I remember the last time I left a movie theater with nothing to worry about as a fan.
It was July of 2015. My girlfriend and I went into Ant-Man in IMAX convinced that after 11 solid movies for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this one would be the first clunker. The director had been replaced, the trailers didn't look that great and it was following an Avengers movie that yes, we did like and still do like to this day in Age of Ultron.
We left Ant-Man pleasantly surprised at how solid the movie was and were impressed with how the MCU was able to keep their streak of solid movies going, even though it was clearly at that point starting to really show its interconnected side in really building on the previous movies that you would have to see to understand what was happening. We went home and I sang its praises at work and on social media, told everyone it was awesome and everything seemed right with the world.
All of that changed the following year during the week of March 25. My world as a fan has never been the same since then. That was of course the week that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released, which featured two days of absorbing mass critical hatred for the movie, then seeing it on a Thursday night advance screening, leaving the theater wondering what in the hell the critics were thinking and then walking into a world of social media and my peers at work that started to feel like the Knightmare sequence before I knew it. I was now on a battlefield for a war that I never wanted any part of in the first place. I still don't to this day.
The next five weeks after the release of BvS were a slog. A long, painful and argumentative slog in comment sections, on Twitter threads and with my own friends that I still spoke to at the time and in the midst of it, I kept hearing the same thing: "Captain America: Civil War is going to be better. It's going to be refreshing to get that BvS taste out of our heads. Marvel Studios will remind us how it's really done right."
That crappy narrative did its best to ruin my first viewing of Civil War, also on a Thursday night but I did everything I could to avoid going into that movie with a chip on my shoulder. When it was over I enjoyed it, but I was ready to take a side and I gleefully proclaimed BvS as the superior movie with a laundry list of reasons why, despite ample protests to the contrary from just about everyone I knew. I had fired a great big shot in a war I never wanted to fight in but felt the need to anyway.
I didn't do that lightly, though. I actually did like BvS a lot more than Civil War and that hasn't changed, but I've had to make it very clear to people since then that I don't hate Civil War or the MCU. In fact, through 17 MCU movies to this point, the only one that I don't like overall is Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 so the franchise has a very strong track record with me personally. This very fact baffles so many people that are sitting on both sides of this ridiculous fanboy war, though. On the one side you have DC Extended Universe fans that can't imagine liking an MCU movie at all because of the banality, the family-friendly low stakes and the matched color grading and editing process. On the other side you have MCU fans that detest the DCEU for its seriousness, it's grittier and more hard-hitting tone and much higher stakes for the collateral damage of the innocent bystanders in that world.
I've never once fully identified with either side of this argument, even though the DCEU is my favorite of the shared cinematic comic book universes. Batman has been my favorite superhero since I was a child and that loyalty to him and his world has never faded. If anything it extended to Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League and others in the DC Comics landscape. That doesn't mean that in 2000 I wasn't going to see X-Men when it released, or Spider-Man in 2002 or Iron Man in 2008 and so on and so forth. I've seen just about every major comic book movie at the theater for the past 17 years, in many cases multiple times. There is seriously very little among the comic book shared universe movies that I don't like overall and I prefer it that way because I go to a movie to enjoy it, not to be impressed.
Somewhere along the way that changed for fandoms and we got to this point as an audience where people go into a movie extremely skeptical and demand that the movie change their minds in a drastic manner, which is what leads to choosing sides and drawing battle lines like we have now because that kind of "impress me" mindset is how arguments start over preference. I remember from the moment the viral marketing started in 2007 for The Dark Knight I was absolutely obsessed with any and everything about the movie. I spent the next year and a half being genuinely unable to contain my excitement, much to the dismay of my friends who were sick and tired of me talking about it. When it released in 2008 and we all saw it, the praise for it was almost completely universal across the board.
