Black Panther poster

On the day after the BLACK PANTHER review embargo lifted, social media was flooded with enthusiastic reactions singing the praises of the look of the film, of the villain, of the lead, of the supporting cast…just about everything. Some even declared it the best of the MCU movies so far.

Two days later, sites—including Comic Book Resources—picked up a story about a Facebook group/event. The goal of the group? Undercutting the Rotten Tomatoes audience score of BLACK PANTHER. The reason? They like the movies of the DCEU—specifically MAN OF STEEL, BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, and SUICIDE SQUAD—more than any of Marvel’s offerings.

Since critics generally did not agree with the latter view; those critics must have been paid off. Therefore, sinking PANTHER’s score is an act of justice, basically.

What a world, right?

Wonder Woman Certified Fresh
Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Biases on Front Street

I am a freelancer for I have liked nearly, if not all, MCU movies even if I do recognize flaws in many of them. I also loved Marvel Comics’ characters first amongst comic characters. I think I can still be impartial in light of this, but I want to play it straight with you.

I have also liked several movies made by Warner Bros including movies based on DC Comics characters. That said, the only one of the DCEU I’d recommend without caveats is WONDER WOMAN. I thought MAN OF STEEL was Zack Snyder’s best directing effort to date, but it was also overlong and too grim for a Superman film. I am as conflicted about SUICIDE SQUAD as the movie’s tones are with each other. I loathe BATMAN V. SUPERMAN for taking two of the most iconic characters in comics and making them dumb and ineffective. JUSTICE LEAGUE had its moments but was largely a mediocre affair.

Again, I think I can be honest and unbiased in this piece, but I just want to let you know where I stand.

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Not All Fans

There can be a temptation with stories like these to decide ALL fans of a certain brand or product must be like this. “All STAR WARS fans must be racist and misogynists given how several of them drove down THE LAST JEDI’s audience scores.” “All fans of 24 must be torture advocates because how could they watch that show otherwise.”

Or, in this case, “All DCEU fans must be reactionary brats who cannot stand the idea that other people might not like something they like as much as they like it.”

It is not true. There are plenty of DCEU fans out there. Even the underwhelming receipts on JUSTICE LEAGUE—$655.5 million —makes it the highest grossing film to be considered a bomb ever. People are seeing these movies, and they are not all doing it to hate watch or out of a sense of obligation.

So before losing total faith in humanity, remind yourself that this is only a handful of lousy people.

Thor Ragnorak Wide
Courtesy of Marvel Films

Why This Won’t Get Them What They Want

First, consider the optics. The most hotly anticipated black supehero film of this era—if not ever—is not a great one to make your stand on. If the plan was to sink THOR RAGNAROK’s Tomatoes’ score, fine. It is the third film in the continuing adventures of a white male superhero. The story there is clean, nothing to obscure the message. Choosing the debut of the MCU’s first solo black superhero movie is just welcoming critics to drown the message—such as it is—in claims of racism. Heck, I’m not sure it isn’t racist.

Second, it is ineffective. The buzz on BLACK PANTHER is enormous and the first voices—which include critics and fans—are confirming that this buzz is earned. It is too late to quell the excitement people have for it and to bury the thrilled reviews.

For further evidence of the ineffectiveness of this kind of campaign, might I refer you to THE LAST JEDI? It was the inaugural effort at this kind of spiking of audience scores, and those the tried did successfully lower the movie’s positive percentage. Yet, JEDI went on to become the highest grossing movie of 2017 in a single month of release.

Additionally, insofar as people use Rotten Tomatoes to determine their viewing habits, they rarely, if ever, check the audience scores. The only reason many people know that the JEDI scores were purposely sunk is that a.) the perpetrators of the campaign sang it from the rooftops and b.) people wrote about it.

10 Reasons I Refuse to Watch JUSTICE LEAGUE

Critics Only Matter if You Let Them

You don’t need someone to like the things you like. I liked this summer’s THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD. I thought Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds had good chemistry, Selma Hayek was an effective comedic presence, and the action moved at a decent clip for an action comedy. Most critics disagreed with me to a Critics’ Score of 40%, roughly where JUSTICE LEAGUE currently sits.

And you know what? I still like it. I don’t suspect critics are lying with their opinions. Nor do I think they were paid off. We just disagree. When it comes to movies, not everyone has to line up and feel the same to be telling the truth. And I don’t need critics to agree with me to like what I like. Just enjoy MAN OF STEEL. If the critics don’t, well, so be it. You don’t need their approval. But also, they don’t need yours.

Additionally, CITIZEN KANE was savaged by critics upon its release. It was years before BLADE RUNNER became a respected science fiction classic. Several of Hitchcock’s best regarded films today were written off when they first hit screens. Those critics were wrong, but they were honest in the moment about their feelings. Being wrong isn’t the same as being paid off or lying

Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Skip the Fight Entirely

Consider that you are taking sides in a “fight” between corporations. Do you cheer when Penguin books have a better quarter than Doubleday? No? Well then, why boo when Disney does better than Warner Brothers? You are picking sides in a nonexistent war where no cheerleaders are needed. You are far more likely to help Warner Brothers, if you must, by seeing their products and ignoring others than by outright attacking others.

Finally, this is easily the best time in history for comic book films. If you love comics, you should love now. Rarely is it true that a rising tide lifts all boats, but this is one such time. More people than ever know the superheroes we love and more people than ever love them too. Comic books and comic book characters are not just part of the pop culture conversation, they are arguably the single most dominant force in pop culture, especially if you include tv shows. Why not enjoy this moment then spend time worrying about whether critics are showing proper “respect” to your “side”?

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The Solution

Just don’t do this. Don’t be a part of it. Don’t celebrate it if it works. Just sit it out. Don’t feel like you have to see BLACK PANTHER if you truly don’t like MCU films because you absolutely don’t. Feel free to continue to sing the praises of BATMAN V. SUPERMAN up and down the block and all over social media. Buy JUSTICE LEAGUE the day it is out on Blu Ray and show it to your skeptical friends. Promote what you love, don’t waste time with what you don’t.

Even better, be happy for those that do love BLACK PANTHER. Be happy for black fans who finally have a successful black superhero film, the first since the BLADE franchise and most likely the biggest ever. Be happy for Marvel fans who might not like the same movies as you but love their four-color heroes just as much as you love yours. Be happy you exist in an era where superhero movies are not rare entities that fail far more often than they succeed. This can’t last forever; this won’t last forever. So why not enjoy comic book adaptations being king while it is?

One Comment

  1. Jared Bobak

    Jared Bobak

    February 10, 2018 at 7:30 am

    marvel played it smart..they lifted the review embargo before the audience could dispute the score bec…


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