Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — “No, you move.”
This iconic Captain America comic speech is paraphrased in Captain America: Civil War, laying out the motivations for both sides of a fight any fan can engage with. It’s also a speech that lays down the beauty of opinions. You believe in what you put your faith in. All that matters is why you put your faith in it. Nobody should literally have to die on a hill for the sanctity of something worth caring about, but it’s still important to stand up for what you believe in.
That’s where we find our heroes unanimously failing – except for Black Panther, who is just the baddest motherfucker on the planet. They become blinded by their beliefs that they cannot see the points from the other side of the fence. There are extraneous circumstances that involve heroes turning on one another, government structures again screwing over Captain America, previous mistakes coming back to haunt them but at the end of the day Iron Man and Cap were always going to fight against each other here. It just may not have been a physical confrontation. The choice was taken from them.
Us film fans, we’re blessed with not having dropped a city from the sky and inciting a vengeful soldier hellbent on destroying us from the inside out. Our problems persist when we verbally castrate one another over a difference in opinions. I like to joke about your opinion being bad and you should feel bad (“your” being a generalization of the zeitgeist). As long as you aren’t throwing some offensive or threatening jargon, chances are you at least deserve to have your voice heard. We have the choice to discuss art in a civil and respectable manner. We should do our best to adhere to that.
Art is weird because there’s no quantifiable way to determine whether something is good or bad. We can argue the merits of different approaches, technique, and intent but at a certain point – once the art is available for consumption – the art becomes up for interpretation.
Is Batman v. Superman really as bad as people make it out to be? I think it’s my least favorite superhero movie so, I’m anti-BVS. I saw a bleak, hopeless bastardization of beloved characters I have loved my entire life. Walking out of the theater I felt unhappy, disappointed, and frustrated. Maybe there’s something to this whole “cultural genocide” thing Academy Award-winning director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu brought up.
But there were others who saw something different in the film. It’s been noted that BVS becomes a dark, dreary mood piece reflecting and commenting on comicbook/superhero subject matter in the same vein as Watchmen. Where I saw the death of a franchise, others saw a gutsy, experimental approach to familiar lore. Other people see the good in something I can hardly fathom. Who cares if it’s different from my familiarity with the source material? Adapting the core concept can only take an artistic vision so far.
None of this is to say there’s anything wrong with familiarity. Everyone engages art on their own terms and not everyone is going to want to commit to a thousand word article about Alien 3. There should be some level of engagement, but don’t yell at someone who goes to the theater unsure of what they want to see. Chances are you’re going to disagree on whatever opinion they form after the fact.
Seeing eye to eye is obviously welcome. Loving something in unison can be a beautiful, wholesome experience but conflict will occur. People are too different on a fundamental level thanks to disproportionate life experiences. But understanding? That’s the foundation of any discussion.
It is rare for fellow writer Josh Rosenfield and I to like similar movies. He doesn’t like Spider-Man 2. Spider-Man 2, guys. But we get along because we’re able to discuss merits of artistic expression and interpretation.
Communication is the key to understanding. Even BvS understood this. The film ends with Batman and Wonder Woman looking over at Superman’s grave, defeated due to a tunnel vision of violence, promising to be better because they have to. I don’t like the route it took us to get there or how it was executed, but it’s an idea worth sharing.
Film isn’t dying. Film criticism isn’t ruining movies. Hell, even the outcry of people who so desperately want competing movie brands to fail aren’t mucking up the works. Because even if one person continues engaging in the medium with respect and understanding, cultural genocide is not even in the deck of cards we’re playing with.
Nobody wants to be responsible for the destruction of the Avengers or the death of Superman. Stand up for what you believe in. Hold on to what you think is right. But it’s not the worst thing in the world if you’re open to being wrong once in a while. So the next time you find yourself disagreeing with someone over something, let’s all agree to take the civil approach.
Featured Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures