Hardcore DC Comics fans, at least a vocal minority of them, are revolting due to the abysmal reviews of the upcoming Suicide Squad. It’s currently sitting at 33%, which is considered "Rotten," at the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Metacritic is listing it at 46, with only seven out of 29 reviews considering it positive.
This is coming after the abysmal Killing Joke animated film, which re-imagined Barbara Gordon as a jilted lover and looked like it cost a few dozen dollars to animate. The movie leaned heavily on fan service through its voice cast, who tried their best with the film, but it proved impossible to rise above the terrible writing and shoddy visuals.
The Killing Joke came after the lead weight that was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. That film was supposed to jumpstart a franchise by bringing DC Comics’ biggest characters in an epic face-off, but instead it choked under its own grimdark sensibilities. The reviews were terrible.
Does quality matter?
Batman v Superman had a reported $250 million budget, and brought in $872 million in worldwide box office. It wasn’t a flop, but the costs of the film and promotion were huge, and the final totals aren’t going to translate into the sort of profits seen by Deadpool, which brought in an estimated $782 million on a $58 million budget, even with the R-rating.
The Killing Joke sure doesn’t look expensive, and it had a limited released in theaters that seemed to do well. It’s likely that it made money for DC and Warner Bros. despite the terrible reviews and the wrinkled noses of comic fans.
We’ll have to see what Suicide Squad does in terms of box office, but it’s likely to "win" this weekend. The question is how well it performs in the long-term, and what kind of damage is being done to these characters in terms of the franchise by shoving them into terrible films.
Everyone is clearly hoping for a hit in Jared Leto’s Joker, who barely shows up in the film, and the actor has been tabloid gold as he acts like a rebellious 15 year-old at Thanksgiving who can’t wait to tell his aunts he’s an atheist.
It’s already apparent that Suicide Squad was a film with many fathers and mothers, and it was likewise hinted that the incoherence of Batman v Superman was due to studio notes and meddling.
"A key concern for Warners executives was that Suicide Squad didn't deliver on the fun, edgy tone promised in the strong teaser trailer for the film," The Hollywood Reporter claimed. "So while Ayer pursued his original vision, Warners set about working on a different cut, with an assist from Trailer Park, the company that had made the teaser."
The last decade has been a slog of DC films with Warner Bros. that feel like punishment for something we did to the companies
There were reshoots. They were expensive. The critics are saying the film has pacing and tone issues, the same problems many had with Batman v Superman. And now DC is headed into the weekend with another movie they were hoping would inject life into its franchise that movie critics seem to hate.
But the fans will show up, and the box office is unlikely to be terrible. Everyone involved is likely making money, but these movies are slowly strangling the characters. The last truly "good" film based on a DC character was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, which was released eight years ago. The last decade has been a slog of DC films with Warner Bros. that feel like punishment for something we did to the companies.
DC Comics needs a good movie based on its characters. Not even a great movie, just a good one. Warner Bros. is desperate to create a film that has both critics and fans excited to go see, and then see again, and watch it on a plane and then buy the Blu-ray, but DC Comics is watching its life blood be sucked dry with little control in the matter.
Marvel has the amazing ability to crank out nearly exclusively good movies with great ones sprinkled in, and it pays off with a long tail that includes success in the theaters, in home video and streaming and, most importantly, anticipation for the next film. DC and Warner Bros. are making money based on name recognition and marketing, but that won’t last forever. Nor is it as profitable as creating something fans want to see more than once.
DC fans are stuck suffering through a series of bad movies, hoping the next one will get better. They’re not going to stick around forever, and these films, while profitable, aren’t reaching the heights of their competitors. Warner Bros. may be letting a franchise slip through its fingers with these misfires, but DC is punching its biggest moneymakers in the face by testing fan devotion rather than rewarding it.
DC needs a good film, and they’re running out of chances with the audience.