I suppose we should be grateful that no one -- to my knowledge -- has yet threatened the life of a film reviewer for panning David Ayer's Suicide Squad in advance of its release on Friday, August 5. Four years ago people weren't so civilized, and the Rotten Tomatoes website, which aggregates film reviews and assigns films "Rotten" or "Fresh" scores, was driven to disable the comment threat for Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises after it became apparent that 1) the film didn't live up to Nolan's previous Batman film and 2)some fans wished death and/or rape on reviewers for killing their buzz. Now we do things in a more civil fashion. One Abdullah Coldwater has started a petition on the change.org site asking for Rotten Tomatoes to be shut down altogether because "It's Critics always give The DC Extended Universe movies unjust Bad Reviews ...and that Affects people's opinion even if it's a really great movies." Nearly 15,000 people have signed the petition. This looks like a Trumpian tantrum against a "rigged" system, even though DC Comics' corporate parent Time Warner remains a part owner of Rotten Tomatoes. I'm surprised that Coldwater didn't accuse RT of being partisans of Marvel Studios and its corporate parent, Disney.
There's a pathetic partisanship among fans of the two major comic-book publishers and their cinematic spin-offs that has only grown worse once Marvel finally learned to make proper movies and beat Batman-focused DC in the race to create a "cinematic universe" in which heroes and villains are shared among filmmakers. Since Nolan's Batman series ended Warner Bros. has been in catch-up mode, which is proving a no-win situation. They are accused of either aping Marvel/Disney or of trying so hard not to be Marvel that their films stray out of many people's comfort zone -- and all the while the more moronic Marvel fans really are rooting for the DC films to fail. Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice have been savaged by both mundane reviewers and many DC Comics fans, the latter resenting deviations both aesthetic and ethical from what they're used to in print. In response, the DC movie franchise has spawned a fanatical, backs-to-the-wall rooting section that is just a little paranoid, accusing practically anyone who criticizes DC of a pro-Marvel bias. As a DC Comics fan who wants to see the DC "Extended" universe flourish and has liked the Zack Snyder Superman movies more than most people, I find this paranoia absurd and embarrassing. As a longtime fan of both "cult" and "art" (and "genre") movies, I'm used to being outside the mainstream in my tastes. By now, with reviewers talking hopefully of "superhero fatigue," all comic book fans should have reconciled themselves to a certain biased skepticism among reviewers that is entirely within their rights. If DC fans are demoralized because reviewers are bashing Suicide Squad before they get to see it this weekend, and if that seems unfair because some people like Marvel movies better, that's just too bad. I liked the Suicide Squad trailers and I want to like the movie. Whether I like it will be decided by the movie, not the reviewers, and whether the reviews cost the movie at the box office really doesn't bother me. Again, I'm used to liking films that have been total bombs at the box office, without even one good weekend to boast of, and I've liked no film less for being unpopular. It's always a shame if that sort of failure means filmmakers don't get a chance to do similar work, but neither film fans nor comics fans should take it personally. Even if the DC Extended Universe dies young, you can bet that Warner Bros. or someone else will try it again before too long. Maybe this generation of DC movies is destined for cult status, at whatever cost to Warner Bros. now. If so, my advice to the people rallying to Suicide Squad's defense sight unseen is that cult movie fandom is not for crybabies. So grow up already.