Suicide Squad doesn’t officially hit theaters until August 5, but reviews of the film are starting to pour in... and to say they aren’t positive would be a bit of an understatement. While Suicide Squad hasn’t reached the critical depths of its immediate DC Films predecessor Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there’s already a consensus forming – and it ain’t positive.
Judging by the reviews aggregated on Rotten Tomatoes where the film holds a 35% "fresh" rating, the general theme seems to be that Suicide Squad is full of good characters saddled with a bad story. And whether that’s an accurate assessment or not has taken a backseat among fans of DC Films (particularly those who have yet to see the movie) in favor of puzzling over why DC's films are consistently panned, and whether critical aggregators – Rotten Tomatoes in particular – have any place in a medium in which the opinions of many fans don't necessarily don’t line up with critical consensus.
To that end, a fan petition, centered on the already negative reviews for Suicide Squad, has launched with the intent of getting Rotten Tomatoes scrubbed from the internet. Presumably spearheaded by fans who have yet to actually see the film, the petition accuses Rotten Tomatoes of bias against DC films, and of actively trying to harm Warner Bros. and DC. The petition was recently updated saying its true intent is to "send a message to critics that there is a lot of people disagree with their reviews [sic]." It currently sits at 13,068 signatures.
Among the myriad problems with this is that Rotten Tomatoes does not generate any content, merely aggregate it; its “rotten” and “fresh” ratings are derived from established critics who submit reviews written for other outlets to Rotten Tomatoes to be counted among their aggregated ratings. To say that Rotten Tomatoes itself is actively biased against DC Films is ignoring how the site actually works. It’s also ignoring that Warner Bros. owns a 30% stake in the website and would likely not be too keen on tanking the reception to their own films.
As for bias among critics, the real problem is that many critics underwhelmed by films like Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad simply have no reverence for the characters – at least not on the level of lifelong fans who have champed at the bit for a big screen meeting of the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight or for a live-action Harley Quinn since they were kids. Someone for whom seeing a character come to life in that way holds no impact won’t understand what it means to fans, and likewise fans who deeply want to see these characters in film won’t understand why that holds no power over the nuts and bolts of criticism.
Director David Ayer – heretofore a critical darling both as a director of End of Watch and Fury, and as the writer of Training Day – responded to the film’s poor ratings, saying on Twitter that he “loves and believes in” Suicide Squad, and that he "made it for the fans." It remains to be seen whether the box office numbers will bear out fan anticipation, or if bad reviews will cut Suicide Squad’s take short.
Newsarama's own Suicide Squad review is forthcoming.