I remember that after I posted on Facebook how incredible it was, a friend of mine asked me to pick out three things that I didn't like about it. At the time I didn't think anything of his request and I obliged him with it, but now I would ask him why do I need to do that? Why can't I just like the damn movie and not care one bit about things I may not like about it? Why must that skepticism be a requirement to go see a movie?
That's something that I've seen in droves over the past year, particularly with the DCEU. A sentence I heard a ton of versions of was "It's okay to like BvS as long as you admit its flaws." Really? I have your permission to like this movie as long as I follow your rules about what's wrong with it? Take that mess somewhere else please and let me enjoy my film, thank you.
I've seen people say the same thing about MCU movies but not nearly as much, admittedly. The point is that no one should really be saying it. Flaws in a movie like anything else creative is a subjective opinion, not an objective fact. Christian Bale's gravelly Batman voice in The Dark Knight is not objectively bad, it's subjectively good or bad. I didn't like it, but I also didn't care because I love the TDK Trilogy overall. Why should I care about the things in it that I didn't like if they don't affect my overall perception of the movie?
So when someone tells me that I shouldn't like Superman's emotional state in BvS, or the lack of Uncle Ben's presence in Spider-Man: Homecoming, or the design of Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse, I really don't know what to tell them other than "I don't care," because I really don't care. I love all three of those movies for a variety of reasons and I don't need to explain myself for it or pick sides because of it. You can disagree with me, but you can't tell me what I should and shouldn't like. Ultimately, there's way too much of that going on right now which is the catalyst for these stupid fanboy wars in the first place. If you have a preference for something and you like it more than a similar thing to it, even going so far as to dislike the similar thing to it very much, that is fine and no one is saying you can't do that. Where the line is crossed is when that dislike of the other thing turns into smarmy hatred and pretentious prognostication about how no one should like it and how it will never "beat" the thing that you like. Just so you know, WB, Disney and FOX have all collected a combined $22.16 billion worldwide from all of us just on 32 shared universe comic book movies alone, which is an average of $692.53 million per movie. Who loses anything in that scenario other than us "losing" money out of our wallets?
I'll tell you exactly who loses: People like me that actually do like all of it. While everyone else is picking sides and fighting the good fight on the front lines of fandom for their piece of the pie, I'm sitting here waiting for all of the shooting to stop so I can hold up a peace sign. Seriously. Don't you ever get tired of fighting fanboys and simple-minded people that can't see past the box office and Rotten Tomatoes as they keep score on who spent the most money for their favorite movies? Isn't all that you really want the ability to enjoy your movies in peace without someone else telling you that you're doing it wrong? Don't you understand that not everyone is going to like the same things you do and just because you're allowed to hate what they like doesn't mean that everyone has to? I'll take a "Yes to All" on those, please.
When 2018 begins, I'm going to be excited about Black Panther as probably my most anticipated movie of the year. Then I'm likely going to enjoy Avengers: Infinity War for what it is, along with Ant-Man and The Wasp, Deadpool 2, New Mutants and X-Men Dark Phoenix. Then I will cap off the year with a cinematic voyage to Atlantis for Aquaman. That's seven comic book movies in 2018 and I expect to enjoy each and every one of them in different ways, without feeling like someone on social media is going to read me the riot act because I enjoyed a Disney movie while also enjoying Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique for the fourth time in the X-Men series, before likely praising James Wan and Jason Momoa for their efforts to bring cinematic respect to the King of Atlantis. If I don't like one or a few them that is fine too, but I'm not required under any kind of Geneva Fan Convention to dislike a franchise.
If you are someone that likes all of the franchises and doesn't care for the ridiculous fanboy wars either, know that you are not alone in that regard. I stand with you as someone that is tired of the insults, the snarky memes, the alternative fact debates and the line drawing in general when it comes to what we love and enjoy about our fandoms. I may have a preference for DC but with respect to the discussion at hand, you can consider me Switzerland. It really IS okay to like them all.
If the tone of this article agrees with you, check out my podcast Fans Without Borders co-hosted by me and Brent Clark as part of The Suicide Squadcast Network.