I have to admit right now that in general this may or may not be in defense of such brands as DC over the apparent bashing of such films as BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, SUICIDE SQUAD, and most recently JUSTICE LEAGUE. But, especially, after the slight backlash and polarization of the latest rage in movies — THE LAST JEDI — it became pretty clear to me….
NOBODY Should Trust the Word of ANY Critic or Audience Member. Period.
And, wait for it…that’s not a bad thing, people. That’s just the way it is.
Case in point: Rotten Tomatoes, a clear staple of written film review and with probably one of the most shocking realizations ever seen. Our latest Star Wars flick, THE LAST JEDI, according to Rotten Tomatoes, recently received the lowest audience score out of all the Star Wars films. Yes, even the prequels. It apparently sits at 5% below THE PHANTOM MENACE and 3% below ATTACK OF THE CLONES, two films in the encompassing Star Wars saga largely representing the bottom of the barrel of quality.
That’s quite the strange phenomenon, especially knowing that the site’s “tomatometer” also received a certified fresh rating of 92% from critics. So there you have it: arguably one of the only remarkable instances where a lot of people actually hated the film, but critics loved it! Call the press.
Unprecedented when you think about it, in fact. When have you ever heard of the situation where a film was for the most part loved by critics, but hated by moviegoers? Doesn’t happen often. But it lends a certain revelation here:
Reviews Are Indeed Subjective, and a “Good” Movie Doesn’t Necessarily Mean People Will Like It (or Vice Versa)
Bear in mind that most likely we’re talking about such a huge popular IP as Star Wars. Arguably bigger than anything Marvel or DC. So chances are good a lot of the negativity among moviegoers may come from die-hard hardcore Star Wars fans and trolls expecting a certain kind of film, and they just didn’t get it. They’re naturally going to be pissed. That doesn’t mean the film wasn’t beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, brilliantly devised, or even creatively imagined (Zack Snyder, I’m looking at you, pal).
This also brings up the obvious notion that even “professional” critic reviews, as reliable as they may be in terms of the style (whether it works or not), the plot (whether it’s viable or not), the characters (whether the actors did a good job or not), or any other device, do carry with them a sense of bias, because let’s face it: even a critic is human. Not a cyborg. Or a kryptonian. Or even a billion-dollar playboy with some wonderful toys in a bat cave. Just plain ol’ human.
Lots of People Will Go Into a Movie With at Least Some Expectation That’ll Taint the Viewing or Not
We automatically expect something like Avengers to be super wicked good, and admit that Marvel Studios’ marketing strategy is spot on. Because of that, when we view it, we instantly resonate with the positive points of such work and call it a classic.
But when we go into a film worrying about whether or not it’s going to be a bad experience — well, you know the drill. The flaws stick out.
It’s all about reputation. Marvel Studios already has a stellar one. So even they can produce a minor dud like the original “Thor” and the sequel. Yet, in our eyes, those films were “okay” and not complete disasters. Heck, even THE INCREDIBLE HULK was kind of forgettable (and thank God Marvel Studios wasn’t associated with the trainwreck that was apparently THE FANTASTIC FOUR). You’d find that it’s very difficult to remove your preconceived notion that you’re dealing with a reputable property working with another reputable property and see the film for what it is. Marvel has produced some flawed films, period. Arguably the best film Marvel had ever done would have to be THE WINTER SOLDIER, hands down. Simply based on the craft, the structure, the main idea, the focus, the characters, and everything in between.
Make no mistake: many would claim they liked GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY a whole lot better. The key word is “like.” Preference doth not a better movie make. But you get my point.
This Brings Me to the True Dark Horse of the Review Boat: the DC Extended Universe
Let me get this out of the way: I love my DC comics. I’m not a die-hard fanboy, though, and I can roll with creative reimaginings or different takes with the property.
So when I saw MAN OF STEEL, I dug it. There were some structure issues, yes (arguably more than anything Marvel would’ve produced), but the overall style, panache, and flavor of the film a la Snyder-slickness tickled me something fierce. Here’s what I gathered, though, from the constant research of the review space and how the entertainment industry works and (this is even more important) HOW IT AFFECTS THE MOVIE-GOING EXPERIENCE —
Those BAD critic reviews and news DO influence whether or not audiences will like the film.
Of course, not all the way, obviously (please see what I wrote about THE LAST JEDI above). But you can’t deny the more bad press a studio gets, the more negativity a certain director receives, the more we end up going into a film worrying about whether or not it’ll fail. Admit it: you even thought WONDER WOMAN might have fallen flat on her face (she so didn’t, obviously).
Please Do Keep in Mind That Even as We Speak, the DC Films Still Made a WHOLE Lot of Bank
Just not in comparison with, say, Marvel or Lucasfilm. Obviously. And that’s part of the problem — reviews aren’t simply about the films themselves. Audience reactions aren’t solely about the beloved properties either. There will always be some injection of comparison over what movie ended up being better — better made, better acted, just better. Which film will make more money, which film will get better reviews. Etcetera, etcetera.
That’s the nature of the review. Both on the audience and critic level. And no one will even admit that the bias does exist.
Case in point: I thought SUICIDE SQUAD was sparky. It had that spunk, a certain edge to it that not even a Marvel film could have (unless you’re Deadpool — again, comparisons taint the quality of the film automatically). BATMAN V SUPERMAN? Yes, it was dark and brooding; you may have even thought Eisenberg’s Luthor was a bit too much like Ledger’s Joker. And that supposed Doomsday was a shameless steal from another beloved story arc in the comics. Yes, a lot of the editing was a bit choppy at best.
But that film? Bad? Horrible? I think not.
Pointed parts to the film so cut in the soul (but in a good way) that I had to enjoy it. It’s all about the experience and not necessarily the “quality.” BATMAN V SUPERMAN easily can be an example of how not every audience member saw the point of the film and how it was made — and, well, the film had its structural flaws so bad that even critics also hated it.
But did I enjoy it? Did I like it? Would I go ahead and watch it again? Absolutely.
Affleck was a welcome addition; and we don’t even have to say anything about Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. The real factor in the “goodness” of any film is whether or not you simply liked it. How well it was made according to critics — that’s the cherry (or not) on top.
JUSTICE LEAGUE may have had the lowest take so far of any DC film, and the entire ordeal of the making of it was indeed a travesty. Watch the film, though, and ask yourself if the characters worked well. Also consider the fact that the film still made a boatload of money regardless, but the issue was just how much the film ended up costing given how much was riding on it. Another perfect example of how critical reviews and negativity not only hurt the movie-going experience, but the making of the film in the first place!
Long Story Short: Any Film Review Shouldn’t Be the Reason for a Film’s Success or Failure
Tall order, yes. Because people listen to people. Plain and simple.
Marvel properly positioned themselves to set their stories up brilliantly: fact. Ingenious marketing. And directors on point with actors knowing exactly how to roll forward. The money train started moving (beginning with the ever-classic IRON MAN). It didn’t take a lot of hot coals to keep it going.
DC and Warner Brothers, though? They stressed over the “competition,” pushing too fast. Trying to do something ‘different’ (both in terms of the structure of their cinematic universe and the way the films themselves were done). It resulted in choppy — but passionate — work.
Both properties combined represent the most interesting realization — even something bad can succeed, and something good can stumble. But do I like what both studios are doing with my beloved comics? Completely.
What we should remember is that the film review, or audience reaction, is a telling guide on what to expect, but not how we should feel on our own as we watch it. After all, think about how many times Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert ended up disagreeing on any film they both reviewed. Human, indeed. Professional film critics, yes. But still human.