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Suicide Squad Was Still A Massive Success (Despite Bad Reviews)

Suicide Squad Movie Success Box Office

Suicide Squad is widely considered to have been an embarrassing failure for Warner Bros. and DC, but is that narrative actually true? By most metrics, the movie was a success and continues to have a huge influence on pop culture as well as the future of the DCEU.

Released in 2016, Suicide Squad was the third movie to be made under the DCEU banner. Coming in the same year as the divisive Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it was initially seen as a chance for Warner Bros. and DC to expand the DCEU brand by introducing a new set of fun supervillains while still playing to the fans who appreciated the "darker" tone of Zack Snyder’s superhero movies. However, plans to establish Suicide Squad as a key part of the DCEU quickly hit a number of apparent snags. Reports of extensive recutting led to bad buzz before the movie even screened, and after it arrived, critics savaged the film even more than Batman v Superman. Thanks in large part to that negative critical reception, the movie is now seen as an overall failure.

Related: Predicting DC's 2020 Release Slate

Nevertheless, DC and WB plan to spin off the film’s most popular character Harley Quinn in a new team-up movie, Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), while James Gunn has been hired to write (and possibly direct) Suicide Squad 2 and several other Joker-related movies are in development. Many argue that these are unnecessary after the failure of Suicide Squad - they're spining off characters from a movie so many people dismiss as an embarrassment - but was the 2016 movie actually a huge flop?

Truthfully, the perception of Suicide Squad as a movie that helped kill the DCEU is in many ways a false one. Indeed, David Ayer's film may actually point the way to resurrecting the DCEU.

Suicide Squad Is The DCEU's Worst-Reviewed Movie

Critics wasted no time in getting out their knives for Suicide Squad in their reviews: the plot was called muddled and incoherent; the film was blasted for being cut like a trailer and featuring an over-use of pop songs; the movie’s tone was also criticized for being all over the place. Early trailers seemed to sell it as a “fun” movie filled with gleefully demented characters, but according to critics, it became bogged down in the same gloom and darkness that made Batman v Superman a turn-off. And those characters, critics said, were never given a chance to make an impression amid all the confusing comic book business.

Many reviewers zeroed in on Cara Delevingne's wizard-like villain Enchantress as being a particular problem, while others singled out Jared Leto’s eccentric Joker performance as the movie’s biggest weakness. Still others lambasted the film for wasting the characters of Joker and Harley Quinn on a prelude that felt like outtakes from a longer sequence (indeed, director David Ayer would later say he wished he’d gone a different direction with the Joker). Ultimately, the film would finish with a 27% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, tying it with Batman v Superman for the dubious distinction of worst-reviewed DCEU movie ever and furthering the negative view of the whole franchise.

Suicide Squad's Box Office Was Huge

Cara Delevingne Enchantress Suicide Squad

Though critics hated the movie, creating the narrative that it was a flawed movie at best and a disaster at worst, Suicide Squad still did huge business at the box office. The movie’s final take worldwide was $745 million (on a $175 million budget), making it to date the third-highest-grossing DCEU movie ever: Batman v Superman itself still reigns atop the list with $873 million worldwide, followed by Wonder Woman with $821 million. Suicide Squad out-grossed 2013’s Man of Steel ($668 million) and 2017’s Justice League ($657 million), movies that benefited from featuring much more well-known characters with previously-established cinematic credentials.

Related: Suicide Squad Was About a Steppenwolf Invasion Before Justice League Story Changed

It’s worth keeping in mind as well that Suicide Squad achieved its relatively huge worldwide box office numbers without the benefit of a release in China. Given the massive popularity of superhero movies in the Chinese market, a release there may well have boosted Suicide Squad’s numbers close to the $1 billion mark. By comparison, the original Guardians of the Galaxy, seen as a gigantic international success, finished with $773 million; even without China, Suicide Squad was still profitable by any reasonable measure.

This works directly against many of the criticisms. While financial success doesn't necessarily translate into quality, it does show that many of the "unappealing" aspects of Suicide Squad highlighted in reviews were actually a big draw to audiences, with the vibrant editing and contrasting tone making for a unique viewing experience. After all, the audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes were positive!

Page 2: Suicide Squad's Success Will Shape The DCEU Future

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Key Release Dates
  • Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
  • Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
  • Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
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