Attention, hardcore DC fans: Please stop me if the following scenario sounds familiar.
You are hyped to see beloved characters make it to the big screen and expect your superhero movie to be a major blockbuster. Unfortunately, just as the much-hyped summer film hits theaters, critics announce they have a laundry list of issues with the final product. They also make it known that Zack Snyder’s overall vision for the DC Extended Universe is a lackluster one. Enraged, you decide that the adverse reaction MUST be part of a subversive conspiracy, or that critics lack the intellect to appreciate Snyder’s work (Really, New York Post?).
Heard it all before? Well now we’re back where we started, and the latest so-called victim of this alleged conspiracy is the recently released Suicide Squad.
On the surface, things don’t look so bad for Suicide Squad. According to Deadline, it’s set for a $146 million domestic opening weekend. If Suicide Squad manages to avoid the horrific plunge that its predecessor Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice experienced — despite a record-breaking debut in theaters — it will have a comparatively better run.
It’s worth noting that according to Cinema Blend and We Got This Covered, Warner Bros. Pictures didn’t spend nearly as much money on Suicide Squad as Batman V Superman. There might even be enough room for the comic book-based film to overperform despite heavy criticism from movie reviewers.
It’s pretty clear that critics have been rather hostile towards Zack Snyder’s DCEU. That doesn’t mean that they hate comic book movies or DC big screen efforts specifically. Having done the research, I found that DC’s big screen efforts enjoyed something of a “halo effect” during the Christopher Nolan years. Is there any other explanation as to how the mediocre Superman Returns earned a “certified fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes?
More recently, some DC fans felt the need to overcompensate for criticisms of every kind, even valid ones. I read through the Rotten Tomatoes audience comments about Suicide Squad, and most were attacking the movie critics for not liking the film. Hardly anything was said that would encourage a neutral, non-comic book movie fan to even see Suicide Squad.
Just a lot of, “Don’t listen to the critics! They don’t know anything!” Funny, check out the above chart, and you’ll see that with well-received Batman and Superman movies, critics and movie audiences tended to be on the same page. That was also true for the films deemed remarkably bad. Somehow, the beginning of the Zack Snyder run marked a disturbing disconnect for DC fans. I almost wonder if Batman & Robin were made a year ago, would DC fans be out in force attacking people for not laughing along with the cringeworthy delivery of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ice puns.
This disconnect becomes even more apparent when you take a look at other 2016 movies that were well reviewed or panned. Audiences tended to agree with critics much of the time. Though sometimes critics and audiences differed on how much they liked or hated a film, it’s easy to see they’re on the same page.
The noted exception thus far has been with DC/Warner Bros. movies, and that’s actually terrible news for DC’s hardcore supporters. You see, not everyone is as wrapped up and invested in the DCEU as you are. Yes, some people do listen to critics. Others observe the foaming of the mouth of rabid fans and figure that whatever insanity that inspired it might be worth staying far, far away from.
Furious DC Fans Band Together and Start up Petition to Squash Rotten Tomatoes, after Negative Suicide Squad Reviews pic.twitter.com/Kc5p2Xkqld— Jonathon Davies (@JonoBond) August 6, 2016
As Ars Technica put it, Suicide Squad came across as “desperate.” Not surprising as three movies into its cinematic universe, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. are no doubt starting to get desperate — to get critics and movie fans on their side.
The good news is after Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. gets to try again with Wonder Woman and the first Justice League movie. Sure, both films are deeply influenced by Zack Snyder, the director who the Guardian blamed outright for how poorly things are going for Warner Bros.
But Wonder Woman marks the first time the beloved DC character will appear in a major motion picture. Sure, she’s not the first superheroine to get a movie, but the teaser trailer seemed to promise that it wouldn’t be as terrible as previous women-led comic book movies. All signs point to it being a record-breaking event, regardless of what critics may or may not say.
In any case, DC fans need to forget their battle with everyone who loathed Suicide Squad. The upcoming projects are the ones that will likely determine both worthwhileness and ultimate fate of the DCEU.
If Wonder Woman and the first Justice League are terrible, then every word screamed at movie reviewers for saying so will mark a collectively wasted effort: Movie audiences could forever after associated DC with non-fun, non-entertaining, poorly written and edited superhero films. That’s not on film critics; that’s on the studio and movie runners. Instead of going after movie reviews and aggregation sites, that excess energy should instead get put into confronting DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. about their sub-par products and blatant lack of preparation.
DC fans have the most to lose, as their dream of seeing a big screen cinematic universe blossom into something cohesive and awesome may be on the line. With so much at stake overall, it makes no sense to give Snyder, Warner Bros., and DC a pass., lovingly shielding them from any and all accountability. That act will achieve the opposite effect and allow the responsible parties to feel validated in cutting corners and rushing production.
What good could possibly come of that?
[Image via Warner Bros. Pictures, YouTube]