Suicide Squad (2016) was the biggest August opening to date, with over four thousand theater releases nationwide and $284M+ domestically thus far. Advance tickets sales were very successful as it was the largest pre-sale Fandango has ever seen. After months of phenomenal marketing stunts, both die-hard DC fans and mainstream moviegoers alike were pumped to see the film. Critics — not so much.
“’Suicide Squad’ is the most frustrating movie I’ve seen in 2016.”
– Mike Ryan, UPROXX
“The critics are weighing in on “Suicide Squad,” and based on the initial reactions, it’s a pretty emphatic thumbs down.”
– Brent Lang, Variety
“Why anyone thought this creaky narrative line was a good idea for a wannabe-edgy superhero action piece is unfathomable. Indeed, it brings any and all investment in what’s going on to a quite complete end.”
– Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
“Just when you think the summer movie season can’t get any worse, along come the “Worst. Heroes. Ever… the mundane, milquetoast, and often mind-bogglingly stupid “Suicide Squad” almost makes good on the threat of its marketing campaign.”
—David Ehrlich, IndieWire
Reviews can have a lot of power on a film’s success or none at all, it just depends on the film. Typically directors humbly praise the film before it’s release, but director David Ayer openly defended Suicide Squad against the swarm of mixed reviews it received.
Just like David Ayer, the fandom behind Suicide Squad — without seeing the movie — defended the film as hard as they could. They went as far as demanding Rotten Tomatoes be shut down for giving the film a terrible review — despite the fact that Warner Brothers has a stake in the website after selling it to Fandango Media (1).
I disagree with fans’ expectations to shut down a review site—mainly because it has an important purpose in the industry and should not be shut down because of one poor review.
“A critic’s job is to put aside all the noise surrounding a movie, whether good or bad, and offer a pure, rational and considered response to the work that has been put in. Not only will this save moviegoers time and money on a wasted trip to their local multiplex, it also (hopefully) eventually feeds into studios making better films.”
– Ben Child, The Guardian
In the 1940s/1950s, there was a shift in the American movie culture. Film was no longer only being considered a piece of entertainment, but a “serious cultural experience” (2). Through publications like Hollywood Quarterly, critics gained legitimacy when discussing film. Alongside the emergence of more serious critics, there came more serious moviegoers. Critics became a bridge “between intellectuals who had for years taken movies seriously and a growing population of moviegoers who read and approve of their criticism” (3). A critic’s purpose is to keep filmmakers creating the best films possible and helping audiences pick and choose which films they pay to see. They play an important role in the industry and taking Rotten Tomatoes away would have taken away a key player in the world of film.
In his compilation of negative reviews, Collider’s writer Matt Goldberg said “I was super excited about Suicide Squad, but these reviews have seriously dampened my enthusiasm…” (2) — I agree. I’ve never been a huge DC fan as most of my loyalty resides with Marvel, but this film looked different in a good way. After just seeing Batman vs. Superman last year and leaving the theater disappointed in a waste of a film, I had hoped Suicide Squad would be a fresh start for the DC universe. After seeing Suicide Squad, I left the theater again disappointed – not because it was a waste of a film, but because of the potential the film had.
“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.”
– Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
The DC universe city “Midway City” is recovering after Superman’s death and operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) brings the Task Force X project forward to the government, which uses meta-humans to fight off other meta-humans. Waller has captured the heart of a potential recruit, Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and uses the heart to control her. Enchantress took over anthropologist Dr. June Moone’s body after Moone went searching through the wrong cave.
Amanda’s anti-hero group consists of villains Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and Slipknot (Adam Beach). Although it’s the Suicide Squad, Deadshot, Harley and El Diablo were easily the stars of the show. The origin stories of most of them quickly unravel as Waller and Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) collect the criminals for their mission. Harley Quinn’s origin story includes the famous Joker, played by the controversial Jared Leto. Like many audiences complained, Joker had less than 10 minutes of screen time despite the major marketing of his character.
Before getting the gang together, the U.S. military accidentally lets the Enchantress slip out of their hands and she begins her attempt at eliminating mankind. (casual) Once Flag messed up, Amanda called in the coined Suicide Squad. But the criminals didn’t jump at Waller’s request. Nano-chips implanted into each rebel’s neck that will kill them immediately if they don’t comply. And, with the bombs injected into the squads’ necks, the mission begins. The entire mission was confusing at times, but the team eventually realizes their purpose is to save Waller herself and then defeat the Enchantress and her—recently released into the world—brother, Incubus (Alain Chanoine).
Alcohol and El Diablo’s speech inspire the squad to help Flag, Waller and the government to fight the Enchantress after all. The team eventually destroys Incubus and Enchantress, leaving June Moone witch-free, but the city in pieces. The villains are put back in their cages with perks like Deadshot’s daughter’s visiting hours and Harley’s espresso machine. Audiences were left with the Joker breaking into the prison to free Harley, hinting at a Suicide Squad sequel. But, will we get one?
Mainstream moviegoers had very mixed feelings on the film. While some raved and defended the film’s critics, others believed it was “alright” but could have been better. Some even believed the soundtrack to the film was better than the film (they were right). Jared Leto’s depiction of Joker gained a lot of attention, and the lack of visibility in the film also angered fans.
Despite the heavy mixed reviews, which probably would kill any other film’s box-office success, Suicide Squad still made millions in the U.S. and internationally. While their promotion up till the premiere showed us #SquadGoals, the film fell short of fulfilling this clever line.
What did you think of Suicide Squad? Let me know in the comments!
- Haberski, Raymond, It’s Only A Movie. (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2001), 102.
- Haberski, Raymond, It’s Only A Movie. (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky,, 2001), 103.