In a month that saw Marvel Comics’ top writer shockingly defect to DC Comics without warning at the same time DC’s flagship movie Justice League is failing at the box office, we don’t need to remind you that the eternal war between Marvel and DC is real, so real, in fact, that prominent generals on both sides frequently deny its existence or call for peace in an effort to perpetuate the conflict by keeping in the shadows.
So it’s no surprise that C. Robert Cargill, who wrote the script for Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange, is doing his best to deny any hostilities between the rival superhero universes while simultaneously annihilating Rotten Tomatoes, which is partially owned by DC parent company Warner Bros., for hiding the poor score and bad reviews for DC’s Justice League up until the last minute.
In an article penned for IndieWire, Cargill writes:
“There persists this idea out there, bouncing around social media, that the longtime war between fans of DC and Marvel comics somehow carries over to those who make and distribute them. It doesn’t. When it comes to comic book movies, a rising tide lifts all boats.”
But Cargill doesn’t feel that the DC-affiliated Rotten Tomatoes is lifting anyone’s boat but their own by withholding the bad reviews for Justice League, potentially in an attempt to bolster its chances of scoring a box office victory. He wrote:
“Justice League, which opens this weekend, not only had a very tight embargo placed upon it (reviews dropped less than 48 hours before the first screenings), but also, strangely, had its Rotten Tomatoes score held back to be revealed on Rotten Tomatoes’ new web show See It/Skip It. But that’s not what bothered me. What scared me, frankly, was that all of the film’s reviews were held back from the site as well.”
Cargill believes that Rotten Tomatoes is too powerful an influence on the box office to fall under the control of any studio, which in this particular case happens to be the studio behind Marvel’s chief rival. Cargill argued:
“But this week, mere hours before the first screening of the film, [the Justice League reviews] weren’t there. As far as Rotten Tomatoes was concerned, there were no reviews posted for the film. Whatsoever. Despite hundreds of them having already having been posted online.”
He does admit that the whole thing could be a big misunderstanding, but worries about the implications if it isn’t:
“It is entirely possible that this really is an innocent, if tone deaf, experiment. Rotten Tomatoes wants to push their new show, so they went out to several companies asking if they would take part in it and hold back their Freshness ratings. But what if it’s not that? What if it’s a test balloon. What if, from here on out, studios can buy a marketing package which includes featuring their film on See It/Skip It, which comes with the added bonus of holding your Freshness rating until the day of release?”
According to Cargill, this could have devastating effects on the industry as a whole, including of course, the high stakes battle at the heart of the industry between two competing superhero industries:
“This isn’t just about people getting sold a ticket to a bum ride. It’s also about the collateral damage to the types of films so many of us film lovers live for.”
Like Marvel films, Mr. Cargill?
This isn’t the first time we’ve open superhero universe hostilities in a supposedly friendly setting. When Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and DC movie mogul Geoff “Jeff” Johns came together onstage to pay tribute to Richard Donner, Kevin Feige dominated their shared speech by talking for 53% of the total time, leaving his supposed real life friend Johns with only 47% of the time to speak.
And now, as the battle moves to the Justice League box office, it’s clear that, despite protestations, the all-out war between Marvel and DC is as real as it’s ever been.