Remember when Michael Keaton played Batman, twice, and he was subtly awesome at it? And then Christian Bale played Batman less than two decades later and Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy set a new standard for not just the Caped Crusader, but superhero movies in general?
Well, the standing ovations for The Dark Knight Rises seem like a long time ago—longer ago than 2012, anyway.
Maybe that’s because for the last decade, studios have been churning out movies ripped from the pages of comic books and graphic novels at an increasingly rapid clip; and while the DC Comics universe from whence Batman and Superman sprang hasn’t been quiet, it’s Marvel that has been flooding theaters with three Iron Man movies, two Thor movies (no. 3 is on the way), three Captain America movies and two Avengers extravaganzas. Not to mention Ant-Man, the recent R-rated hit Deadpool and, what, like 71 X-Men installments?
In fact, with Captain America: Civil War, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which is not to be confused with the general Marvel Universe) is already onto “Phase Three,” eight years after having come into inception with an incomparable big bang, 2008’s Iron Man.
So when DC realized that it needed its own big-screen-specific family and the DC Extended Universe debuted with Man of Steel in 2013, fans waited with baited breath and critics cranked up their microscopes and zoomed in.
Fast-forward to today and critics are still searching for signs of life in the Universe.
Reviews for the hotly anticipated, ripped-from-the-comics Suicide Squad are out—and for all the hype and A-list-packed cast, led by one of the most beloved movie stars around, Will Smith…
They are not good.
To be fair, Suicide Squad is only the third official offering from the DC Extended Universe, so it would be premature to label this a failed experiment and call it a day. But the reviews for the antiheroes-make-mayhem-and-then-make-good ensemble flick are the most savage yet, an indicator that something isn’t clicking with those who critique movies for a living.
IndieWire, a reliable fan of the genre overall, called the film “mundane, milquetoast, and often mind-bogglingly stupid”—which isn’t what a movie as loud, bombastic and full of eye-popping action as this one is going for.
This follows tepid reviews for Man of Steel and a mixed reception for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
However, Batman v Superman also took in $800-million-plus at the box office worldwide—an indicator that, while critics are being rubbed the wrong way, the DC audience is there and primed for the entertaining.
But while we won’t know for sure till the receipts are tallied Monday just how much of a divide there is between the critics and the paying audience this time around, there are already DC loyalists who aren’t taking the critical skewering of Suicide Squad lying down—even though most (if not all) of those fans haven’t seen the movie yet.
A Change.org petition has been circulated to get Rotten Tomatoes shut down over the meager 35 percent favorability rating bestowed on Suicide Squad, despite the fact that Rotten Tomatoes (which has been around since 1998) is just an aggregate site that uses a formula to calculate the overall reaction to a movie based on dozens of reviews not written by anyone at Rotten Tomatoes.
Oh, wait…it’s at 32 percent now. However, since there’s no audience approval rating yet, 98 percent of Rotten Tomatoes users polled “want to see” Suicide Squad.
“We need this site to be shut down because It’s Critics [sic] always give The DC Extended Universe movies unjust Bad Reviews…and that Affects people’s opinion even if it’s a really great movie [sic],” reads the petition, which has been “signed” by more than 15,000 people.
Marvel, Warner Bros.
To compare apples and oranges (or at least apples and pears), the most recent Marvel Universe movie, Captain America: Civil War, is sitting pretty on Rotten Tomatoes with a 90 percent on the Tomatometer, plus a 90 percent audience score.
Batman v Superman was left with a 27 percent when all was seen and reviewed (though it earned a 65 percent audience score), while Marvel’s Ant-Man, which came out last year, scored 81 percent (86 percent with the audience).
Where is the DCEU going wrong while the Marvel Universe is getting it right, time after time after time? Is the DCEU getting it wrong, or are the non-Marvel movies getting a raw deal because they’re being judged against a quickly established mode of superhero-movie-making?
First of all, Marvel’s casting coups, from Robert Downey Jr. to Chris Evans to Chris Hemsworth to Samuel L. Jackson and pretty much everyone else, can’t be denied.
Then there’s DC, thinking it had really nailed it with Ben Affleck as Batman and then getting treated to a surprisingly extreme level of Internet backlash (even though, really, the idea was perfectly sound).
DC fans don’t have to worry that negative reviews are going to stop the process in its tracks, with no fewer than eight more Extended Universe titles in the works, including Wonder Woman and Justice League in 2017. But why are these films leaving critics—and then a juicy percentage of Rotten Tomatoes users—so cold?
For some reason, repeatedly threatened apocalypse is just translating better from Marvel’s end, even though it’s what both Universes are ultimately putting out there. Moreover, the guest who’s late to the party usually does have to work harder to impress the room, and Marvel got a five-year running start on DC in our universe. And what better way to win us over than by starting with RDJ as Iron Man? Surely Tony Stark would agree! No Avenger banters better.
And though the darkness of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and now the gritty Suicide Squad may be more reflective of a certain prevailing mood, perhaps it isn’t necessarily what the people want to see on screen right now. The characters are already beloved, so while the DC movies don’t need to copy the Marvel formula, it isn’t too late to inject some pep into the Justice League’s step, make it a little more user-friendly for the non-diehard fans.
But those who were planning on it anyway will go to theaters to see Suicide Squad this weekend and, once they’re there, director David Ayer predicts they’re going to appreciate it—because he made it for them.
“Prefiero morir de pie que vivir de rodillas – Emiliano Zapata,” he tweeted yesterday, explaining why he’d prefer to die standing than to live on his knees: “Zapata quote is my way of saying I love the movie and believe in it. Made it for the fans. Best experience of my life.”
But will more than 65 percent of Rotten Tomato users feel the same way?