Since Suicide Squad’s review embargo ended, the film has gathered a rather familiar reaction for DC films. Currently standing on 31% on Rotten Tomatoes, both fans and the creatives behind the film have started taking to twitter and other social media platforms to voice their opinion on the so-called “Marvel-bias” and how Rotten Tomatoes should be taken offline for their sins against all things DC. This not only sparks debates between fans and critics but also between the Marvel fans and the DC fans, for some reason.
Something truly unparalleled is happening in this era of blockbuster superhero movies. The genre has been at the top of its game since 2008’s Iron Man and while Marvel has produced one success after the other over the years, people tend to overlook the significance of the other juggernaut in the comic book movie industry that has fueled the craze just as much: DC Comics. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy remains one of the most commercially and critically successful trilogies in history, and with good reason. However, although Marvel broke the code with their “shared universe” invention, DC’s newest, post-Nolan attempt at an extended cinematic universe hasn’t been as big of a hit as many would have wanted. “Many” is a very vague way of describing the response to DC movies, however, as there is an ongoing war within the comic book fandom against peer fans and critics alike. After receiving mixed responses for their extended universe kick-off, Man of Steel, and their sophomore attempt at a shared world, Batman v Superman, both Warner Bros. and fans of DC had hoped that the soon to be released Suicide Squad would tip the critical reception scale in their favour.
I call this an unparalleled event because this so-called “war” is sure to be remembered for ages to come. Long after Marvel and DC has moved on from their current canonical timelines and audiences have moved on to perhaps another popular genre or a different cinematic universe, the great DC v Marvel v Fans v Critics war will always be remembered. Expect a freaking World War 2-style documentary in 2043. So what is all the fuss about? It’s very simple, actually. When you look forward to something, you don’t want anyone to try and attempt in changing your attitude before forming your own opinion. In psychological terms, this is called cognitive dissonance. People need to have their attitude toward something correlate with their behaviour, and when someone attempts to change that attitude, their behaviour would be defensive and sometimes even irrational. These huge a-holes are the critics. Damn them all to hell, right? Well, no. Not entirely.
Let’s first establish what Rotten Tomatoes actually is. Fans have recently started a petition to take down the site due to the low score that Suicide Squad is currently receiving. The problem is, Rotten Tomatoes isn’t a site in the same way as Variety, Forbes, IGN or yours truly, Fortress of Solitude. These sites share a single identity in a sense that they base their opinion on in-house attitudes and collaboration. Rotten Tomatoes, on the other hand, has no such thing. They take all these website’s opinions and throw it in a bowl in an attempt to produce an average. There is no identity, without which one can’t have an attitude and thus no bias. This is extremely important: Rotten Tomatoes is a review aggregator! Meaning that critics from every entertainment website link their reviews to that particular movie’s page on the site and so the score formulaically relates to the number of good reviews versus the number of bad reviews. Rotten Tomatoes, as a site, literally has no input.
Now that that’s out of the way, we can ask the question: How valuable is the Rotten Tomatoes score? And even more importantly, should it bother you at all? There is no easy answer to this question. Whether I say yes or no, it still remains my individual opinion and taking my opinion seriously just makes my whole argument null. Opinions matter, but the most important opinion will always be your own. This is true not only for movies but music, games, and books as well. I loved Uncharted 4. My one friend says it underwhelmed him. In no way does his opinion change the fact that I lived through an amazing experience while playing that game. The same goes for movies. Movies are individual experiences. Even though people frequently go to movie theatres in groups of friends, it still remains an individual experience based on what you like and don’t like. Preferences, look it up.
For obvious reasons, preferences vary from person to person. You can’t blame Rotten Tomatoes for this. So the fact is, a Rotten Tomatoes score shouldn’t be deemed any more valuable than a review from Variety or IGN or again, yours truly. Fortress gave Suicide Squad a positive review, bee-tee-dubs. So why does Rotten Tomatoes still bother trying? Well, in the same way as Gamespot, for example, gives a gamer a decent indication of what to expect from a game, so does Rotten Tomatoes. Before you start stoning me with comments such as “Well they gave Iron Man 3 a good review and it was sh*t”, let me say that their system is flawed, but more on that in a while.
Being a reviewer myself, I can firmly state that critics aren’t necessarily “out to get” a movie. Being a critic means that one has to evaluate each and every aspect of a product and conclude as to whether the whole is as good as the sum of its parts, without negating the importance of the individual parts themselves. Reviewers systematically deconstruct a movie and base their opinion on a number of factors, which includes the quality of performances, entertainment value, production design, editing, story, characterization, themes, direction, sound mixing, and on and on and on. There’s a reason why the Academy Awards do not only consist of a “Best Picture” category, people. So if one of these things, in every sense of the word, suck, it will affect the final score that a critic assigns a movie.
