So hold on: Is Suicide Squad good or bad? Bad, right? I haven’t seen it, but I’ve sat through the preview roughly a dillion times this year, and Jared Leto’s cackling psycho hipster routine did not improve with repetition. When the film scored a horrible 26 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, I figured I was in the clear—OK, bad movie, don’t have to see it, back to waiting for Black Panther.
But somehow, this bomb banked $133 million in its opening weekend. Not only does that total beat the better-reviewed Deadpool (84 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), which I loved, it smashed the August box office records previously set in 2014 by Guardians of the Galaxy,
which I really loved. And this doesn’t seem to be a fluke: Deadline reports Suicide Squad is posting great weekday numbers, beating even the vaunted Captain America: Civil War for a Tuesday box-office record. Hence my confusion. How could such a poorly reviewed film make so much money?
Here’s the secret: People actually love it.
Movie critics and popular opinion often sync up pretty closely. But in the case of Suicide Squad, regular folks took a hard left. While three-quarters of reviewers gave the movie a bad review, almost the same percentage of Rotten Tomatoes users gave it a thumbs up. Their average rating was 7.4/10, compared to the critics’ 4.7/10. The experts panned the flick. The fans loved it.
Is this unusual? To find out, I pulled the 50 or so top-performing Marvel and DC films, as measured by opening weekend box-office revenue. I compared their Rotten Tomatoes scores, pitting reviews from critics against ratings from users.
Suicide Squad is not just an outlier. It is the outlier, boasting a gap of 45 percentage points between reviewers and users, the largest in this sample. Second place goes to—surprise!— Batman v Superman, another critically panned sort-of-blockbuster that just so happens to be the prequel to Suicide. Among the 2016 flicks, only Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War were equally loved by critics and fans alike.
This love-hate relationship goes both ways. Critics were far more complimentary than fans of 2004’s Hulk, with two-thirds giving it their blessing. I personally remember that movie for its interminable length and lack of memorable smashing. Moviegoers apparently agree with me, with only 29 percent giving it a positive review. Critics and fans were similarly split on 2002’s Spider-Man, starring a boyish Tobey Maguire, which earned a startling 89 percent of critical favor but only 67 percent among the plebeians. (Don’t confuse it with The Amazing Spider-Man, which featured a Shia LaBeouf-ish Andrew Garfield. Everyone agrees that one was just OK.)
To be fair, fans who write amateur reviews of superhero movies might be a teensy bit biased. Averaging the positive user-review percentages, I found Rotten Tomatoes contributors are five percentage points more likely than critics to give one of these films a positive review, probably because they’re
the sort of people who want see costumed megahumans punch things to begin with. Even so, Suicide Squad sets a striking record. It is almost certainly the biggest disagreement between critics and moviegoers over a Marvel/DC movie to date.
We’ve seen this split before. Remember The Boondock Saints, that bizarre Catholic twins revenge rampage that spawned a million dorm-room posters? Fans loved it—91 percent on RT—and critics hated it—20 percent. But the size of Suicide’s haul is what sets it apart. With more than $100 million already in the bank, I wouldn’t be surprised if it beat Batman:-D