Well, here we go again.
With fevered anticipation and nearly two years of teasing, Suicide Squad has finally hit theaters. The David Ayer-directed flick looked to have it all heading into release: a stellar cast, a killer concept, and the commercial clout to redeem any bad taste left by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As it turns out, the Squad, promoted as the “Worst. Heroes. Ever,” may have been a little too accurate to their ironic tag. Reviews and prescreen reactions began hitting the internet earlier this week, and the word thus far has been “bad.”
Not the raunchy Deadpool kind of bad, either, as Vanity Fair put it, but “the kind of bad that is the unfortunate result of artists honorably striving for something ambitious and falling short.” In a year that’s already seen DC go down to rival studio Marvel with Captain America: Civil War, this early response has many fans scrambling to find a scapegoat. Rotten Tomatoes has even been subject to an online petition to be shut down – a knee-jerk response to their 30% (and lowering) score of the film. But while Tomatoes will surely make it out of the fire unscathed, it looks as though Suicide Squad will have an uphill battle attaining any shred of credibility with moviegoers. As a result, it’s best to know what to expect before buying a ticket.
Here’s 15 Early Reactions To Suicide Squad You Need To Know.
15. The Joker is barely in the film.
For all the onset rumors and crazy antics, Jared Leto’s buzzed about Joker barely shows up. Granted, he isn’t an official member of the Suicide Squad, but given the extremes that the Oscar-winner went through to convey his role, it is sadly of little consequence to the final film. Most every scene Leto graces with her hyper-pale presence has already been “seen in previews and TV spots,” according to Business Insider’s Jason Guerrasio, leaving fans with little more than a glorified cameo worth of content. This disappointing turn has already been addressed by Leto himself, who revealed he shot several additional scenes as The Joker that ended up on the cutting room floor.
“Hopefully they will see the light of day,” the actor shared with TeleStar, “Who knows.” Many have gone on to praise what remains of The Joker, with IndieWire’s David Ehrlich proclaiming him “part gangster and part clown” who chews each frame of film through his plated teeth. Still, most critics agree that the performance feels like a teaser for future installments. Fans are going to have to wait to see all his toys.
14. Enchantress is not a good villain.
As the film’s baddest of the bad, Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress has been given unanimous thumbs down. The former model tackles both the grimy villainess and alter ego June Moore with gusto, but it is ultimately lost amidst a borefest of slithery bon mots and inflections that Robbie Collin of The Telegraph has dubbed “Vanessa Redgrave on rhinoceros tranquilizer.” Collin goes on to single Delevingne out for delivering not only “a personal worst performance, but something close to a former-profession-worst performance.”
The Telegraph writer is not alone in his critique. Joshua Yehl at IGN described Enchantress as “one misfire after another,” while citing the actresses’ acting chops as being “put to poor use.” Delevingne has clearly been keeping tabs on these low marks, and a recent interview with Vanity Fair offered her perspective: “The critics have been absolutely horrific. They’re really, really horrible. You know, I just don’t think they like superhero movies.”
13. It’s got a ton of pop songs.
The use of “Bohemian Rhapsody” was a triumphant trailer moment for Suicide Squad. Overlaying edits and clever correlations with song lyrics gave the impression that David Ayer and crew would compile a soundtrack that knew when to use music to enhance a sequence. Turns out, they used music in an attempt to enhance every sequence. Clocking in at nearly a dozen songs, Squad feels like a jukebox superhero movie, orchestrated as if Ayer edited to a workout playlist and simply left each tune in. A. Ignatiy Vishnevetsky for the A.V. Club derided the film for “being patched up with an embarrassment of rock-along musical cues.”
By pulling out “Fortune’s Son,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Spirit in the Sky,” and the aforementioned Queen number in close proximity, Vishnevetsky writes, “it’s an exercise in attitude over everything else.” That attitude unfortunately, is drowned out by the time the film’s on-the-nose montages come to a close, leaving behind what feels like a long, sparingly cool music video.
