So. The first reviews for Warner Bros.' Suicide Squad are now in. And they're... not great. The vast majority of critics seem to have left the theater either actively disliking, or being mildly disappointed by, the movie, and have reviewed it accordingly. Which, with Suicide Squad having a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 33% at the time of writing, seems to have been a fairly universal response from the journalistic establishment. So much so, in fact, that some fans have already called 'conspiracy', and the film's director David Ayer felt the need to defend it on social media, arguing that he "made it for the fans".
The big question all of that raises, though?
Do Those Negative 'Suicide Squad' Reviews Actually Matter?
After all, it seems likely that many devoted fans of the DCEU - and indeed countless thousands of casual moviegoers - will ultimately completely disagree with the film's reviews, and love the hell out of Suicide Squad. That, after all, was very much the case with the even more poorly reviewed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film the majority of Suicide Squad reviewers seemed to feel the latter improved upon. Between that built in fan base, and large number of advance bookings for opening weekend, is it possible to argue that Suicide Squad doesn't actually need good reviews at all?
Well, perhaps - but that doesn't necessarily make it true. There are, y'see, two key areas in which negative reviews could prove problematic for both Suicide Squad, and its studio, Warner Bros. First up?
Warner Bros. Needed A Critical Hit After Batman v Superman
Y'see, for all that Warner Bros. will likely shrug off Suicide Squad's negative reviews in public, much as it did with Batman v Superman, there's little doubt that the studio was desperately hoping for a solid critical reception from which to build momentum for next year's Wonder Woman and Justice League. With the latter already having shown distinct signs of having been 'lightened' in the wake of Batman v Superman's critical skewering...
...it seems fairly obvious that Warner Bros. isn't especially inclined to ignore negative critical (and, for the most part, fan) feedback. Were Suicide Squad's critical mauling to be followed by a lukewarm (or worse) fan response, then it seems certain that the future of the DCEU will be altered as a result. What direction it heads in - towards both a dark, adult, Bat-themed half and a family-friendly Justice League one, or to something closer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe - remains unclear, but you can be sure that Warner Bros. won't just shrug this off. Especially since...
Bad Reviews Could Well Hurt Suicide Squad At The Box Office
Now, with Suicide Squad still expected to rake in somewhere in the region of $125-140 million at the domestic box office this coming weekend, there seems relatively little chance that negative reviews are going to dramatically impact upon its soon-to-be-record-breaking opening weekend. With the previous record holder for an August release (Guardians of the Galaxy) making 'only' $94.3 million back in 2014, the 'Squad would have to perform well below expectations in order to fail to snatch the record, and the easy publicity that comes along with it.
That, however, was also very much true for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and yet that film is widely seen to have under-performed, despite a final global total of close to $900 million. A major factor in that, was the 69.1% drop off in revenue in the film's second weekend at the domestic box office, when negative reviews and poor word of mouth seemingly cut Batman v Superman off at the knees. Were Suicide Squad to receive a similar drop off, then it'd be tough to argue that its weak critical reception didn't have an impact.
The even bigger question than whether those reviews matter, though?
Should Those Negative Suicide Squad Reviews Matter?
Y'see, there's a pretty solid argument that what other people think of a movie shouldn't actually have any impact on whether or not you or I enjoy it. After all, no reviewer knows for sure whether or not you'll like a movie, and none of them are actually trying to suggest that they do. Instead, they're simply offering up their opinion, informed by their own unique experiences and life.
This is doubly true of a Rotten Tomatoes score, which by necessity simplifies critics reviews to a binary state: They are either fresh, or rotten. The complex analysis that many Suicide Squad reviews offered - and the more balanced view that brings - is inevitably lost by a review aggregation system that requires absolute positives and negatives. What's more, it doesn't allow for important factors like 'whether or not we tend to agree with the reviewer in question', or 'whether or not the reviewer actually has mixed feelings about the film'. As Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson recently argued on Twitter:
Which is a) a pretty darned excellent refutation of the inevitable 'anti-DC, pro-Marvel' conspiracy theories that are making the rounds again, and b) a concise argument in favor of an alternative path. While the industry may focus on aggregated reviews (and, in particular, aggregated fan responses), we as fans don't actually have to. We can watch whatever we like, and love it or hate it on our own terms. And if the majority of critics don't agree with our individual opinions, then that's OK. For one thing, there's nothing wrong with reading (or hearing) an opinion that you disagree with, especially in the polarized times we live in - and for another, you can guarantee that somewhere out there is a critic whose opinions you do largely agree with, and who will offer you a good guide to what you should or shouldn't see.
In other words? Those negative Suicide Squad reviews probably do matter, at least from a box office and industry perspective, but that doesn't mean they have to matter to you.
What do you think, though?