So chances are you have heard the news: the initial wave of reviews for David Ayer’s DC supervillain ensemble Suicide Squad have not been pretty.
At the time of writing, the film sits at an embarrassingly low 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the critical conception is that it is not the film we were promised nor longed for. Now as you can imagine, this has sent a warring army of fans into freefall, with some calling for the closure of Rotten Tomatoes, and others making ludicrous accusations that journalists are being “paid” to slate the film by representatives at Marvel Studios and Walt Disney.
Now the internet is a wonderful thing: it gives people a remarkable freedom to interact with one another, to share thoughts and feelings, and is a true asset to boosting a motion picture’s campaign. A large quantity of trailers, posters and imagery are now consumed online as opposed to witnessing when you actually attend the cinema, or pick up a copy of a movie magazine from the newsagents. And whilst the internet is a haven for film enthusiasts across the globe, it also bears a much darker, sadder side; one which is rearing its ugly head far too frequently.
Now firstly, one does not have a problem with fan culture – in fact, it is great that so many people are passionate about the things they love, and it is something that should be embraced and not repressed – but there is a limit, and this has been overstepped in the case of Suicide Squad.
Fans’ reactions to the band of reviews have been worse than outrageous, and they have taken to social media to attack and belittle the authors and videographers behind the content. Equally the online petition to shutdown a totally unbiased website – yeah, Rotten Tomatoes is an aggregator; it has no direct critical opinion of its own – is just frankly ridiculous.
The single biggest problem with the online film society is easily definable, yet few will actually take the time to notice it: the lines between “film fans” and “film critics” have been blurred beyond recognition. In an age where anyone can share an opinion on absolutely anything, it is no wonder a heavy sense of confusion has set in, but in truth, it is very simple to decode.
Film fans are just that: a consumer. They pay, they watch, they repeat. Like eating a meal, or reading a book, they serve the purpose of the industry. Attending the cinema and financing the product. Critics on the other hand are actually employed or requested individuals; ones which are assigned to evaluate a particular film, commenting on the plethora of elements which are incorporated into making a functional finished title.
They also are expected to see the widest variety of content and cannot be selective with their viewing, unlike fans. Furthermore, journalists must adhere to strict legal practices such as embargoing, and maintain an acute level of knowledge to the content they are assessing.
With Suicide Squad, the knee-jerk reaction has been so visceral that many fans are forgetting something so biblically important: the vast majority haven’t even seen the movie yet. How is it socially acceptable to have such an active and aggressive opinion on something which you cannot have a clear understanding of? Until the film has been seen, it bears absolutely no impact upon you personally, so all attacks against journalists aren’t even about their work; it’s about upsetting the balance, and that is solely born out of fear.
Whether fans like to admit it or not, they are concerned for the state of the newly-devised DC Extended Universe; a franchise which has been spawned into a great sense of uncertainty after two critical flops, and one financial. With the ever-growing pressure of the favoured and established Marvel Cinematic Universe, audiences have shifted an unfathomably unrealistic level of expectation upon Ayer’s film; almost inadvertently setting it up for failure.
Creatively speaking, Suicide Squad is a huge risk for Warner Bros. and DC – it is their equivalent to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy; asking general audiences to invest in a project where the average viewer will have little to no affiliation with the characters involved. Slipknot? What, like the band? Katana whatchamacallit?
If you take a step back and actually look at the situation the film is in, it is easy to see just how unfair everything really is. Could you imagine if Marvel had placed their entire corporate weight on the back of Rocket Raccoon and Groot? Those branches would snap. Add in the further insult that this is in many ways is the last hurrah for the DCEU – if Suicide Squad truly flops, the likelihood of Wonder Woman getting the support it needs will be minimal, despite it looking awesome – and soon you start to see a truly bleak, unforgiving portrait; one which is only worsened by fan culture.
Warner Bros. have not helped: the relentless, suffocating promotional campaign the film has been subjected to borders on the torturous. They are so unrelentingly, and infuriatingly, apologetic for the missteps taken by Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, that even they are throwing their hearts, souls and ultimately dollars into Suicide Squad. It’s simply adding fuel to a raging fire.
But the biggest problem with this explosion of supposed “fan culture” is the notion that critics actually want films to fail, or actively want to turn off audiences from seeing a picture. This couldn’t be further from the truth. To critique something you must understand it, and often to truly understand it, you must care about it. Film critics adore cinema; all kinds of it. All genres, all tones, from all continents and countries. Critics want to help assist global film; to spread its infinite wonder and possibility. They do not want to see fans upset, distressed or angry, nor do they want to see partnered companies like Warner Bros. and DC Comics fall into creative oblivion.
Journalists want Suicide Squad to be as spectacularly amazing as audiences; its just if they don’t feel this way, it is their job to be honest. Fans really need to understand this – and not just in the case of this film – if there is ever to be a sense of connection and communication between those which represent the industry, and those which consume it.
Suicide Squad opens worldwide on Friday 5th August in IMAX 3D