Batman fans don't joke around.
Just days before the opening of the much anticipated blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises, critics who have dared to be less than laudatory about the Christopher Nolan flick are facing an over-the-top reaction from superfans.
One critic received so many nasty insults – including death threats – after posting his review that his website crashed. He had to ask the movie-ranking site Rotten Tomatoes to remove his link so he could get it working again.
Eventually, the comments became so venomous that Matt Atchity, editor-in-chief of Rotten Tomatoes, announced that the site was closing comments on the movie altogether for a few days.
Here's the crucial point: The Dark Knight Rises doesn't open until Friday, so unless the people trash-talking the critics have snuck into a preview showing, they haven't even seen the movie yet.
(For the record, the film has received mostly positive reviews – scoring 86 per cent among critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The Globe and Mail's Brad Wheeler was among the movie's admirers, giving it three-and-a-half stars.)
Of course, the Internet trolls can rant and rage without consequences, since most of the insults are made under the cloak of anonymity (and not in caped-crusader kind of way).
Perhaps fans have been inspired by the movie's anti-establishment themes. A cynic might wonder whether this is all part of a clever strategy to generate Oscar buzz, since one could reasonably argue that part two of the trilogy, The Dark Knight, was wrongly denied a best picture Academy Award.
But really, it's just bad manners, something the Internet makes all too easy these days.
Mr. Atchity has since told the Associated Press that Rotten Tomatoes is considering closing comments altogether for big releases (such as The Hobbit, due out later this year), at least for a few days so fans can cool down.
One critic decided to fight back, launching his own volley at rabid fans by writing a fake negative review. (For his game-playing, Eric D. Snider, previously a top-ranked critic on the site, lost the privilege to have his review count toward a movie's percentage ranking.)
He tweeted: "The Dark Knight Rises is easily the most disappointing Batman film so far – and I'm including [director Joel] Schumacher's Batman & Robin in that statement."
Now those are fightin' words.
Are Internet comments getting out of hand? And more importantly, is it possible for any Batman movie to be worse than Batman & Robin?