In 2013 when Man of Steel grossed $668 million worldwide, it did so despite not being critically acclaimed. As of today, it still holds a 55% rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 55 mixed rating on Metacritic. This seemingly "underwhelming" response appeared to put even more pressure on the second DC Extended Universe movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, released earlier this year, and much to the dismay of Warner Bros. and many DC fans, it was trashed by critics to the tune of a 27% rotten score on RT and a 44 mixed rating on Metacritic.
And yet, the movie outgrossed Man of Steel to the tune of $872.7 million worldwide in the midst of horrific reviews all around. Many have still claimed this to be a disappointment since the target gross was assumed to be a billion, but whether or not that was a realistic expectation is still very much debatable.
After two movies, the DCEU had failed to gain any kind of critical acclaim whatsoever and had in fact gotten worse in the eyes of the critics, even with and in some cases especially because of the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition that was released digitally and on Blu-ray just months later, a version that added a full half-hour back to the movie and served to lessen and/or outright eliminate many of the editing issues that critics had with the original theatrical version. As far as critics were concerned, WB's next DCEU film had to be a critical success or else it would mean the end of the franchise pretty quick.
Enter Suicide Squad, the alleged "savior of the DCEU:
We learned quickly just days before the film's release that despite months of incredible hype, fantastic marketing and all-around buzz that swept the world and ran right through San Diego Comic-Con as well, the critics still hated the DCEU, maybe more than they ever had:
Now we all know what happened next with the petition that was started to shut down RT for being biased against DC movies, which was done in jest but taken seriously by thousands who honestly do believe that critics have it in for any and every DCEU movie, and as ridiculous as the idea to shut down RT might have been, the real reason for the fans' anger is because we believe that whatever the critics hate will do poorly, no matter how many people actually like the movie and go see it multiple times. It simply won't be enough to power past a consistent critical thrashing every time.
Fast forward to now and we all have to ask the question: Or WILL it?
Going into Sunday, Suicide Squad had made $465.4 million worldwide and after being predicted by many to be smashed in its second weekend by Seth Rogen's animated R-rated comedy Sausage Party, managed to stay on top and rule the roost in the U.S. by a $10 million margin. Even so, this didn't stop most news outlets from pointing out that it was a 67% drop from Week 1 to Week 2, instead of focusing on the fact that the movie was closing in on half a billion dollars in just ten days of release.
Even with the apparent success of Suicide Squad in the face of the critics, many are still calling for WB to reboot the DCEU because the movies are "simply not good" and they are not successful. The thing is, with Suicide Squad's success, the DCEU has reached a pretty important milestone:
As of right now, the DCEU is averaging $668.7 million in box office sales per movie they release, and this is only with the first ten days of sales from Suicide Squad. By the end of the month of August, it may very well be ahead of Man of Steel's total gross and be on its way to challenging Batman v Superman's haul, especially if an eventual release in China actually happens.
By the way, Suicide Squad is 27% rotten on RT and a 40 mixed score on Metacritic. In fact, the entire DCEU is rated rotten on RT and no higher than 55 on Metacritic. Yep, all $2 billion of it and counting.
From the looks of things, it doesn't appear that the DCEU is in need of critical acclaim to succeed at the box office, especially in the wake of the last two movies it has released being absolutely skewered by critics. Both BvS and Suicide Squad have 65% and 70% audience scores on RT respectively, as well as 6.9 and 6.7 user ratings on Metacritic. Those are C and D grades comparatively, but they're not outright F's like the critics have been dishing out.
This wouldn't be the first time at all that a big franchise has become critic-proof. Michael Bay's Transformers movies have been rated rotten from the beginning on RT and two of the four movies in the series are rated lower than any DCEU movie, with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen scoring a 19% rotten score and Transformers: Age of Extinction, the most recent entry, scoring an 18% rotten rating from the critics. In fact, since the first Transformers movie in 2007 was rated 57% rotten, the scores have plummeted for each subsequent movie. Not only that, but the audience scores have consistently dropped as well, going from an 86% with the first movie to 57% with Revenge of the Fallen, to 55% with Dark of the Moon and finally 51% with Age of Extinction.
Now look at the box office numbers for the franchise:
Yep, that's right. $3.8 billion worldwide and the numbers have gone UP since the first movie with their last two movies each cracking the billion-dollar mark. This is with both critics AND the audience not liking them. The fact that they are averaging $755.9 million per movie release tells you exactly why several Transformers sequels have been planned, the next one currently shooting in Detroit and other locations.
When you consider that the DCEU is at $2 billion and counting through three movies and the audience ratings are majority positive for all three movies to this point, it's very likely headed toward critic-proof status, which could bode well for next year's Wonder Woman and Justice League releases. Even with mounting pressures and bogus reports of trouble on the production from seemingly disgruntled former employees being tossed around the Internet, Patty Jenkins and Zack Snyder can work on their respective movies knowing as they already do that the audience matters far more than the critics do when it comes to financial success. This of course has always been the case, but until we see examples of it in practice like we are now with Suicide Squad and the DCEU in general, it's hard to remember whose opinion really counts in the end.
Now, none of this is to say that Jenkins and Snyder, along with the other DCEU directors under the command of Geoff Johns, President of DC Entertainment, shouldn't try to make critically acclaimed DCEU movies because another unfortunate truth is that critical acclaim WILL bring more money to the table. Had BvS been received even at 60% fresh just barely over the line, it may have very well crossed the billion-dollar mark, which may have taken some pressure off of Suicide Squad and its release and made things a lot easier for both the DCEU and its fans.
But at least now we know that with $2 billion at least under its belt, the DCEU is in no danger of rebooting or changing course, nor should it at this point. The audience is happy with what we have. VERY happy.