[Update: Suicide Squad's director David Ayer has offered his first response to the negative reviews.]
The hype train for Suicide Squad has been picking up speed ever since the first trailer was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con 2015, with very early footage cut to a haunting cover of The Bee Gees' "I Started a Joke". In recent weeks opening weekend box office projections have climbed from $125 million to as high as $140 million, but with any movie there's one final factor that can drastically affect box office take: the reviews. Warner Bros. already felt the keen edge of the critics' blade earlier this year when Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice's huge opening was followed by a dramatic drop-off, due in no small part to being thoroughly panned by reviewers.
As a result, the wait for the first Suicide Squad reviews has been particularly suspenseful - after all, fans are not only waiting to find out if director David Ayer has successfully spun the concept of a movie where all the good guys are, well, bad guys; they're also eager to find out if Suicide Squad can turn around the fortunes of the DC Extended Universe by being the first movie in the fledgling cinematic universe to receive overwhelmingly positive reviews.
With less than three days to go before midnight screenings of Suicide Squad begin, the review embargo has now been lifted. So, what's the verdict?
Variety - Peter DeBruge
"For reasons beyond Ayer’s control, he’s beholden to the corporate vision of other recent DC adaptations, most notably Zack Snyder’s sleek-surfaced and oppressively self-serious riffs on the Superman legend. While it would have been amazing to see the director (fresh off WWII-set suicide-mission movie “Fury”) push his own nothing-to-lose anarchic boundaries, he’s ultimately forced to conform to Snyder’s style, to the extent that Suicide Squad ends up feeling more like the exec producer’s gonzo effects-saturated Sucker Punch."
The Hollywood Reporter - Todd McCarthy
"The action of the film’s middle and latter stages is largely set in a gloomy murk that recalls far too many previous dour sci-fi/fantasy films, and by that point, vestiges of the opening stretch’s humor and snap long have fallen by the wayside. Suicide Squad may not quite commit harakiri, but it certainly feels like it’s taken far too many sleeping pills."
Empire - Dan Jolin
"Filling its entire super-team with previously unseen antagonists, Suicide Squad represents a Flash-speed sprint of a catch-up for the rapidly forming DC Cinematic Universe. And, on that front at least, it’s a real hoot... False starts, oddly placed flashbacks, clunky cameos... and a muddled chronology detract from the grungy, kooky DayGlo-splashed fun." 4/5
IGN - Joshua Yehl
"Suicide Squad is a decidedly different flavor than Batman v Superman. It goes for subversive, funny and stylish, and it succeeds wildly during the first act. But then the movie turns into something predictable and unexciting. It plods on, checking off boxes on a list of cliched moments and meaningless plot points, making you wonder where all the razzle-dazzle went." 5.9/10
HitFix - Drew McWeeny
"When Suicide Squad gets it right, I like it a lot, and it gets it right often enough that I like a lot of it. It won’t deliver the decisive knockout blow that ends the DC/Marvel rivalry that the most impassioned fans seem to want, but nothing will. What it does is make a case for how much fun this universe can be when the characters are embraced fully and when a filmmaker seems excited by the opportunities afforded by those characters. Lots of superhero films struggle to make us like their heroes even half as much as we end up liking the villains here, and that alone is a pretty canny trick, one that I suspect audiences will enjoy quite a bit."
Entertainment Weekly - Chris Nashawaty
"Writer-director David Ayer (End of Watch) skillfully sets up the film, introducing each of the crazies with caffeinated comic-book energy. But their mission... is a bit of a bust. For DC, which blew it with Batman v Superman last spring, Suicide Squad is a small step forward. But it could have been a giant leap."
Vanity Fair - Richard Lawson
"Suicide Squad is bad. Not fun bad. Not redeemable bad. Not the kind of bad that is the unfortunate result of artists honorably striving for something ambitious and falling short. Suicide Squad is just bad. It’s ugly and boring, a toxic combination that means the film’s highly fetishized violence doesn’t even have the exciting tingle of the wicked or the taboo. (Oh, how the movie wants to be both of those things.) It’s simply a dull chore steeped in flaccid machismo, a shapeless, poorly edited trudge that adds some mildly appalling sexism and even a soupçon of racism to its abundant, hideously timed gun worship. But, perhaps worst of all, Suicide Squad is ultimately too shoddy and forgettable to even register as revolting."
io9 - Germain Lussier
"The movie [is] a motley amalgamation—a strange blend of different tones, stories, and pacing all mashed into something that has cool individual elements, but never really comes together... Some of the action is fun, some of the characters are great, and it does reach some nice emotional peaks. But it never feels like a true, cohesive movie. It feels a B-movie—an action-packed one, but a B-movie nonethelesses—that just happens to be set in the DC Universe."
USA Today - Brian Truitt
"Like The Dirty Dozen for the Hot Topic generation, the team gets in-your-face introductions and things just grow more mental from there. But compared to its ilk, Suicide Squad is an excellently quirky, proudly raised middle finger to the staid superhero-movie establishment."
Comic Book Resources - Kristy Puchko
"Though wonky in structure, it makes a certain sense that this antihero tale wouldn't play by the rules. Packed with attitude, Suicide Squad is ferocious fun, boasting a bounty of action, mirthful mayhem, and a cavalcade of curious characters. It's just the kick in the pants Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment need to correct course ahead of next year's Justice League."
Rolling Stone - Peter Travers
"The anticipated savior of a bummer summer turns out to be a grabbag of what's been off and awful about recent comic-book epics (Captain America: Civil War excepted). Suicide Squad wussies out when it should have been down with the Dirty Dozen of DC Comics. Audiences complained that Batman v Superman was too dark and depressing. So director-writer David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury) counters with light and candy-assed... This botch job makes Fantastic Four look good."
Chicago Tribune - Michael Phillips
"Meanwhile we have this thing, this garish, overstaffed, overstuffed, blithely sadistic corporate directive disguised as a PG-13 summer movie for all ages... Folks, this is a lousy script, blobby like the endlessly beheaded minions of the squad's chief adversary. It's not satisfying storytelling; the flashbacks roll in and out, explaining either too much or too little, and the action may be violent but it's not interesting."
Black Girl Nerds - Cynthia Francillon
"Do yourself the biggest favor and walk into that theater with nothing but fun in mind, because that’s exactly what you’re going to get... They [delivered] something that you can watch and enjoy for exactly what it is. From the beginning to the end, the story gets right to the point. No finessing, no slivers of unnecessary backstories, and most importantly, no boring moments."
CutPrintFilm - Chris Evangelista
"Suicide Squad is weird. And it’s an interesting kind of weird: awash in black magic, gooey eyeball monsters, and Escape From New York-like explosive neck devices. It has great potential to be a silly, pop-art infused action film in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy. Or perhaps it could’ve been something darker — a character drama about people who do bad things suddenly learning to do good. Or, as it turns out, it could just be an excuse to have a bunch of costumed actors wander around, shoot guns and crack flat jokes. Ayer has constructed a monumental mess here — a film so haphazardly put together that you get the impression that it was edited using a blender on the “ice crush” setting."
With Suicide Squad's Rotten Tomatoes score currently sitting at 36%, the outlook isn't that great, but Warner Bros. is at least celebrating the more positive reviews with two new accolade TV spots, which include quotes from Cinema Blend, FOX-TV, ABC-TV and more. Check them out below (via ComicBook.com).
Suicide Squad is scheduled to arrive in theaters on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League on November 17, 2017; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020. The Flash and Batman solo movie are currently without release dates.