(Christopher Reeve... now THAT'S Superman!)

For much of this week I have been watching and participating in an going debate on Variety's website regarding the validity of Chief Film Critic Scott Foundas' review of the new Superman movie Man Of Steel. For those of you who haven't read it Scott didn't give Man Of Steel the most glowing of reviews, stating that its "humorless tone and relentless noisy aesthetics drag down this heavily hyped, brilliantly marketed tentpole attraction."

You could tell the general ages of those responding to Mr. Foundas' review by the tone and substance of their comments. The adults in the group were able to express their opinions with some degree of respect and intelligence, displaying a pretty admirable knowledge of the history of the Superman character and its evolution over the years. For the most part they - like myself - were fans of the Christopher Reeve films and the George Reeves TV series; they don't care much for the current "rebooted" version of the character currently appearing in DC Comics and in the new film, but they were able to intelligently explain why they don't care for the new incarnation without expressing vitriol towards those who do.

Those who appeared no older than, say, 15 or 20 were universally dismissive of Foundas and his opinion, calling him vile names and betraying a general lack of knowledge of the 75-year-old comic book character's history. Or maybe it wasn't so much a lack of knowledge as it was an attitude of simply not caring about anything that happened in either the real world or the world of comic books before that day the doctor slapped them on the behind.

Some of them referred to Chris Reeve's take on the character as a "sissy" or worse (there was much derision thrown at the scene in the first Reeve film where Superman rescues that cat from a tree), and most of them seemed to honestly believe that Superman - or "the REAL Superman," to quote the term so many of them insisted on using - didn't exist at all until DC unleashed its current series of "New 52" titles. Their general belief seemed to be that if a story isn't wall-to-wall fistfights, they're just not interested. They don't want storytelling; they want the print equivalent of a pay-per-view extreme fighting program.

In a moment of weakness I found myself compelled on Monday to respond to one of these younger commenters as follows: "You young pups who want to 'see sups kick the crap outta things' obviously have no idea what made this character so great and iconic in the first place. This review confirms my fears that this new version of Superman is robbing him of his very greatness. How sad that, on the year of his 75th anniversary, the character who created this genre of heroic storytelling has become just one more muscle-bound street brawler. Makes me miss Christopher Reeve all the more."

In retrospect maybe my decision to weigh in on the debate was a mistake. Because all those young punks who had been attacking Scott Foundas suddenly turned on me like a pack of rabid dingoes.

Over the course of the next couple of days I found myself being called everything from a dinosaur to a dick. That didn't in itself bother all that much. I'm a newspaper reporter and columnist by profession; I'm used to being verbally assaulted. But you'd think some of these guys (and girls, there were a few girls in the pack) would at least take time to correctly spell some of the things they were calling me. (Which only seemed to confirm my earlier statements about how the Internet's greatest contribution to society may be to help reveal the overall sorry state of modern education, but that I suppose is a discussion for another day...)

After a few days of being used as a cyberspace punching bag I decided I would respond again. Which I did, as follows:

In going back and re-reading the majority of comments that have been posted here, it strikes me that most of you don't even understand the nature of film reviews. They are, by their very nature, OPINION PIECES reflecting the feelings of the individual writer. The writer will base that opinion on any or all of a variety of criteria: his own personal knowledge of the director, the actor, the screenwriter, the genre of film or even film history in general; the quality of the acting, directing or writing; comparisons between other films that are out at the same time; and even something as simple as how the film affects the reviewer as an individual sitting there in the theatre watching. All these criteria will have some kind of an impact on the reviewer's final reaction to the film. But at the end of the day he or she has simply shared their opinion, which the rest of us are free to agree or disagree with as we see fit. 

Now, when it comes to our response to said opinion, there is a valid and a non-valid way to express that response. The valid way is to say "I agree" or "I disagree" and to explain why. And by "explaining why" I don't mean "Because I say so" or "Because he's an idiot." Give us rational arguments; give us information that demonstrates that you're capable of making informed decisions rather than knee-jerk "wah-wah-wah" snottiness.

The non-valid way is to say such things as "This guy is an (insert favorite epithet)" or "I could write a better review." The reason such responses are not valid is that (a) Having an opinion different that yours does not automatically make a person an idiot (or whatever name you chose to call him); and (b) No you probably couldn't write a better review than he could, because if he is a professional reviewer who likely as not has gone to school to study things like journalistic style and writing criticism and even film history (can you say "Roger Ebert," boys and girls?), whereas based on the available evidence you're most likely just some know-it-all who thinks that having an opinion, a keyboard and access to the Internet somehow makes you smarter than all the other know-it-alls with an opinion, a keyboard and access to the Internet. 

Bottom line: if you don't agree with this guy's opinion, that's fine and dandy. But try to express yourself intelligently and without resorting to name calling and hissy fits and the like. Because that's the kind of behavior that you should have outgrown somewhere around the second grade. And at the end of the day, all it does is make YOU look like whatever vile and hateful name you've thrown at the reviewer whose opinion you disagree with.

Anyway, I have had my say now and I’m going to leave it at that. I’ll go see “Man of Steel” this weekend simply because, hey, it’s a Superman movie and I’ve seen them all. Based on what I’ve seen and heard so far I expect to be disappointed. I genuinely HOPE I’m wrong (and if I am you better believe I’ll say so). But I’m not holding my breath. Have a good day.

I don't know that I accomplished anything by posting the above statement. But it felt good getting off my chest.

And there is a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing that, every so often, you might in fact actually be the smartest guy in the room...