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You don't have to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

You don't have to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

That should be obvious shouldn't it? Logically it is, of course; I haven't been forced to watch a movie since we watched Mr. Holland's Opus in driver's ed (it's a long story [the teacher looked like Richard Dreyfuss in the movie {OK, it wasn't that long}]). But throughout all the crummy trailers and poor reviews for Batman v Superman, I still harbored this thought in the back of my mind: "Well, fine, but of course I'll still see it."

That changed for me today when I was talking with Polygon entertainment editor Susana Polo about our review. We were commiserating that characters we cared about (Batman for her, Superman for me) were cast in a film that seemed to fundamentally misunderstand their enduring appeal. Susana has seen the movie, I haven't. I did see Man of Steel though, so I feel pretty confident in my understanding of Zack Snyder's dim view of Superman.

I shared this story with Susana, forgive me for pasting it here:

My earliest superhero memory that I can summon up with any clarity was watching the Richard Donner Superman with my dad, and there’s this amazing shot after Pa Kent dies. It’s Clark standing in a wheat field with Ma Kent talking about how it's time for him to go, to be Superman. My dad, in a not-infrequent moment of poignancy says "People say it’s the yellow sun, but if you want to know where Superman really gets his power, it’s those fields."

corn field

See, Superman means something to me, as I know he means something to a lot of you reading. For me, Superman is an outsider who responded to that status with love and service. He is a non-human who at all times exemplifies the best of all human qualities. Maybe that's a cliche, but creating fictional characters to serve as our better angels is a tradition as old as storytelling itself, and in times of strife, I think it's vitally important to us as a society.

Here's the tricky thing about fictional characters though: They're just stories. And if a character's story is told in a certain way, they become that. If enough stories cast Superman as an unfeeling alien who cares more about killing Zod than leveling a city block of innocents, then that's Superman.

Tomorrow, Zack Snyder is telling another one of his Superman stories and many people will pay to see it. In a capitalist society like ours, dollars are votes, and the message sent by every person who buys a ticket is this: "This is Superman. This is Batman. This is the way this story should be told." The studios will receive that message, and that's how they'll continue to tell the story.

Maybe that's how you want things. Maybe you're a fan of how Zack Snyder is handling the DC universe and if so, please, by all means, go. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

There was a good long while when the thrill of seeing comic book characters in a movie theater was enough to justify a ticket, or at least it was for me. We, as fans of superheroes, needed to show the Hollywood establishment that these characters belonged in movies. We needed to prove that we were there. That we'd show up.

But we're past that point, now, right? I mean, we're on our third Spider-Man for crying out loud, surely Hollywood has gotten the message that superheroes are big business.

But I still harbored this thought in the back of my mind: "Well, fine, but of course I'll still see it."

Maybe it's time to send a different message. Maybe the message we could send now is that fans of superheroes aren't a feeder bar to be pressed for a guaranteed payday. Maybe the message is "If you're going to do it, do it right."

There were massive amounts of caterwauling from comic fans about Snyder's mishandling of Superman last time around, but it wasn't enough to take the franchise out of his hands. Maybe it's because we all still bought tickets? I know I did. Maybe diehard fans avoiding the money won't move the needle, and that's OK. I'm not talking a boycott, I'm talking about you, the reader, and how you decide to spend your valuable time and money.

If I sound preachy or paternalistic, you have my apologies. As unsettling and embarrassing as it is to admit it, the above words are relatively new revelations for me. Hand to God: It has only today clicked for me that I'm not being forced to see this movie. I have to imagine you're a stronger-willed person than me who obviously wouldn't pay to see a film without stopping to think if they really wanted to.

But if not, if you, like me, hadn't really considered not seeing Batman v Superman until you were genuinely faced with the prospect of paying to do so, just know that you're in good company.

Also, know you can rent Superman for $2.99 on YouTube. There are many worse votes you could cast.

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