THE CAST of new anti-hero movie Suicide Squad defended the film on Wednesday from scathing reviews, saying it was for the fans to decide if it does justice to the DC Comics characters it is based on.

Cast of <i>Suicide Squad</i> defend film after rotten reviews

“The critics have been absolutely horrific, they’re really, really horrible. You know, I just don’t think they like superhero movies,” Cara Delevingne, who plays the Enchantress, told Reuters at the film’s London premiere.

Delevingne added that while “this movie isn’t perfect,” it was made for the fans.

Suicide Squad, out in US theaters on Friday, follows a rogue group of anti-heroes with special powers — Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Boomerang, Killer Croc and El Diablo — who are held hostage by Gotham’s government to use as weapons to protect the city.

Many critics have panned the film, with Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair calling it “too shoddy and forgettable to even register as revolting.” The film has a 31% rating on review aggregator Web site Rotten Tomatoes.

Will Smith, who plays Deadshot, commended the film’s writer-director David Ayer for weaving together the stories of 10 characters and setting up a new world within Warner Bros.’ expanding cinematic superhero universe.

“I think people had expectations that may have been different, but I’m excited for the fans to get to vote,” Smith said.

Ayer added: “I made the movie for real people who live in the real world. I made the movie for people who actually love movies and go and see movies.”

The flurry of negative reviews led more than 17,000 people on Wednesday to sign an online petition calling for Rotten Tomatoes to be shut down.

Abdullah Saleh, a 22 year-old university student in Alexandria, Egypt, launched the petition, telling Reuters he felt “there is some kind of pattern for movie critics to give DC Extended Universe movies bad reviews.”

“I created the petition just to gather DC Fans and express their anger just for fun. I didn’t mean it to be taken that serious,” Saleh said.

He later suspended the petition, saying: “the only thing that it does is spreading a speech of hate and online fighting.”

Rotten Tomatoes works out the percentage of reviews that can be deemed positive. It does not offer its own critical assessment of movies.

Based on 123 reviews, it currently shows a 31% rating for the hotly anticipated Suicide Squad, which hits US cinemas on Friday.

Starring Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie as a band of deadly criminals recruited to execute dangerous black-ops missions, the film has an average critical score of 4.9 out of 10.

“If you know someone you really can’t stand — not someone you dislike, not someone who rubs you the wrong way, but someone you really loathe and detest — send that person a ticket for Suicide Squad,” wrote Mick LaSalle of the San Fransisco Chronicle.

Warner Bros. executives were hoping it would get right what March’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — its heavily criticized predecessor in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) — got wrong, promising a lighter, more fun film.

Suicide Squad boasts a talented cast and a little more humor than previous DCEU efforts,” the Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus reads.

“But they aren’t enough to save the disappointing end result from a muddled plot, thinly written characters and choppy directing.”

The tepid response to David Ayer’s film has piled further pressure on Warner to finally produce a film to match the critical success of rival studio Marvel’s superhero universe.

April’s Captain America: Civil War made more than $1.1 billion worldwide and has a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 320 reviews.

Ayer defended the movie, quoting Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata’s famous line translated as “I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”

The phrase gained currency last year with the Islamist murder of 12 staff members of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose slain editor Stephane Charbonnier had used it in an interview wih Le Monde.

“Zapata quote is my way of saying I love the movie and believe in it. Made it for the fans. Best experience of my life,” Ayer tweeted.

What the critics think of Suicide Squad may not matter, however, if it manages to emulate the financial performance of its predecessors.

DC’s Man of Steel (2013) managed 56% on Rotten Tomatoes while Batman v Superman is sitting on a woeful 27% rating — but the films made a healthy $1.5 billion between them.

Suicide Squad is expected to gross $125 million in North America when it opens this weekend, according to box office analysts. — Reuters/AFP