Suicide Squad is finally here, arriving to a parade of fan excitement and a hail of bad reviews. Critics are panning the latest addition to the DC Extended Universe. However, an early consensus seems to suggest that the average moviegoer seems to have their feet firmly placed on the other end of the spectrum. Like its predecessor, Batman V Superman, it’s a battle between critics and audiences. So, it begs the question, who is correct?
Saying that critics hate this movie is an understatement, the gentle reviews have been spouting the experience as simply a waste of time and money, while others have been touting it as an all out assault on the senses. Could it really be this poor? In my opinion, the short answer is no, but that does not make it a great movie.
Suicide Squad does something novel, instead of following heroes like Batman and Superman; we tag along with a band of bad guys, killers, and lunatics—the antiheroes. Set after the events of Batman V Superman, we arrive at black site prison, a secret penitentiary holding some the world’s worst super villains: Killer Croc, a giant that seems to be more crocodile than man, Deadshot, an assassin willing to kill for the right price, Diablo, a former gang member who can shoot fire from his fingertips, Harley Quinn, a super athletic fighter, marksmen, and utterly insane fan favorite, along with many more.
If you are a hardcore comic book enthusiast and an admirer of the characters themselves, there is plenty to enjoy here. Watching this ragtag group’s setup and backstory is a generally a fun experience. We get to discover who they are, why and how they were put behind bars, and what life is like for them on the inside. It is flashy, vibrant, and accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack. The problems start to arise when it is time for the mission to start—when it is time for the real story to begin. What should be the real heart and soul (the characters themselves) ends up feeling lifeless, just a half-baked excuse to get the characters onscreen with one another. Despite the weak net holding things together, the movie is peppered with interesting side stories: The Joker attempting to reach the love of his life, Harley Quinn, among the chaos, Deadshot’s relationship with his daughter, and El Diablo’s guilt. These moments make the movie special, yet having such a large cast of characters tightly squeezed into a two-hour film generates a landscape in which filmmakers can’t center on them, so we are ultimately left with a mishmash of stories weaved around a lackluster narrative.
The actors themselves are cast perfectly. Jared Leto makes a great, albeit very different, Joker to previous portrayals, Will Smith plays the perfect bad guy with a conscience, and Margot Robbie was born to play the role of Harley Quinn. These men and women are vessels to emotional scenes, laugh-out-loud moments, and cringeworthy attempts at humor, but the latter is not entirely the actors’ fault. Re-shoots were definitely needed here and there, if another take was used, along with a little extra pacing, some humor scenes would have assuredly not felt as forced. While we are on the subject of shooting, some moments appear as visual masterworks, like a grand painting, while the action scenes feel choppy, never staying with the combat long enough to have a lasting effect.
The worst problem is the use of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). We have a fantastic cast, beaming with personality and practical effects that gets sullied by the real bad guys of the movie: an unfitting plot and CGI, the two very worst offenders. This is where I believe the bad reviews stem. We have come to expect something better, something more intelligent from our silly comic book movies. No longer are these movies just campy, overacted men and woman running around in tights pretending to fly. A ridiculous cast of characters acting as such is simply that—ridiculous. The Dark Knight trilogy took the outlandish, removed the cliché and overused CGI, and supplemented the aforementioned with a more Shakespearean tone. So now, when we get movies like Suicide Squad, we wave our fists in anger. Not because it is awful, but because we have seen so much better, we have seen what superheroes can truly be and what they can truly do.
If you go into Suicide Squad expecting to see what it could have been you will, quite rightly, be disappointed. However, if you go into it with a more child like wonder, expecting to see a whole lot of action and humorous interactions with a beloved cast of characters, you will get your money’s worth. Heck, peal back the onion and you will find some artistic and memorable moments, hinting at what the film could have been.