The Suicide Squad film has been out a few days now and it is getting pummelled by critics left, right and centre. Now I’ve not seen the film as yet but critical reaction is poor not just in your mainstream media critics but amongst fans, not to mention even comic creators like David Leach who’ve given it some wretched reviews. Yesterday I attended the Bristol Comics Expo where current Suicide Squad writer Rob Williams was in attendance to crowds of enthusiastic cosplayers and fans who seemed to be enjoying the characters. As you’d image there were one or two Harley Quinn’s there, the odd Deadshot and I think I saw a Jared Leto Joker, poor sod.
Anyhow, the reaction to Suicide Squad has prompted one fan to launch a campaign to get film review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes, where the film as I write this has a ”Fresh’ rating of 26%. Not as bad as Kevin Spacey’s cat-based comedy Nine Lives which has a rating of only 5%.
Leaving aside the fact an aggregator site isn’t going to tell you the full picture, or that moaning that lots of critics dislike a film which was marketed brilliantly, but seems to have failed to deliver on the promise of the trailers.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that people are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts, but in the cultural arena as in the political world, it’s increasingly easy to inhabit a closed system where truth and facts need never come into direct contact. These systems develop their own vocabularies and their own articles of faith—Marvel pays critics to pan DC movies; Islam is an ideology, not a religion — and the absence of supporting evidence is proof of the conspiracy’s breadth.
The problem lies in that fans do inhabit a closed system, so they’re not aware of either film or comics as a medium or art form, but instead ‘love the characters’, a line I hear waaaay too many people say. It moves you from objectively liking something based upon the end result but because you say, really like Harley Quinn’s arse, you can’t objectively look at critical opinion (and I’m not talking about people say ‘THAT SUCKS DUDE!!‘ on their blogs, but actual criticism) if you only want to see live action versions of characters you like, or think look cool or are masturbatory aids.
A friend of mine said its impossible to criticise a film without having seen films like Battleship Potemkin or Nosferatu so you understand where the grammar of cinema comes from. A point I’ve made is that it’s impossible to criticise comics without understanding comics as a medium, because it isn’t film. It has its own entirely different grammar, and the idea of the ‘cinematic comic’ is just a storyboard. The reason for this is that it gives you a grounding so it helps you understand film or comics or whatever it is you’re watching, or even criticising. Mixed in with a habit of not just taking in one genre of entiertainment, so if all you’re doing is watching genre films then you only rate art by the art you consume. If all you’re doing is getting upset when Suicide Squad predictably gets a critical pumping you’re probably not using the same critical references of other people.
In short, if your cinematic diet is Marvel movies and summer blockbusters, you’re not going to appreciate why a critic who may be schooled in the language of film dislikes a film you want desperately to succeed because it has a kewl trailer. See this piece from Flickering Myth as an example of what I mean and the insane binary point it tries to make.
Slate sums things up well…
There are innumerable places on the web for fans with a pre-existing love of the comic books to talk to each other about Suicide Squad, but that’s not good enough: The “Crush the Tomato” faction wants to live in a world where other opinions don’t exist, or at least they don’t have to hear about them. They’ve inherited a once-marginalized subculture’s grudges despite the fact that most of them aren’t old enough to remember a time when comics were “just for kids.” It doesn’t matter that they effectively control the culture: Any threat to their dominance, be it a negativeSuicide Squad review or a female Ghostbuster, has to be met with maximum force, repelled like an unwanted invader. It’s not that the system is rigged: It’s that it isn’t rigged for them.
Criticism serves a purpose which is to hopefully shine a light on something you weren’t aware of, challenge your opinion, sometimes educate you, and yes, sometimes even endorse your love or dislike for something. But in 2016 if all you’re doing when faced with negative critical reactions is run crying onto the internet throwing around threats of boycotts because others don’t agree with you, then frankly, you’re a child.
I’m sure I’ll see Suicide Squad in due time. I may even like it more than Batman versus Superman, but I’ll draw my own opinion of it based upon what’s on the screen, not because I like the characters or how Harley Quinn makes my pants feel tight…