12. It’s got flashbacks galore.
Given the roll call of villains and the anticipated Batman sequence, fans will be expecting a healthy amount of flashbacks heading into the film. Yet even with this knowledge, Suicide Squad wields the flashback crutch to a grinding frequency. Everyone and their mother gets a backstory segment, the effects of which do little besides inhibiting the present day plot from getting off the ground. “Do you like montages and flashbacks?” asks Jen Yamato of The Daily Beast, “Writer-director David Ayer loves them. He cannot get enough of them. He leans on both far too heavily for far too long… that’s there’s barely any room for a serviceable plot.” This penchant for snappiness also bleeds into the film’s screenplay.
“It’s not satisfying storytelling,” writes Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune, “the flashbacks roll in and out, explaining either too much or too little,” and by the time the team arrives at the final act, we aren’t nearly as invested as we should be. Ironically, the film’s lengthiest flashback, that of Harley Quinn and her psychotic suitor, does comprise one of Squad’s standout moments. But with the amount this film uses, they were bound to run into a good one sooner or later.
11. Will Smith is back!
The old chestnut of “any news being good news” has not been the case with Suicide Squad. Fortunately, Will Smith’s Deadshot turns out to actually be good news. Pegged as the leader of the team, Smith’s smartass assassin, commended for his anchoring presence and emotional arc, delivers a performance that Soren Andersen of The Seattle Times believes will signal “the resurrection of his lately stalled career.” She’s right. Despite negative feedback towards the film as a whole, Smith’s weary performance allows him to gracefully transition from leading man to elder statesman.
“Deadshot’s back story is not in itself all that interesting,” notes New York Times critic A.O. Scott, “but no one in the movies is better than Mr. Smith at playing a man of sorrow and wisecracks.” The role enables the Oscar nominee to play a smirking cool guy opposite even worse villains, but the backstory Mr. Scott is referring to– being a hitman and the father of an adorable little girl–provides a gravity that most of his peers aren’t allowed. Big Willie may not has “saved the world” single-handedly, but his charisma certainly did its part to save the film.
10. There’s an over-reliance on cameos.
Batman v Superman, among many other issues, fell victim to an influx of cameos. Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, and even a glimpse of Cyborg were shoehorned into the already scattered plot, and the results were a film that buckled under its own shared universe ambition. It was a trait that David Ayer sought to iron out while making Suicide Squad, ensuring that the core “cameo” appearance would be that of Jared Leto’s Joker. As time went on, however, DC implemented both a glorified Batman (Ben Affleck) appearance and a sly stop-in from Ezra Miller’s Flash.
In comparison to the smorgasbord of superheroes in Captain America: Civil War, it’s fairly light. But given that Marvel is heading into its fourteenth project, and Squad marks only the third DC outing, it’s further proof the franchise is getting ahead of itself. The titular team is often made out to play second fiddle to the excitement of seeing The Caped Crusader or The Joker, a decision that undermines the Squad’s starpower and the studio’s lack of confidence in standalone origins. Suicide Squad tries to connect to its predecessors, but the only question that arises is why Batman isn’t the one fighting Enchantress and her grotesque sibling himself.
9. The final act is a bust.
The buzzed about moments in the trailer mostly revolved around the formation of the Suicide Squad. Seeing these hardened criminals forced to work together provided a distinct thrill, and for many, one that carried through the film’s opening run.“It goes for subversive, funny, and stylish, and it succeeds wildly during the first act,” praises IGN’s Joshua Yehl, while Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly went as far as to say “Ayer skillfully sets up the film, introducing each of the crazies with caffeinated comic book energy.”
“But their mission,” Nashawaty goes on to write, “is a bit of a bust.” And what a bust it is. Squad’s final act has collected a horrifying reception from nearly every media outlet, who cite its lengthy runtime and low stakes implications. Peter Bradshaw, writing for The Guardian, pinpoints the root of the issue: “If only we could scale down the inevitable FX-driven action finale involving slightly tiring supernatural forces, in order to beef up the dialogue and the chemistry.” Sadly, none of Bradshaw’s critique can alter the final product, which leaves things on a bland note of chaos and… well, more chaos.
8. It’s not as funny as it wants to be.
DC has developed a reputation for being the moody men and women of comic books. From Zack Snyder’s manic-depressive Superman to a Batman who takes pride in murdering thugs, the studio’s movie lineup has always been a little apprehensive about a silliness. And when attempts have been made to lighten things up, something truly upsetting like Green Lantern (2011) materializes. But Suicide Squad is different– it’s got characters who can convincingly jokes, a writer-director to make them happen, and The Joker, who, as we’ve all seen, knows his way around a good joke.
