Three movies. Three rotten scores from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes. That's what life in the DC Extended Universe gets you.
It was one thing when they were divided at best on Man of Steel in 2013, a movie that started in the fresh range around 78 percent before falling and finally hitting 55 percent rotten. This year though has seen an absolute hatchet job on the DCEU with neither Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or Suicide Squad even remotely close to a fresh rating from the beginning, starting off in the mid to high 30 percent range before settling on 27 and 26 percent rotten respectively for each movie.
We won't talk about the audience ratings, except to say that they are all good: 75 percent for Man of Steel, 64 percent for Batman v Superman and 66 percent for Suicide Squad.
We also won't talk about box office, except to say that the DCEU has pulled in $2.286 billion dollars over its first three movies, which speaks for itself as far as success goes.
What we WILL talk about here is the critics and how the next film in the DCEU lineup, 2017's Wonder Woman set for a June 2nd release date will be the first to make "history" in the still young shared cinematic universe for DC Comics. Yes, despite the tortured and scathing history the DCEU has had with the likes of Rolling Stone, Variety, Collider and just about every known critic on the planet, a "fresh" rating is still bound to happen for one of these DC movies and it will be obtained by Patty Jenkins' film about Diana Prince, the Amazonian legend that has waited decades for her turn at a big screen debut.
Of course, actress Gal Gadot's portrayal of the greatest female superhero of all-time has already started with her scene-stealing moments in Batman v Superman, most notably her role in a fierce battle at the end of the movie with Doomsday. So while her solo film is not technically an introduction onto the big screen, it will tell us her story of 100 years past and how she came to be the warrior and hero that she is now known to be.
Believe it or not people, despite the previous critical panning of DCEU films, this one is begging for critical acclaim and is likely going to get it in spades come next June. Admittedly, that's going to be difficult for DCEU fans to accept solely because of this year. For the first time ever, DC went head to head with Marvel Studios in terms of movie releases, both dropping two films apiece on us. The release dates were nearly perfect: BvS on March 25th, Captain America: Civil War on May 6th, Suicide Squad on August 5th and Doctor Strange on November 4th. Each movie spaced out to give us all enough time to process each one.
The results were horrifying for DCEU fans as not only were both BvS and Suicide Squad critically destroyed, but Civil War and Strange were almost universally applauded, adding insult to injury and giving rise to clickbait headlines like this one from Variety:
We won't talk about how there's a bunch of reasons why that statement is laughably farcical, but we'll deal with that in another blog post. Very soon. For now, we'll talk about the major reasons why Wonder Woman will be the first DCEU film to crack the code and get that apparently elusive fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes next year:
1 - IT'S HISTORY IN THE MAKING
We haven't seen the movie yet and we don't know what the plot and intentions are exactly, but none of that matters when it comes to the major societal impact that Wonder Woman is going to have on the audience. For the first time among these shared cinematic universes, a film will feature a female superhero in the lead, a feat that not even Marvel will be able to achieve for another few years when they release Captain Marvel as the 20th Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. Conversely, Wonder Woman is the 4th DCEU movie and that fact will not go overlooked by critics. Not only is it the most well-known and popular female superhero finally getting her own movie, but it's DC beating Marvel to the punch on doing it first. That is certain to influence critics who will surely be looking on some level to see that the movie passes the Bechdel Test. Here's hoping that it does.
2 - THE GEOFF JOHNS EFFECT
Fair or not, this is the first DCEU movie that is going to be judged by the move made to put Geoff Johns in charge of DC Entertainment. With all eyes on him and Zack Snyder no longer in charge, the critics may not only be willing to give Wonder Woman more slack, but also a higher level of praise should they actually enjoy it. I've written before about a decisive bias against Snyder when it comes to almost anything his name attached to, a bias that will certainly rear it's ugly head for Justice League in November of 2017, but not for Wonder Woman. That lack of Snyder's presence plus the presence of Johns in charge could be enough for critics to give Wonder Woman an opinionated boost, rating the movie stronger simply because it's Johns in charge and not Snyder. It's completely unfair and horribly biased, but absolutely plausible.
3 - PATTY JENKINS
The director of Wonder Woman is one that critics are already very familiar with after her directorial debut Monster (2003) starring Charlize Theron, got major awards attention, winning Theron an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Actress, while Jenkins collected an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. She has been very public about her passion for the Wonder Woman project and seemingly already has a pedigree of support among the most critical. So no worries about directorial bias with this movie yet again and her work to this point can be categorized as Oscar-worthy with Theron's win for Monster. Her A-game is one that should please more than a few critics when the time comes next year.
4 - IT'S A PERIOD PIECE
As we all know at this point, Wonder Woman will largely take place during World War I, meaning that it will have a definitive historical context that bodes well in a critical sense. Period pieces can help a comic book movie be taken more seriously if there is a realistic historical backdrop to frame the story against as is the case with this. Setting the movie at a time of war in the past allows opportunities to draw great allegorical parallels to the present, give Diana a stronger backstory rooted in an actual historical event and even a chance to highlight some things about World War I that perhaps the audience wasn't aware of. All of this, if done well can only lead to favorability with the critics who at this point are not showing themselves to be eager to see another DC movie set in the present makeup of that shared universe.
5 - THE SJW ANGLE
This is going to make some people angry, but it needs to be said. Because of the significance of this movie being the first major female lead superhero movie, one that many have been waiting for a long time to see come true, coupled with the controversies surrounding Marvel's decision not to make a Black Widow movie and not doing anything female-led until Captain Marvel in a few years, it will be tough for critics, especially male critics, to firebomb this movie. The last time critics went off on DC movies there were arguments everywhere from "critics just hate DC" to "Rotten Tomatoes is being paid off by Disney." A badly-reviewed Wonder Woman movie would bring out those arguments again, but fair or not they would be accompanied by the misogyny argument for sure. Now to be fair, critics have been misogynist with their reviews in the past and are not above criticism for it, but you have to think that they would be on higher notice for this movie with everything socially surrounding it. The DCEU has a solid fanbase now that has led to the franchise earning more than $2.2 billion at the box office, and those fans are eager for more and many are tired of the constant criticism. As unfair as it may be, it won't take long before someone suggests that any extensive bashing of Wonder Woman is sexist in nature. Might that repel some of the negative tenor that a critic would otherwise not hesitate to heap on a DC movie? Maybe, but this is only if they actually don't like the movie which no one truly wants to be the case.
Of course, none of these reasons are quite as powerful as the final, most important reason:
6 - THE MOVIE IS GOING TO BE GOOD
Sure, this is coming from someone that has thoroughly enjoyed all of the DCEU to this point and doesn't have an objective opinion on it. None of us have one, though. All of our opinions are completely subjective on this and mine tells me that just like the previous three DCEU movies, Wonder Woman is going to be spectacular. The difference here is that Wonder Woman will be "critically" spectacular and provide a movie that by itself will not be nearly as divisive as Man of Steel, Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad have been. What we have seen so far from trailers, comic-con clips, promotional art, interviews with the cast and crew, and of course the greatness of "Is She With You?" the official Wonder Woman theme, is painting a very hopeful picture that this movie is going to be well received overall. Unlike the previous three DCEU movies, this one really doesn't have any of its own questions about production that don't rely on citing what the rest of the DCEU has done as a concern. A lot of that has to do with the previous reasons on this list and it will serve this movie well when it comes out in June.
Time will tell on whether or not the critics are truly accepting of Wonder Woman and see it as "the turning point" for the DCEU, but those of us who are already fans of the franchise will have nothing to worry about......and there's a ton of us already, despite the negative smearing the DCEU has received all year.