Let’s talk numbers here. Very large numbers.
The first is 170.1 million. The second is 254 million.
That’s how many U.S. dollars were reportedly made by “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” on its opening weekend – $170.1 million in domestic box office, $254 million foreign box office.
All those numbers are supposedly proof that, as one Hollywood studio executive would have it, there is a “disconnect” between critics and audience. And that, of course, all those smarty-pants, pencilneck geek critics were not only wrong about the film but wouldn’t know a good movie if it came along and bit them on the dupah (as some traditional Dyngus Day celebrants might put it).
To which I say: hooey. Popularity and excellence do not necessarily have anything to do with each other. Look at some of the people who have been elected president of the United States; look at many of the television shows that have been No. 1 hits and the records that have been in the Top 10.
The two subjects – excellence and popularity – have NEVER been automatically and causally related. By the same token, they are not intrinsically in opposition to one another, either. “The Sopranos” was a truly great television show on HBO, as every TV critic was delighted to say. It was also memorable in its huge popularity, too.
“NCIS” continually rakes in Top 10 ratings for CBS on Tuesday nights. I wouldn’t begin to compare it to, say, “The Good Wife.”
But, for what it is, “NCIS” maintains a level beneath which it will not and cannot sink. And every once in a while – as so much popular television does – it will surprise you with something memorably good.
It is true that the critical reception for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” was only slightly better than it might have been for the Ebola virus. The reason: It deserved to be that bad. It’s a big, loud, bullying and crummy movie.
But just try keeping people away from it.
I did not enjoy seeing it. But wild horses couldn’t have kept me away. I wanted to know: a) what the superheroes had to fight about and b) who would win.
I wasn’t all that crazy about either answer but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t know that my fellow Americans weren’t going to line up to find out for themselves. I predicted huge box office numbers in my review, as did a few other critics with the common sense God gave a frog.
Also predictable was strong and vigorous dissent. Among my Facebook friends is Emil Novak Sr., the proprietor of the Queen City Bookstore and a man whose depth of knowledge about comic books exceeds mine by light years.
On Facebook, he said: “I went with low expectations and was frankly blown away by what I watched. B v S had everything I was looking for, from great character acting to amazing music … Batman was fantastic, best Batman to date. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was dead on and very nearly perfect and Superman was great working with the two additional leads. … The pace of the film was smooth and didn’t lose its direction … Zack Snyder directed a gem, his best to be exact.”
In response to that, the eternal wisdom will always belong to the old Latin proverb “de gustibus non est disputandum” from thousands of years ago – about matters of taste, there’s no disputing.
I say Toe-May-Toe, you say Toe-MAH-Toe.
One of the supposed bits of pseudo-wisdom about Hollywood was written by the screenwriter William Goldman (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “All the President’s Men”) who wearily explained to all of us non-industrial types that “Nobody knows anything … Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”
Any educated observer at all didn’t have to guess that America at large would be curious to see why Batman and Superman were at odds and what the upshot would be.
Of course the movie made a fortune on opening weekend. Of course it was bound to find some audience friends, particularly among those in the comics community.
A lot of people KNOW things. Goldman’s Law is spoken most loudly by those who need to explain why studios spend zillions on stuff like “Pan” and “Jupiter Ascending.”
“Nobody knows anything” provides solace for those who have been proven not to have known very much and who haven’t taken the trouble to educate themselves enough to make decent guesses.
The rest of us will just keep plugging away, learning what we can and trying to figure stuff out. The only way, sometimes, is to sit in a theater and watch “Batman v Superman,” no matter how it turns out two and a half hours later.