Suicide Squad, Rotten Tomatoes, and Handling Criticism

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Before we go into this, I’d just like to clarify two things. Number one is that I have not yet seen Suicide Squad, and thus have no opinion on the film or its quality. This is not, however, a review of Suicide Squad. Number two is that I don’t usually like to make a big deal out of minor stories that’ll likely be blown out of proportion, like a handful of fans setting up a change.org petition that will likely go nowhere. In this case, however, this minor story connects to a larger topic I feel needs to be addressed.

For those of you who don’t know, Rotten Tomatoes is a website that collects reviews of movies and television, adds them all up and gives them a percentage based on the amount of reviews that were positive. Recently, the website tallied up the positive and negative reviews of Suicide Squad, which resulted in, as of writing this, 35% on the tomatometer, resulting in a “rotten” rating.

And this seems to have angered many fans, as there is now apparently a petition going around to shut the site down all together.

This is not the first time Rotten Tomatoes has had bad experiences with fans. When The Dark Knight Rises was released, the website had to disable their comments due to the appalling harassment faced by any critic who had anything bad to say about the movie.

Now, Rotten Tomatoes is by no means a perfect website. While I use it on a regular basis, I can see it has its faults; one of the largest being that the tomatometer simply tallies positivity/negativity in general. This means that a film with mostly positive reviews that call it a glowing masterpiece may get around the same score as a film with mostly positive reviews that just call it above average. However, I will also argue that there are ways of fixing this without trying to get rid of the site all together.

The question is here, why are people so enraged about the score?

One could put forward the argument that sometimes negative criticism can damage a movie’s chance at the box office. People like to make claims that critics have vendettas against movies, and want to take them down as best as they can. To that, I say: do you have any idea how many movies in the top fifty highest grossing movies of all time have negative reviews?

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Just ask Michael Bay.

There are usually only two ways bad reviews can damage a movie’s chances: if the reviews are absolutely scathing beyond belief, or if it was a movie that caught few people’s interest and thus was relying on good press.

Fan4stic got shot down partially because the critics (and fans) absolutely despised it. The Lone Ranger was a bomb because no one really needed a remake of that franchise, and the bad reviews just dug the grave deeper. These were movies that had very little chance to begin with.

So does Suicide Squad have a chance? Well, gritty, edgy comic book movies that stray away from your usual cliches (and feature anti-heroes) have done well at the box office in the past. Just look at Deadpool.

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Especially look at this if your argument amounts to “critics just don’t like edgy comic book movies”

Of course, not everyone is going with the argument that it might hurt the movie’s gross. Others are angry that something they love is getting trashed, and feel the critics really do have some kind of a vendetta.

Here’s the thing: as I said earlier, Rotten Tomatoes is a website that compiles every review they can find. If this was just one angry critic clearly enjoying hating the movie too much then okay, but I highly doubt every single critic is out to get the movie. They are simply stating their opinion, as they are supposed to do. There’s no kind of conspiracy here. It’s just their opinions.

And, yes, everyone is always going to have disagreements in terms of opinion. If it were up to me, Prometheus and Star Trek: Into Darkness wouldn’t have more than 40% on Rotten Tomatoes. But I can acknowledge that there are a lot of people out there who like those movies. I’m not going to start meaningless arguments over it, as purely subjective opinions can never be “right”.

What I can do instead is write my own review. If I have a differing opinion, the best thing to do is put it forward fairly, and see if anyone’s opinions might change seeing it. So long as your arguments aren’t angry rants or venting, people might see your point, or at least acknowledge the things they weren’t taking into account earlier.

Sometimes, you have to acknowledge the fact that your opinion is in the minority. Prometheus may be one of my most hated films of all time, but I’m not going to go to other critics’ bottom ten lists and demand they put it on, because I realise most people don’t share the same opinion. I realise that what makes me angry when watching a movie isn’t a universal opinion. It’s better for me to make my own bottom ten list, and explain to people why I hate it, and see if I can in any way adjust their opinions. And if I can’t, that doesn’t matter. Yes Prometheus is getting a sequel while other movies I love like Dredd likely won’t. But, as cliched as this may sound, it’s just a movie.

Finally, something I do want to acknowledge once more: yes, there is a bit of a problem with how Rotten Tomatoes rates the movies. Suicide Squad’s current average review score is 5.3/10. That’s not actually that bad in terms of negative scores. In fact, if a 6 means positive, it’s one of the highest negatives you can obtain. Yet many folks don’t notice that on the website, and are simply drawn to the large 35%.

Handling criticism by trying to completely silence it is a terrible idea. But if you want to make it a little fairer, I would say petition Rotten Tomatoes to make the “average score” number as notable as the tomatometer score.

Whether or not it satisfied how angered you feel about the negative scoring, that is actually more likely to achieve something.

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