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Suicide Squad fans: critics are your allies

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Suicide Squad doesn’t hit theaters until Friday, but the early reviews are grim. A quick glance at Rotten Tomatoes shows the movie at a 34 percent Fresh rating, meaning Warner Bros.’ latest outing in the DC Extended Universe this year is just a hair or two better — at least in critical consensus — than Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeOur own Tasha Robinson wrote that the film doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Vanity Fair described the film as "ultimately too shoddy and forgettable to even register as revolting."

Good criticism = better comics movies

Some passionate DC fans are up in arms over the less than stellar reception, calling critics out for everything from "not getting it" to collusion with Marvel Studios. One fan in Alexandria, Egypt, went so far as to launch a Change.org petition to have Rotten Tomatoes shut down for its supposed bias against DC Films. (Which has so far gotten more than 16,000 signatures.) That anger has also manifested in childish and abusive tweets and comments. But listen fans: in the quest for better comics movies, critics are your greatest allies.

Without excusing the trolls, I can at least be charitable to those upset at the critical reaction and say I understand. Suicide Squad was supposed to be the good one! It was supposed to be fun and irreverent, a Deadpool set in the DCEU! It has a strong cast and some of the most iconic villains in comics! And did you see that first official trailer?

There were plenty of reasons to believe that Warner Bros. had found a winning formula, and that director David Ayer could turn out a film that would make the hearts of DC fans spill over with joy. And that can still happen. This is perhaps the best reason to withhold fury. The movie isn’t out yet. Fans may discover the film meets their expectations — in which case, great! Critical consensus isn’t a universal truth. Unless you are a shareholder in DC Comics or Warner Bros., critical consensus shouldn’t prevent someone from enjoying this movie. Critics are great because they begin the conversation. They don’t, however, end it.

But yes, the point for some fans will remain that, critically, the brand — a brand they love, a brand they hold close — has been tarnished, and someone must be blamed.

As a rule of thumb, critics needn’t be responsible for a movie’s reception. A reviewer’s job is to express their informed opinion about something, an opinion shaped from both personal experience and a historical knowledge of the medium. That’s exactly what happened here. There’s no conspiracy, no cabal intent on tearing DC movies down. A group of professionals charged with writing their opinions about what’s in theaters at any given moment separately came to their own conclusions, on varying degrees, that some or all of Suicide Squad doesn’t work.

If Suicide Squad is a bad film, the people who produced it are to blame. It’s become quite common for studios to take a heavy hand to their superhero efforts in the hopes of creating not just a good movie, but a bankable one that fits into an expansive film universe in the midst of a tight schedule. That doesn't always work. (Remember Fantastic Four?) According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. hired a director inexperienced with special-effects-driven tentpoles, set a tight deadline, rushed production and called for reshoots, dragged in multiple editors, and created competing cuts for the film, all in the hope of making a movie that would stand apart from the disappointment that was Batman v Superman. If Suicide Squad is a disappointment, this is a clearer culprit than the opinions of critics.

If 'Suicide Squad' is a bad film, the people who produced it are to blame

Look, no one is saying starting a campaign to make Warner Bros. make better movies will be anymore effective than one aimed against Rotten Tomatoes. And nobody deserves online harassment. But if the idea is to have characters like Harley Quinn and the Joker get the films fans truly want, appealing to the people making the bad movies is the better move than to silence critics.

And that’s the great twist, right? Fans have turned on the critics, but it’s strong, fair, and meaningful criticism that could lead to a new, ideally positive direction for Warner Bros. and the DC Comics movies of years to come.