Critics on Rotten Tomatoes have spoken. Justice League is decidedly mediocre.
The DC movie, which hits US theaters tomorrow, earned positive reviews from 43% of critics on the site as of 3pm ET on Nov. 15—few enough to deem the movie “rotten” in early consensus.
It scored better than the dismal Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman, but worse than box-office toppers like Man of Steel and DC’s newest darling, Wonder Woman. Early reviews appeared to be very mixed—praising good character dynamics but slamming the movie’s lackluster villain, the relatively unknown and unimpressive Steppenwolf.
(Even Joss Whedon, who stepped in for reshoots when director Zack Snyder left the project for personal reasons, “liked” that tweet.)
It’s Rotten Tomatoes that may prove the movie’s most worthy foe. Other films this year that received rotten ratings from the movie-review aggregator, like The Dark Tower and The Mummy, flopped in theaters. And some in Hollywood have accused the movie-review aggregator of putting a damper on those releases. Brett Ratner blamed Rotten Tomatoes for the steep box-office drop offs for Batman v. Superman in the weeks that followed its release.
But the studio, Warner Bros., has a few things on its side with Justice League. It’s coming on the heels of Wonder Woman, which became a cultural phenomenon this summer and is the highest-grossing movie in the US from the DC Extended Universe that began with Man of Steel in 2013. The Amazonian princess has been a focal point of recent trailers and movie marketing.
The studio also held reviews for Justice League until Nov. 15, which means fans first heard about the negative reaction a day before the movie started screening. It’s a double-edged sword. Movies tend to score better on Rotten Tomatoes when studios lift the embargo on reviews well in advance of the release, as Disney did with Thor: Ragnarok, one of the best-reviewed Marvel movies yet. But delaying the score has also rescued the opening weekend for films like The Emoji Movie that studios were worried would score unfavorably.
The disappointing consensus also hasn’t posted to Rotten Tomatoes yet. And wasn’t being displayed on the ticket-buying site Fandango—Rotten Tomatoes’s owner—at the time of this writing. It is currently only available on Rotten Tomatoes’s new Facebook’s talk show, “See It/Skip It,” where it was revealed today. (The move to delay the score beyond the embargo lift drew criticism this week, because Warner Bros. holds a minority stake in Fandango. But Rotten Tomatoes also held the score for A Bad Moms Christmas for Facebook earlier this month, which wasn’t released by either Warner Bros. or Fandango’s majority stakeholder, NBCUniversal.)
The real threat Rotten Tomatoes poses is to Justice League’s longevity in theaters. Unlike Wonder Woman, which stayed strong in subsequent weeks on good reviews and word of mouth, the negative consensus surrounding Justice League could lead to declines after this weekend passes.
At this point, those who want to see Justice League on opening day likely already bought tickets and won’t be deterred by a lackluster ratio on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie is currently tracking toward a $110 million debut in the US. That would be solid for almost any movie, but it’d be the second-weakest opening for the DC Extended Universe—after its biggest hit, Wonder Woman.