Bafflingly, the film doesn’t seem to be landing a very good gag ratio. Barring the zaniness of Harley Quinn and a few clever lines from supporting players, Ayer and DC have delivered the film equivalent of a unprepared standup. Banter is established early on, but as Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy observes, “the opening stretch’s humor and snap have fallen by the wayside.” In failing to provide at least a decent array of quotables, Squad fails to deliver on a key selling point. Instead of changing up, DC simply makes an awkward stab at feigning humor.
7. Viola Davis is the perfect Amanda Waller.
Everyone knew Viola Davis was going to nail the role of Amanda Waller, and that’s exactly what the Emmy winner does. As the unflinching brains behind the entire Suicide Squad operation, her Waller is a frightening manifestation of efficiency, unconcerned with collateral damage and willing to orchestrate a little of her own. Deadshot hits the nail on the head when he quips “that is one mean lady.” A.O. Scott, in an otherwise condemning review, noted that Davis is “ravishly businesslike” and “ecstatically grim” while vowing to revisit his DC skepticism if future films consisted solely of Waller “answering emails and videoconferencing.”
In bringing such a looming presence to the proceedings, Davis both adds to the film and undermines its underwhelming array of characters. While squad-mates like Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara) remain underdeveloped despite dazzling powers, Waller remains prevalent despite little more than conviction and clever manipulation. Even more than Enchantress or The Joker, the government official comes off as a truly frightening force of nature.
6. The pace of the film is choppy.
Even the film’s most ardent admirers, like Dan Jolin at Empire, admits to the film’s “false starts, oddly placed flashbacks, clunky cameos… and muddled chronology.” Squad is a pastiche of various candy coatings, each stuffed together and blended into a plot less concerned with coherence than visual dazzle. It was obvious from the first preview that David Ayer had an ambitious visual palette in mind for the film, and in that regard, it is a stunning achievement. But Ayer’s script, shifting aimlessly between shootouts, small talk, and emotionally wrenching experiences, can’t seem to unify his plot with his acute eye.
As it turns out, Warner Bros. was putting significant pressure on Ayer to meet their front office demands, going as far as to cut their own rival version of the film while the director was still editing. Both versions were test screened, to which a supposedly congenial “agreement” was made between the studio’s desired tone and Ayer’s auteur flavor. Telegraph’s recent feature, aptly titled “Was Suicide Squad edited to death?” sheds more light on the subject. Regardless, the film is suffering from a hodgepodge presentation that just might be it’s main undoing.
5. It’s limited by its PG-13 rating.
In the wake of Deadpool’s R-Rated punch, Suicide Squad was stuck between a rating and a hard place. The film couldn’t compete with Fox’s foul-mouthed mercenary (and massive success), as they were forced to blanket out their efforts to the wider PG-13 audience. But like Batman v Superman before it, a comparison that’s both tiresome to make and too accurate to avoid, Squad tries to have its cake and eat it too. The film is clearly aimed at mature audiences, with off-color jabs and emotionally deranged occurrences leaning into an age range that’s safely out of the middle school reach. Amidst the “highly fetishized violence” and “hideously timed gun worship,” writes Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson, “it’s simply a dull chore steeped in flaccid machismo.”
To the film’s credit (somewhat), the mood differs from the social self-importance of Dawn of Justice, and instead tries to be the hipster group who mocks Superman and Batman along with the audience. Unfortunately, this attempt to be both taboo and wicked comes off contrived, as Variety critic Peter Debruge writes, “they can only go so far within the confines of the MPAA guidelines and the rigid DC mythology.” Ultimately, neither seems to have satisfied viewers.
4. Harley Quinn is the star…
While Jared Leto and Will Smith have been starring in acclaimed work for over a decade, there was little doubt as to who would walk away the star of Suicide Squad: Margot Robbie. Given the juiciest role in terms of fandom and script, the Australian actress delivers a performance that critics admit is worthy of acclaim. “In a movie that feels disproportionately anemic and disjointed at times,” pens Daily Beast critic Jen Yamato, “Harley Quinn is the beating, bananas heart of the film.” The character seems to be the only one enjoying herself, “a spunky supervillain who lacks impulse control and morals,” that singularly makes good on the film’s potential.
