The reviews are in for Suicide Squad and they ain't pretty: it currently sports a 33 percent "fresh" rating, with over two-thirds of critics giving it a negative review. This signals bad news for the studio, who were looking to bounce back after Batman vs Superman was also largely panned. Some have been unremittingly harsh, such as David Ehrlich writing, "Forget the 'Worst. Heroes. Ever.' These guys don’t even know how to be bad" and Todd McCarthy commenting that, "Suicide Squad may not quite commit harakiri, but it certainly feels like it’s taken far too many sleeping pills."
A review in Vanity Fair suggests that this could spell doom for the DCU:
"Suicide Squad is so uninspired, so dim and unthoughtful, that its one true arresting act of destruction is to deliver what could be a fatal blow to non-Marvel superhero movies."
"I personally believe it’s a great film, I loved a lot of it and really liked most of the rest."
Nevertheless, the fans are not happy about its overall score.
DC Fan's Response
In fact their response has led one, Abdullah Coldwater, to start a petition calling for the shut down of the entire website. He writes this should happen because:
"It's Critics always give The DC Extended Universe movies unjust Bad Reviews [sic]"
As of writing it already has over 10000 signatures, and looks set to keep on rising.
Some passionate fans believe that the critics and/or Rotten Tomatoes is in the pay of Marvel, giving rise to some interesting left-field theories, with one suggesting that Rotten Tomatoes and its "paid" critics are deliberately trying to undermine the DCEU. This follows similar claims after BVS also suffered from negative press.
Tolga Dinç writes:
"Rotten Tomatoes absolutely try take down DCEU through give absurd reviews."
Lance Austin concurs, suggesting they are in the pay of Disney:
"Something is fishy here. I think Disney execs are pulling strings."
But Drew Morton points out on the petition page that:
"I'm signing so I can smugly tell you that Rotten Tomatoes is owned by Warner Brothers, who also owns DC Comics."
Does this counter-proof prove the conspiracy theories wrong, or does it point towards an even more complex conspiracy we don't even know about? OK, enough of the Alex Jones-style speculation. Should Rotten Tomatoes be shut down? Lets have a look at how it works first!
Rotten Tomatoes: How Does It Work?
The key misjudgement in the petition's criticism regarding Rotten Tomatoes is that it does not have professional reviewers working for its site, but instead works as an aggregation tool before giving a final percentage. According to Rotten Tomatoes,
"This Tomatometer™ rating represents the percentage of professional critic reviews that are positive for a given film or television show."
The image of the tomato comes from filmgoing tradition whereby fans would throw tomatoes and other fruit at the screen when they thought it was bad. Thus, a fresh rating (60 percent or higher) is the digital equivalent of the tomatoes staying whole while a rotten rating (59 percent or below) is symbolic of all those tomatoes going 'splat'. So, as just two-thirds of critics have given the film a rotten rating, Suicide Squad has an overall rating of 33 percent.
Is It Fair?
If you are to trust Rotten Tomatoes on this one, they write that,
"Rotten Tomatoes and the Tomatometer™ rating is the most trusted measurement of quality entertainment."
Despite such claims, there is an argument to be made about how Rotten Tomatoes can actually give a somewhat false representation of a film's average mark. By setting the threshold at 60 percent this means that reviews just under - such as IGN's average mark of 5.9/10 - are marked as negative reviews. This leads balanced reviews with some positives to say about the film leading it to have an overall negative mark.
A fairer system - given that the film is currently riding on an average review of 5.2/10 - might be to reduce the positive threshold to just 50 or 55 percent, allowing the overall chunk of film reviews to score a little higher. Maybe this is an aim slightly more achievable than shutting down the whole site?
Does The Critical Consensus Matter?
The more nuanced argument is that the value of a film cannot be wholly determined by merely aggregating critics views, yet a general collation of the best critics opinions does help to give a general idea of whether or not it is worth the price of a cinema ticket. In a way, the response of DC fans is understandable as they want their favourite superheroes to do well critically in order for the brand to prosper.
What can be argued as more important than the average critics opinion is your own, and what impressions you might have as you leave the cinema screen. So maybe see for yourself if Suicide Squad is a great film or not! David Ayer himself certainly doesn't seem to care.
Does This Spell Gloom For The DCU?
Whether this will affect its box office chances is yet to be known, but given that Batman Vs Superman managed to gross over $800 million with a 27% rating, it doesn't seem that Suicide Squad is going to be that much of a flop, the introduction of new, classic, and previously under-appreciated characters into the DCU proving the main draw for fans and non-fans alike.
To see how the average person liked it, you need only go to IMDB (where superhero movies traditionally fare better) where it is currently riding on a very good early score of 8.5/10. (It is worth bearing in mind however, that IMDB allows users to rate films before they are even released yet.) Despite this, I have a feeling that the DCEU, with as passionate a fanbase behind it as any, will prosper just fine.
What do you think? Should we base a films merit off its Rotten Tomatoes score?