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‘Captain America,’ ‘Batman v Superman’ Reviews Ignite Nutty Fan Conspiracy Furor (Commentary)

The Marvel-DC cinematic rivalry hits a new low as fanboys get weird and defensive

Reviews for “Captain America: Civil War” have hit, and the contrast between the movie’s reception thus far and the critical response to last month’s “Batman v Superman” is about as pronounced as it could be.

For comparison, 28 percent of critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave “Batman v Superman” a positive review, while reviews for the latest “Captain America” are, for now, unanimously positive.

That’s not the only comparison that has fans of the DC movieverse up in arms.

“Captain America,” like “Batman v Superman,” also features superheroes turning on each other. Comparisons like this come naturally, especially if you like one franchise and dislike the other. It still pisses people off.

So when Jen Yamato of The Daily Beast selected the following passage for her review blurb on Rotten Tomatoes, it started a new flame war: “Finally, a big budget superhero sequel that manages to be both effortlessly entertaining and utterly sobering, instead of just one of those things — or, as we’ve endured too frequently in the past, neither of them. (Looking at you, Batman v Superman.)”

Yamato isn’t trolling. She isn’t even taking sides. She’s simply observing as a critic that “this movie failed at doing this thing, while this other one succeeded.” Citing “Batman v Superman” merely provides context for readers.

But some readers predictably interpreted in the comment some kind of nefarious conspiracy. Like YouTuber Grace Randolph, who referred to Yamato’s blurb as part of an “agenda.”

Randolph is probably the most prominent figure on her side of this fanboy debate, but she’s hardly alone. Twitter is full of folks insisting that critics shouldn’t compare the two movies and claiming that Yamato and others are either pushing some greater anti-DC agenda, or are on the take from Marvel. And beyond that, we even get some truly bizarre comments like this one:

This is a hard comment to parse because it’s so ludicrous on its face and doesn’t really mean anything. Plus, I’m not sure how you could claim that about any movie this soon after its release.

I do get why all this happens, though; I’m a nerd, and I’ve been there. With the “Star Wars” prequels. I wrote a whole big feature about it for The Kernel when “The Force Awakens” came out in December. My headline on that was: “How learning to hate the ‘Star Wars’ prequels made me a better fan.”

The gist was this: I’m a Star Wars nerd, and in 2001 (when I was 15) I hyped up “Attack of the Clones” before it came out and defended it as a course correction from the abysmal “Phantom Menace” even though I hadn’t seen it. When it came out I absolutely fucking hated it from the word “go.”

But I lied to everyone and pretended I loved it. I said a lot of irrational things that didn’t make sense because I wasn’t super good at being insincerely defensive. And when other people would complain about it I would respond with any kind of rationalization.

It was dumb. And what I eventually learned from this is that lying to myself about that movie didn’t make me a good fan, it made me delusional.

So I get the DC fan furor. Criticism of “Batman v Superman” feels like an indictment of fans’ long-term investments in DC properties. When rival Marvel is embraced at the same time DC work is under attack amplifies that feeling. So they lash out.

For the record, I love arguing about things. I am, after all, a professional Internet writer. But what’s happening here isn’t debate.

This is just yelling random stuff. It’s not a presentation of facts to support an argument or a substantive discussion of the film’s artistic merits. We don’t learn anything from whatever is going on here.

So that’s not good fandom. It just makes people think you’re crazy. And it doesn’t matter, by the way, if you like this movie or that one. You are free to enjoy “Batman v Superman” and/or “Captain America: Civil War.” Or you can hate both of them. You’re the only person who gets to decide what you like, and you don’t have to like or dislike any particular thing. And nobody else is obligated to look at things the way you do.

So let’s move along. Because all these illegitimate arguments are not fun. Let’s have some real ones.