Suicide Squad is a flop. As has become the pattern for DC and Warner Bros., global earnings are being used to cover the damage. According to Variety, Suicide Squad earned $58.7 million abroad, enough to top the foreign box office. At home, it pushed earnings to over $222.9 million — and suffered a 67 percent second-week slide.
Although it will barely hold onto the top spot for a second week domestically, Suicide Squad is in trouble. By the same token, so is the entire DC Extended Universe. As Forbes writer Scott Mendelson notes, the movie continues a disturbing pattern of Warner Bros. movies failing to demonstrate strong legs — even when released against what should be much weaker films.
“At this general point in time, the DC Comics film franchise is of great appeal to the very specific fan base and arguably nobody else. Those who want to see these movies come hell or high water, specifically because of interest in the universe and the characters, are showing up and then going on their merry way.
“That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it also means that there is no guarantee that future ‘better’ installments will attract a larger audience. Again, we’re talking an over/under $300 million domestic gross for a Suicide Squad film, but it does look like these films are doing little more than preaching to the converted.”
The above quote is a brilliant summary of the problem facing DC and Warner Bros. at the moment. While rival Marvel enjoys broad appeal, DC is increasingly happy to appease the rabidly defensive fan base, whose “us vs. them” mentality validates the decision to keep director Zack Snyder at the helm of the DCEU, all while eagerly cutting corners in a now pointless bid to duplicate Marvel Studios’ ongoing success.
Even as critics and non-DC fans come together to admit that Suicide Squad was a mess, DC apologists have united with their version of “kill the umpire!” between declarations of a massive cinema conspiracy and the desire to invalidate the millennia-old profession of critiquing the arts. In a way, DC’s dedicated fans and Warner Bros. have a point — as long as the fans are happy, then nothing else matters.
We can only hope this is the truth because if patterns hold, Warner Bros. will be forced into the red, doing these movies out of love rather than a genuine expectation that the films be anywhere near as profitable as the Marvel Cinematic Universe is for Marvel and Disney.
Whether DC and Warner Bros. wish to admit it (they don’t), they are on a collision course with failure. For all the armchair defensiveness and choir-preaching that exclusively DC fans (and underdog lovers) bring to the table, the one thing they don’t bring is a multi-billion dollar franchise.
As of now, the combined earnings of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad are a little better than one Avengers film. That’s disgraceful. It’s also illogical considering that the likes of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman together onscreen for the very first time should have provided a billion-dollar boost for future DCEU projects.
Suicide Squad failed to be the surprise breakout hit for DC that Marvel had with Guardians of the Galaxy and Twentieth Century Fox experienced with the R-rated Deadpool. Although promoted in the same vein, Suicide Squad’s irreverence was unapologetically calculated by comparison — making its failings are the more noteworthy.
Those movies went on to gross well over $700 million. With its hype already stalling at about $300 million, Suicide Squad will not make as much as Guardians or Deadpool. It may even be in danger of failing to match Iron Man’s total earnings, which The Numbers put at $582.4 million. Given that expectations for comic book movie earnings have inflated dramatically since 2008, that’s saying something.
Saying what exactly? That the price of DC’s decision to justify its lazy, self-congratulatory corner-cutting behaviors will leave it drinking from an ever shrinking pool of moviegoers. The “us vs. them” crowd has it right: The DC Extended Universe is locked in competition with other studios. Sure there’s the big fish Marvel, but there’s also Fox and Sony. Being DC and having its own universe is not enough to anticipate critical acclaim or movie audience dollars, no matter how many fans complain about “bias.”
If Fox can endure the lambasting it suffered over certain X-Men films and the failed Fantastic Four reboot and then show promise with Deadpool, Warner Bros. has absolutely no excuses — and neither do its more stubborn fans.
Suicide Squad will probably enjoy a sequel, but signs are already pointing to little to salvage as both DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. appear determined to paint themselves into a corner with this franchise. It will be interesting to see if the captains go down with their ship or, once again, hit the reboot button.
Do you think Suicide Squad is headed for flop status? Will DC and Warner Bros. ever get it right with DCEU? Share your thoughts below!
[Image via Warner Bros.]