Asking why critics are so critical about movies is the same as asking why NASA takes years to approve every part of a space program before going into orbit. It’s their job! If one bolt comes loose, boom! Explosion! Armageddon! Bruce Willis! A movie critic evaluates every small part in order for the review to be assessable to a very wide demographic. Let’s say you consider logic to be more valuable than pure entertainment, so as a reviewer you would say that although a particular film is entertaining AF, the logic behind the plot elements is mediocre as best. This causes a score of 10 to go to 9. Now we know the plot is illogical, but the reviewer knows that not everyone cares about logic, so he moves on to acting. If the performances are good, he may stick to 9/10, but let’s say one actor didn’t rehearse his script well enough, so he drops to 6/10. Why the big drop? Well, two wrongs don’t make a right. The negatives start to outweigh the positives at this point, and the final score is 5/10. That doesn’t mean the movie sucks! A low score doesn’t negate the fact that the film is entertaining AF. So it’s up to the next reviewer, who considers entertainment value more important than logic, to follow a different yet similar pattern of scoring a film.
This is why Rotten Tomatoes is important. It’s a platform for reviews to rebuff each other. It’s a randomized collection of different critical personalities to meet up and negate each other’s arguments with different points of view and different tastes. So when a Rotten Tomatoes score is good, it means that a larger sample of the world’s diverse audiences liked MOST of the movie. When it’s bad, it means that a smaller sample liked MOST of the movie. I say MOST because it’s a critic’s job to not like everything about a movie, unless it’s a friggin’ masterpiece, such as The Dark Knight (Which is DC, bee-tee-dubs) So Rotten Tomatoes gives readers a fairly decent indication of what to expect from a movie, depending on your own unique taste. If one guy says that the editing is lacklustre, there’s going to be thousands of people who regard editing as important and agree with the score. But there will also be millions of people who will disagree, of which a portion will agree with another review that the portrayals could have been better. The thing is, critics are just as human as the audiences are. Look at the comments sections on Marvel and DC fan pages. The opinions contrast just as much as it does on Rotten Tomatoes. A general indication. That’s what Rotten Tomatoes does.
Having said that, Rotten Tomatoes might also want to reconsider their rating system. Whereas a site such as Metacritic uses a weighted average to score films, meaning that they take into consideration the actual score of a movie review, such as a 7/10 or a C- and then attempt to convert that score to a whole, Rotten Tomatoes accepts a score of 5/10 as “rotten”, which causes the main score to tip towards a rotten average. If one review is rotten, it doesn’t mean that the reviewer didn’t find anything good in the movie. It is interesting, however, that Metacritic scores correlate with Rotten Tomatoes most of time, but Metacritic’s sample size is much smaller, meaning that there are less contrasting opinions to save a score. The only thing that may cause Rotten Tomatoes to be the bigger of two evils is the fact that they label the average with either rotten or fresh, with nothing in between. They should know that there is more to it than that.
As with any opinion, I need to supply some facts to back up my argument. In keeping with the central conflict that is “DC receives bad reviews because they are DC”, let’s look at some numbers. The Dark Knight currently sits on 94% Fresh. TDK is a universally loved film, and one fan can agree that most people would agree with the score. But, going with what I just argued, does 94% mean that 6% of millions of people did not like to movie? No. It means that a certain percentage, not necessarily 6% (remember, general indication), of people did not like the way in which Christian Bale portrayed Batman, or they didn’t agree with the movie length. That doesn’t make it any less good, but it gives an indication of how many people would agree with you that it’s a “perfect movie”. Let’s look at the Marvel side. Thor: The Dark World is at 66%. It’s not certified fresh and has 84 rotten reviews against 183 fresh reviews. This gives me an indication that it’s not the strongest entry from Marvel Studios, and while every third guy I talk to might say it sucked, every second guy might say it was pleasant enough. Then there is something like Iron Man 3, which is at 79%. I personally hated Iron Man 3, mainly because of the story. But critics do not only look at story, they look at everything. And if the goods outweigh the bad, the score will tip towards fresh. You don’t have to agree with the score, but you have to agree that not everything was bad about that movie. Then there is, let’s say, Fant4stic. Screw that movie. This “film” is at 9%, and with good reason. Everyone can agree that this movie sucked, but more or less 10% of people will go: alright, the first 20 minutes was decent, at least. It depends on what is important to you.
People who are bashing Rotten Tomatoes for being biased against DC need to reconsider the fact that the site is essentially providing a public service, for bad reviews to be rebuffed and for good reviews to be proven accurate or inaccurate. In no way does the final RT score indicate the quality of a movie. It gives an audience member a GENERAL INDICATION of what a sample of viewers will agree or disagree on. What sets audiences and critics apart is the fact that audiences focus on the whole while critics focus on the parts. These views do not need to clash; it should rather complement each other so that fans and critics alike can come to an agreement that there is good in something bad and bad in something good. I haven’t seen Suicide Squad yet, but going into that theatre I will remember that this is currently rotten, and coming out I will decide for myself whether this was perfect, good, bad, average, what have you. And I’ll base this opinion not on what the RT score is, but on what I believe should be important in a movie and what my like-minded peers agree on. And should I think it was MOSTLY good, three of my friends might think it was okay or MOSTLY bad, which means that in my personal sample, 25% people thought it was good and 40% thought it was average. The RT score for Suicide Squad currently sits on 29%. I can’t stress this enough: general indication.
This, of course, is just my opinion, and you are welcome to either agree or disagree with me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.