Fans v Critics: What’s the Difference Anymore?

There’s no getting around it: Avengers: Endgame (2019), the most recent entry into the now mythic Marvel Cinematic Universe, is a success.  Not just a success, but quite possibly the biggest movie of all time.  It made a truly staggering $1.2 billion worldwide in its opening weekend.  The first Avengers (2012) made just barely over that number over its entire run.  Its on track to blow completely past Infinity War’s (2018) colossal $2 billion gross, thus far the highest in the entire Disney-branded mega-franchise.

In fact, at the rate its going, it will probably beat out The Force Awakens (2015), Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009) to become the highest grossing movie of all time with relative ease.  $3 billion threshold?  Stand back, because it’ll probably be the first movie to break through that barrier too.  The movie is, by all accounts, unstoppable.

But rather than everybody simply being happy with the way things are at the moment, I’ve seen considerable rumblings on social media  It’s the usual sort of bickering you see surrounding blockbusters these days — the so-called fans versus the so-called critics — but the weird thing is that I honestly can’t tell what they’re bickering about anymore.  Other than the incessant in-fighting online, everybody seems to be on the same page when it comes to Marvel.

In addition to the $1.2 billion opening weekend gross, the movie scored a near-perfect 96% “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  This means that 96% of all the critics who reviewed the movie — an estimated 390 of 406 professionals — gave it a positive review.  In fact, that score’s even higher than the 91% rating collectively awarded to the movie by Rotten Tomatoes users.

The movie is similarly well-reviewed on other aggregate websites.  The movie received a very positive 77/100 on MetaCritic.  It even received the expected A+ CinemaScore rating.  And while all of these metrics tell slightly different stories about what people think about the movie, the overwhelming consensus from all fronts is that it’s a good, even great, movie.  Everybody, from the causal fan to the dedicated fanboy, from the Marvel diehard to the most stone-hearted critic, loves this movie.

And the thing is, this isn’t even a new development for the MCU.  To date, every one of the 22 movies in the superhero mega-franchise as earned a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, for instance.  The highest ranked, coming in just barely ahead of Endgame, is last year’s Black Panther (2018) with a whopping 97% rating.  The lowest ranked is the still-very-positively reviewed Thor: The Dark World (2013), with a more-than-respectable 66% score.  The perennial black sheep of the MCU, the supposedly worst-in-show Iron Man 2 (2010), comes in at a significantly more positive 73%.

So where does this fan/critic rivalry come in?  Well, broadly speaking I can understand the resentment of “fans,” who tend to vote with their wallets, against “critics,” who generally are more picky.  But in this case, when everybody seems to like the movie and enthralled to be a part of this momentous cinematic event, I can’t put my finger on where this supposed animosity is coming from.  Everybody likes these movies, People.  Just sit back, enjoy the ride, and stop looking for somebody to fight over this.  For once, everybody’s on the same side.

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