Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice saw two heavyweight opponents pitted against each other in a bloody battle and not only between the titular characters. The real fight was between critics and fans who clashed in the confines of cyberspace over differing opinions. While the film was mauled by critics, fans gathered in their masses to defend their beloved heroes. Harsh words followed, and even death threats. The film had a huge opening at the box office, and despite a massive fall in revenue the week after release, it still came close to making four times its budget.
Just as the smoke began to fade, Warner Brothers released the next installment in their expanded DC universe, Suicide Squad. The results were eerily familiar; terrible reviews did nothing to prevent it from smashing box office records by becoming the biggest opening for an August release, earning over $280 million worldwide.
Some have commented that this contrast in opinion signals a new era in cinema but this isn’t the first time that the general consensus of professional critique has counted for less than zero when it comes to audience adulation.
Transformers Revenge of the Fallen
Michael Bay’s Transformers was well received by critics considering it was a live action product placement based on a cartoon made to sell toys. Churned out during the writer’s strike, Revenge of the Fallen received a 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. By contrast Cinemascore polls saw audiences rate the film a B+ and it went on to make $836.3 million against a budget of $200 million.
Friday the 13th
One of the most inspirational films to grace the slasher genre, Friday the 13th, is considered a classic amongst horror fans. Yet before it went on to spawn 145 sequels, Sean S. Cunningham’s movie received some interesting attention from its enemies. A man by the name of Gene Siskel called the director “one of the most despicable creatures ever to infest the movie business.” He then went on to publish the addresses of key figures involved in the film’s making and urged detractors to write to them and voice their contempt. Siskel wasn’t an outraged fanboy that watched Halloween one too many times; he was a film critic and journalist for the Chicago Tribune.
You’d be forgiven for believing Sandler makes a habit of having affairs with the significant others of film critics considering the bile that is reserved for his films. A quick browse through Sandler’s resume on Rotten Tomatoes shows some incredible scorn including a 0% rating for the Netflix released The Ridiculous Six. Does this matter? Oh, hell no! Regardless of opinion, Sandler is a box office superstar making millions upon millions of dollars for himself and the studios.
This franchise endured for a decade, producing seven films before the people of planet earth gave up championing it. Some of the entries to the series happily gave birth to 0% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes with the first film earning an infamous 0 out of 4 stars from acclaimed critic Roger Ebert. Ebert said of the film, “It’s really something. It’s so bad, maybe you should pool your money and draw straws and send one of the guys off to rent it so that in the future, whenever you think you’re sitting through a bad comedy, he could shake his head, and chuckle tolerantly, and explain that you don’t know what bad is.” Made on a budget of $4.5 million, it grossed approximately $146 million worldwide.
So much praise has been bestowed upon Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel that you’d be forgiven for never knowing that it was so poorly received upon release. Derek Malcolm at The Guardian said in his review, “Nicholson’s performance, even if deliberately over the top, still shouldn’t encourage as much laughter as fear. Nor should the final twists of the plot look so illogical. If The Shining isn’t trivial, it certainly encourages one to think that it is. But, perhaps, even that’s a change for the better. Generally, it’s the other way around.” An excerpt from Variety reads, “With everything to work with, director Stanley Kubrick has teamed with jumpy Jack Nicholson to destroy all that was so terrifying about Stephen King’s bestseller.” The Shining was the only one of Kubrick’s last nine films to receive no nominations from either the Oscars or Golden Globes. Over thirty years later it’s considered a genuine classic and few would disagree.
Even The Master of Suspense himself wasn’t immune to the ire of a film critic’s pen. Like The Shining, you’d think that any negative reviews for Psycho mush have come from a parallel universe. Released in 1960, initial reviews of Psycho were mixed at best. C. A. Lejeune of the Observer was so outraged and disgusted by the film that she resigned from her post as film critic. Time Magazine was also heavily critical of the film while other reviews referred to it as “a blot on an honorable career” and “plainly a gimmick movie.” It was a huge success with the public – lines stretched around movie theatres. Critics now look upon it as a classic and it happily boasts a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Sometimes they do it get it wrong after all.