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Can Critics Make Their Mark on 'Man of Steel?'

Criticwire By Jordan Hoffman | Criticwire June 17, 2013 at 11:45AM

A field report from one New York City movie theater, where Jordan Hoffman investigates whether "Man of Steel" fans are engaging with the ongoing critical debate about the film.
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"Man of Steel."
"Man of Steel."

As the yellow sun peeks over the clouds this Monday it probably feels good to be Zack Snyder, Henry Cavill or a Time Warner stockholder. "Man of Steel"'s domestic take was over 125 million of your Earth dollars, netting it the biggest June opening weekend in history, beating out "Toy Story 3"'s $110.3, though whether it flew around the planet to go back in time and adjust this fact we'll never know.

Kal-El, the Last Son of Krypton, a.k.a. mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent a.k.a. Superman is, of course, an international icon matched only by the likes of, say, Ronald McDonald or Santa Claus. Surely people are going to go see his first movie in seven years, particularly in our current superhero-crazed, comic-books-are-a-legitimate-source-for-four-quadrant-entertainment mindset. It is the very definition of critic-proof. What's interesting, though, is just how perfectly split critics are on this latest iteration.

Rotten Tomatoes has "Man of Steel" at 56%. Metacritic is at 55%. I don't know if you follow movie folk on Twitter, but if your feed was anything like mind this past weekend you witnessed the crisis of infinite gripes -- with some folk getting testy and buttons being pushed all over the place.

Some of the more fanboy-friendly critics love it, others feel Kal-El's actions in the third act are quite unbecoming a Kryptonian. Some of the cineaste critics dig Zack Snyder's style, others are ready to take a boom tube to Apokolips rather than watch another of these long underwear-fests again.

With this sort of polarized dialogue dominating the film's critical conversation, you figure this would monopolize the chatter among those buying tickets. I took a stroll to my local cineplex (the UA Kaufman Astoria 14 in beautiful Queens, New York) and initiated conversations with moviegoers at and around the concession stand.

First, I approached a young couple sitting at a little table with Bloomberg-busting sodas in front of them.

Hoffman: Did you guys read any reviews before buying your ticket?

18 Year Old Male:No.

17 Year Old Female:
 No.

Hoffman: Did you hear anything about the movie?

18YOM: I heard it was great.

Hoffman: Who did you hear this from?

18YOM: From people.

Hoffman: Like, on Facebook?

18YOM: Yeah, on Facebook.

Hoffman: If a friend on Facebook were to link to a review of the movie, would you ever click through?

18YOM: Sometimes.

17YOF:
 Nope.

Hoffman: Do you think after you see the movie today you may go home and check out some written reviews to compare your own thoughts?

18YOM: Maybe, if I see one, I might click.

17YOF:
 Nah.

Next to them was another couple, a little older, both absolutely glued to their PSPs or Nintendo DSs. The woman didn't want to talk to me; the man spoke, but did not look up from his game.


Hoffman:
 Did you read any of the reviews before coming here?

26 Year Old Gamer: No.

Hoffman: Did you know that this was something of a divisive movie among critics?

26YOG: No.

Hoffman: Do you ever read reviews? Ever visit Rotten Tomatoes?

26YOG: Nah. Reviews just spoil the movie.

Hoffman: Oh, okay. Well, do you ever read a review afterwards?

26YOG: I don't really see too many movies.

Next I caught a 26 year old dude in a full-on DC Comics T-Shirt. Not a vintage one, a new one, with most of the major members of the Justice League on it in action poses. Even J'onn J'onzz. He was with his mother. No, I'm not making any of this up.

Hoffman: Are you on your way to see "Man of Steel?"

26 Year Old Comics Fan: We saw it.

Hoffman (wondering to himself what this dude is doing hanging out at the concessions counter, but soldiering on): Like it?

26YOCF: It was so-so. I prefer the original. The Christopher Reeve version.

Mom: The camera was moving all over!

26YOCF: She didn't like the shakycam.

Mom: Och, the shaking cam!

Hoffman: Okay, fair enough. But, I'm wondering if you read any reviews before you came here.

26YOCF: No. None.

Hoffman: Do you ever read reviews?

Mom: No! Get your own opinion!

26YOCF: Yes, I like to get my own judgement.

Hoffman: If a friend links a review on Facebook, do you ever click through?

26YOCF: No. Not really. I don't go to many movies.

I left this pair (who continued to just sort of float around the theater lobby) and darted over to a 32 year old man wearing a classic "S on his chest" Superman T-shirt.

Hoffman: You are here to see "Man of Steel," I take it?

32 Year Old Superman Fan: Yeah.

Hoffman: Did you read any of the reviews?

32YOSF: No. I heard it was good, though. Has a good story.

Hoffman: Oh, you heard this from a friend? Or on, say, Facebook?

32YOSF: Heard from friends.

Hoffman: Oh, so you have friends who saw it already?

32YOSF: No, we're gonna' see it today.

Hoffman: Wait, so how did you hear it was good?

32YOSF: I saw the preview.

Hoffman: Will you go read reviews after you see it, to see how it compared to your opinion?

32YOSF: No.

Hoffman: Do you ever read reviews?

32YOSF: Not that much.

Lastly, I saw three happy looking people in their mid-twenties. One dude, who did not speak, was wearing a fedora and had a goatee. The other dude was loaded with tattoos. The gal with them wore glasses and had bushy hair.

Hoffman: You here to see "Man of Steel?"

Tattoos: Nah, we're here to see. Ummn. Wait, what is it?

Bushy Hair: "This is the End."

Tattoos: Yeah, "This is the End." But I wanna see "Man of Steel" at some point. Maybe we'll try and sneak in afterwards. Wait, you don't work here, do you?

Hoffman: No, no. It's all good. You do what your conscience thinks is right. Tell me, you want to see "Man of Steel," but have you heard about it being divisive? Have you read any reviews?

Tattoos: Nah, no reviews. But I saw Russell Crowe on Kelly Ripa. I like him, he's good. I'm not a big Superman guy, but I'm gonna see it. I don't like, though... I don't like that it's this one guy who can get ya, though, y'know?

Hoffman: Uhhh, I'm not 100% sure I know what --

Bushy Hair: But this one, this one is by the guy who made "Watchmen," right?

Hoffman: Yes.

Bushy Hair: I like that. I like that it's like darker.

Tattoos: Hey, she knows everything!

The conclusion: everyone has their Kryptonite. For a critic, it's walking around a multiplex on a Saturday.


This article is related to: Superman


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