Robbie, as The Wrap’s Alfonso Duralde notes, makes “the most of the opportunity to bring this psychopath-sweetie pie to life in big, bright colors.” Along with Deadshot and, to a lesser extent, fireball Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Quinn has an actual character goal, and this sense of direction, despite her otherwise unhinged portrayal, gives Robbie an acting purpose. Even the character’s creator, Paul Dini, approves of her performance. Fans are already talking about a Harley Quinn spinoff; a popular notion outnumbered only by those who plan to dress like her this coming Halloween.
3. …But there is some sexism.
It’s the dead horse of superhero cinema. Female representation in comic book movies have never been on equal footing with men, but recent developments have turned that around. Next summer’s Wonder Woman will bring the world’s most famous superwoman to the theaters for the first time, while Marvel just recently drafted Oscar winner Brie Larson to play Captain Marvel. With all this in mind, it’s unfortunate that the character of Harley Quinn is instead presented as a fanboy’s idea of what feminism in comic books should be. Variety critic Peter Debruge took particular fault with this aspect, writing:
“Robbie seems to represent what red-blooded, Maxim-reading audiences want from women-on-screen in the year 2016: a doctor stripped of her intelligence and her conservative tweed professional attire, squeezed into hooker hot-pants and a too-tight baby-T, who walks like a pole dancer and fights like some sort of homicidal cheerleader.”
This view is echoed by Vanity Fair and (inexplicably) co-star Cara Delevingne, who claims “female superheroes are normally naked or in bikinis. No-one would be able to fight like that.” Granted, it sounds ridiculous coming from a woman wearing skimpy bikinis in the film, but the point is valid on it’s own. Debruge makes a far more poignant statement regarding Squad’s digressive demeanor by discussing how “it’s discouraging to think that the film’s biggest laugh comes at the expense of Batman punching [Harley] in the face.” Doubly offensive, really, given the shortage of laughs.
2. David Ayer’s talents don’t translate well.
Unlike Zack Snyder, who was swiftly raked across the coals for Batman v Superman, people want to give David Ayer the benefit of the doubt. The gritty filmmaker behind End of Watch (2012) and Fury (2014) seemed a terrific choice to head Suicide Squad on paper, but stories of rushed production, reshoots, and clashes with the studio left the director scrambling for a final product. That’s the angle that critics seem to be taking, at least, as reviews revolve around Ayer’s inability to bring his proven talents to the table.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone was particularly annoyed over Ayer’s pulled-back approach, proclaiming “Who stole the soul of Suicide Squad? I’d say it’s Ayer’s willingness to go all limp-d–k and compromise his hardcore action bona fides for a PG-13 crowd pleaser.” The scenes that have drawn the most reverence– the barroom chat or the unaccounted pit stop–arrive in direct contrast to the massive fight scenes they undermine. In that, Ayer shows viewers where his heart truly lies, and The Village Voice’s Bilge Ebiri praises these moments for being “the sign of a filmmaker asserting himself over the anonymity of his material.” The kicker, of course, is that the majority of the film fails to maintain this assertiveness.
1. It won’t rescue the DC franchise.
Suicide Squad had the unfair assignment of restoring faith to the DC universe after a mixed opener (Man of Steel) and a critically flopped follow-up (Batman v Superman). The extended universe is in dire need of a hit, a film they can hang their hat to compete with Marvel’s Avengers and Fox’s X-Men. But barring a critical shift of historic proportions, Squad will definitely not be that film. With heavy hitters like Batman and Superman unable to breakthrough, thrusting heroes like Captain Boomerang and Slipknot (Adam Beach) into the spotlight was not a wise direction– the film should’ve been tucked further in the rotation, much in the way that Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) followed nine well established Marvel movies.
“It feels like a B-movie,” commented io9’s Germain Lussier, “an action-packed one, but a B-movie nonetheless– that just happens to be set in the DC Universe.” Elsewhere, Peter Debruge explains how Ayer is “beholden to the corporate vision of other recent DC adaptations” and that he’s “ultimately forced to conform to Snyder’s style.” It’s become difficult to draw the line at where the problem is for the studio, but with multiple films already in production and no hits to their name, it might be time to start looking harder.