When Fanboys Attack: Criticizing the Critics of 'The Dark Knight Rises'

In the days since fans erupted with rage at the first negative review of The Dark Knight Rises, there have been several more sour takes on the film, but because most of the film's staunch defenders haven't actually seen the movie, their only tool is the ad hominem attack.

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In the days since fans erupted with rage at the first negative review of The Dark Knight Rises, there have been several more sour takes on the film, but because most of the film's staunch defenders haven't actually, you know, seen the movie, they have to fall back on killing the messenger. The outrage was so great in response to critic Marshall Fine's review, the first negative one to hit Rotten Tomatoes, that the site had to disable comments for the first time ever (to be reactivated when the movie debuts). At 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the film looks like an overall winner, but among the 13 percent of reviews now deemed "negative" on Rotten Tomatoes,  there do seem to be some consistent gripes. Still, fanboys can't debate the review on its merits -- the film hasn't been released in the U.S. -- so for every common complaint, there seems to be a common ad hominem attack on the critic. Perhaps, if you're of a steady disposition, you're curious what the problems might be. Herein, a guide to the gripes, and the gripes with the gripes:

The anxiety.

What some critics say: "It is more of a 164-minute anxiety disorder than a movie," writes the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips. "With repeated scenes of bone-crunching violence," says Slate's Dana Stevens, "The Dark Knight Rises is something of an ordeal to sit through."

The fanboys' response: Only occasionally veiled sexism/homophobia. Any critic who favorably reviewed "Magic Mike," a film about male strippers, is bait. Commenters tell Phillips, "Giving male strippers a 3.5 and TDKR a 2.5?" And "Guys like him expect every movie to be a Film like Casablanca." To Stevens, they say, "I get that most women are not interested in these movies ... We've seen your review of Magic Mike so we know where her head is." Silly ladies (and men who like movies for ladies)!

The noise.

What some critics say: Hans Zimmer's score gets some brutal treatment. It "cannot possibly be what Nolan and his collaborators intended," says PhillipsThe New York Observer's Rex Reed actually cites the soundtrack as one of the few things worth discussing at all in his swing-for-the-fences screed. "[O]ne star for eardrum-busting sound effects..."

The fanboys' response: Old people are the worst. "Considering Rex Reed is 73 YEARS OLD it makes a lot of sense for him to complain about loud sounds," says one commenter.

The politics.

What some critics say: People have come at the film's politics from both sides. From the right, there's the Boston Herald's James Verniere. "Holy 401(k), this is one nihilistic, anti-1 percent screed." From the left, the Village Voice's Nick Pinkerton. "The Dark Knight Rises is not a reactionary movie outright—it would be more respectable if it were—but only on a villainous technicality." (Our own Richard Lawson points out, as those two excerpts suggest, that the political message is, in fact, a bit inconclusive, if not a plea for middle ground.)

The fanboys' response: Easy. No one with those politics (whichever they may be) should review this movie. "There is absolutely no reason why an obvious ultra-Republican, right-winged "movie critic," should be a movie 'critic' for your newspaper," one commenter says of Verniere. "In other words an Obama supporter didn't like the political messages in the movie?" another tells Pinkerton dismissively.

Bane is weird.

What some critics say: Bane, this installment's super villain, has some problems. "[W]ith his voice distorted by that mask, he sounds like Scooby Doo, which means that whenever he speaks for more than a sentence or two, he sounds unintentionally funny, not terrifying," says the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle.  The A.P.'s Christie Lemire adds, "It doesn't help matters that it's often difficult to make out what he's saying beneath the cage-like muzzle that covers his nose and mouth and alters his voice." Stevens says in Slate, "With nothing to work with but a pair of darting eyes, Hardy can't endow Bane with motivation enough to make him more than a generic bogeyman."

The fanboys response: Critics are not familiar enough with the comics. "Why would you have the expectation that the personification of evil would have humor!? The character was perhaps the only villian that broke the Batman (quite literally)," one commenter tells LaSalle, referring to the plot of the comics. "Also not knowing why Bane wears the mask..? You need to have a better regard for the source material," another lectures Stevens.

And so the comment wars go on, as the more furious fans await the opening of the comment gates on Rotten Tomatoes (and the opening of the doors at movie theaters). We don't think the critics who fell into the minority will get much easier treatment once fans have seen the film, but maybe the debate will at least turn toward the movie's merits.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.