John Ostrander SUICIDE SQUAD

Unless you’ve been living down in the sewers, Killer Croc-style, for the past week, you’ve surely heard by now that Suicide Squad was not much loved by critics. One logical explanation for this is that Suicide Squad just isn’t a great movie — that it’s too messy or overstuffed or ugly. But some people have a different theory. John Ostrander, creator of the Suicide Squad comics, thinks it’s because critics just “came prepared to hate” the movie. Here we go again.

In a review for ComicMix, Ostrander admits right off the bat that he is prejudiced in favor of Suicide Squad:

As we start, I think you should know my biases. I think you should know any critics’ bias. Myself, I use them mostly as consumer reporters. If I find a critic whose tastes largely coincide with mine, I tend to trust them more. The late great Roger Ebert was one. Knowing who is giving you their opinion is important; what does their opinion matter if you don’t trust them?

Regarding the Suicide Squad movie, well, I’m biased. I’m prejudiced. I have a vested interest in its success. I want it to succeed. However, if I didn’t like it, I’d be more likely just to keep my trap shut.

My trap is open.

So far, so good. Most critics I know advise readers to understand reviews in exactly this way — not as infallible judgments, but as expressions of opinion. The best way to “use” them is to seek out writers whose opinions generally align with yours, and not worry too much about what other critics think. In this case, readers should keep in mind that, as Ostrander acknowledges, this review is written by someone who stands to gain from the success of Suicide Squad, and it turns out he likes it quite a bit. Fair enough.

But then Ostrander demonstrates some pre-conceived notions of his own about why other people might not have liked Suicide Squad.

I know some of the critics, both in print and online, do not like the movie. That’s okay; everyone has a right to their own opinion even when it’s wrong. My problem is that, at least with some of the media reviews, is that the critic is also tired of superhero and “tentpole” films and, overtly or covertly, would like to see their end. Look, I get it – they have to see all the films out there and they must be tired of all the blockbusters.

If every superhero film is not The Dark Knight, they’ll bitch. I think that’s going on here to a certain degree. Just as I came prepared to love the movie, they came prepared to hate it.

Look, everyone goes into movies with “biases” and “pre-conceived attitudes,” including critics. We are only human, after all, and each of us has our own set of tastes, experiences, and values that color the way we see a movie. There is no such thing as an “objective” review, because reviews are opinions and opinions by definition are subjective.

It is, however, objectively incorrect to say that the only superhero movie critics like is The Dark Knight. It was just a few months ago that Captain America: Civil War earned fawning reviews, and a few months before that when Deadpool did the same. So to say that Suicide Squad‘s negative reviews can only be attributed to anti-blockbuster bias is not only disingenuous and ungenerous, but demonstrably wrong.

 

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