After going to see it at the cinema, I made the unfortunate choice of delving into people’s reviews of the newly released Terminator: Dark Fate. In the depths of the dreaded user reviews of IMDb lay comments slamming the film for having a predominantly female cast, going as far as calling it “propaganda”, making the Terminator franchise the latest to be the subject of cynical criticism.
I enjoyed Dark Fate, and though not perfect, I think it’s the best Terminator instalment since the revered T2. While some people might agree, I was stunned to find that others dismissed it because of the 3 female leads. More than ever, we have a contingent of movie-goers taking against popular franchises, voicing their displeasure over elements of inclusivity they perceive as damaging. Marvel has experienced this to some degree with hostility being targeted towards Captain Marvel, but Star Wars has been the most targeted. Is a cynical view of diverse characters detracting from the films themselves?
Star Wars returned in a big way back in 2015. The Force Awakens was highly anticipated and, upon release, highly praised. As someone who’s Star Wars DVDs have endured endless use, it was a dream come true to see it on the big screen. The trilogy continued in 2017 with Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, and it was at this point where a particular corner of the Star Wars fan base became very vocal in their criticism. Cynicism seemingly took hold. For some fans, Star Wars had become a vehicle for ‘Social Justice Warriors’, a term I’d never heard until then, to ‘force’ diversity upon people. They objected to the presence of strong female leads such as Rose, Admiral Holdo, and even trilogy protagonist Rey. Rian Johnson faced criticism along with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. I, along with a great number of fans, really enjoy The Last Jedi and the sequel trilogy, almost as much as the originals. So, it’s sad to see the stories and characters that I’ve grown to love being criticised for reasons that I can’t understand. It’s an odd feeling.
Marvel has faced similar criticism. Captain Marvel was ‘review bombed’ on various review sites like IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes before even being released, some took against a female-led superhero film as well as leading actress Brie Larson. Carol Danvers’ MCU introduction proved to be an enjoyable outing for a character that’s showing a great deal of potential. It’s clearly only a minority of people taking against it, judging from the fact that audiences helped it gross over a $1 billion. Yet it’s still unpleasant to see people dismiss a franchise because it opposes their views. The MCU is an incredible cinematic achievement that means a great deal to its fans, so it’s unfair if such criticisms were to diminish it.
It’s clear that the push towards diversity and inclusivity is being perceived, by some, as an attack on what they’re familiar with. Star Wars is in a position where its fan base spans several generations, since bursting into cinemas in 1977. As for Marvel, the MCU has been going strong for over 10 years and the comics span as far back as the 1960s. Different people, from different backgrounds, have various interpretations. Even Rian Johnson recently suggested that this is the case, so is the cynicism just as case of people not adjusting to the change? Those who live the dream of taking these franchises forward are inputting their own visions, which happen to lead down a route that deviates from what we’ve seen before. This doesn’t make them bad, or worse, just different and more open to all corners of today’s diverse society.
Those who express this cynicism clearly have had their enjoyment of these films reduced, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else’s should be too. It’s easy to take cynical and aggressive reviews to heart, but that shouldn’t be the case. I adore Star Wars and the MCU, and they’re ultimately a big part of why I love cinema. While heartbreaking to see people smearing these films, no amount of cynicism will ever stop my enjoyment of them, and I hope this will be the same for others.
Image Credit: Variety