logan. I’m hoping it’s the best X-Men movie I’ve ever seen.

But, in the meantime, can we all just agree that ragging on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the least interesting thing you can do in geekdom right now? The dead horse has been beaten so much it’s starting to actually complain.

[Featured Image by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images]