There seems to be a certain expectation amongst the people of the internet: The expectation that when discussing movies, hype somehow equals quality. After all, the more hyped a movie is, the better it's going to be, right? Right?!
Any savvy moviegoer knows that's simply not the case. Studio marketers who do said hyping would love to think this equation is true — or they know that in many cases, it's completely false, hence all the hyping. Which brings us to the curious case of Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises." Easily one of the most highly-anticipated movies of the year, Nolan's third Batman film practically sells itself based on the blockbuster success of its predecessors, "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight."
With the arrival of Nolan's Bat-climax this week, awareness for "The Dark Knight Rises" is at an all-time high, and the hype surrounding it enormous. Nolan is an incredibly accomplished filmmaker, but one who doesn't put much stock into marketing buzzwords like "awareness" and "hype." The director lets his meticulously constructed teasers and trailers for his films put butts in seats, and brings the audience home with an equally well-assembled film experience.
Given the director's amazing track record at cinemas in recent years, both in terms of positive critical reception and gonzo box office numbers, it's safe to assume that "The Dark Knight Rises" will follow suit — it certainly seems poised to do so in the box office department, at least.
But what if it's a bad movie? What if "Dark Knight Rises" turns out to be the first misfire of Nolan's illustrious career? The torrent of four-star reviews that were published earlier this week would indicate otherwise, but how can potential viewers really be sure when they — and the reviewers who've seen it — are swimming in a sea of "Dark Knight Rises" hype? What do you believe when everyone is already under the spell? And, more importantly, what do you do when someone tries to break the spell by offering a dissenting opinion?
Just ask Marshall Fine of Hollywood & Fine or Associated Press critic Christy Lemire. The two critics had the distinction of publishing the first negative reviews of "The Dark Knight Rises" to appear on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Fine called the film's action "massive and thunderously clunky" and even likened the film to one of Michael Bay's "Transformers" movies. Sick burn! Lemire, on the other hand, praised the Nolan's previous work, and called "The Dark Knight Rises" less than "extraordinary" by comparison. The critic's honest opinions were enough to set the fanboy and fangirl hordes aflame.
The normally sedate comment threads on Rotten Tomatoes lit up with fans decrying the opinions of these established critics. While it was mostly juvenile name calling, in some cases the commenters even made death threats against the reviewers. Fine bore the brunt of the nerd-rage: Some of the highlights included one poster telling the reviewer that he should go "die in a fire," and another commenter thought the critic should be beaten "with a thick rubber hose into a coma." Classy.
The site has since removed the offending comments, banned those who made them, and temporarily closed the feedback threads on "The Dark Knight Rises" reviews page. Rotten Tomatoes' editor-in-chief Matt Atchity went on to make an official statement, humourously titled "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things," condemning the threats and general lack of decorum. The site is also reportedly considering linking their accounts to Facebook in order to make anonymous posting impossible.
This kind of behaviour is inexcusable in any forum. Critics have the right to their opinion just as fans have a right to their own. However, movie reviewers usually benefit from seeing the film before the fans, making their opinions rational and based on facts. The thing that makes this whole Rotten Tomatoes debacle so offensive is that none of the commenters in question had likely even seen "The Dark Knight Rises" when they weighed in with insults and threats. Their opinions have been coloured by the hype surrounding the film and their own expectations for it -- not by, you know, actually having seen the film. "This critic's negative review is wrong because I expect this film to be good," is what they're essentially saying.
See also: 'Dark Knight Rises' premiere (PHOTOS)
It's only fair to reserve judgement until you've seen it for yourself; then you can disagree all you want with the critic. But threatening people over that difference of opinion? An opinion about a summer blockbuster? It's a movie, not a matter of life and death (though in the case of the death threats, that might actually be the case). Why hurl an insult when you can learn from others' opinions by talking about them? Talking about a film after you've seen it is part of the fun of going to the movies. You likely won't agree won't be in complete agreement with the reviews you've read, or even with the people you went to see the movie with, but that's a good thing. Differing opinions are what keep movies from becoming the deafening hype machines that studio marketers turn them into. That makes movies important, valuable things.
Speaking of value, how about that "Dark Knight Rises?" Whatever your opinion of the movie (after you've actually seen it!), all this hubbub proves one thing: that Nolan has likely created something that's actually worth talking about.