After all of the hype, excitement, and buildup DC Comics has brought to the world, is Suicide Squad really that bad of a movie? In some clever and exciting ways, no, but it's yet another forced, formulaic, clichéd mess in some aspects. It follows the same trap as the theatrical release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - a very promising opening leads to an even bigger disappointing drudge to the end. However, unlike BvS, there are some thought-provoking, honest, clean attempts being made by DC to get themselves out of this hellhole of negative reception.
The film attempts to put a bigger focus on characters and backstories, doing so with an impressive 20-minute opening allowing the majority of them to breathe and reveal to the audiences who they are and what they do. However, only four of those are truly elaborated throughout the rest of the film; Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller, and El Diablo. The rest are given brief backstories and cast aside for the action. An argument can be made for Killer Croc having further scenes where audiences learn a little more about him, but he's not as fleshed out as everyone else. It's these four other characters that truly steal the show.
Will Smith is as great as ever with his wry humor and charming likeability. Deadshot's backstory is heavily explored as well, regarding the strained relationship he has with his ex-wife and daughter (the latter which he wants to support and protect), and Smith really does make this work to the best of his ability. It helps that a good chunk of screen time is devoted to Deadshot to make him more modern and human, even though his career choices and moves are still villainous in nature.
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, however, is an entirely different story. She really gets this character to its core. She's the right kind of crazy, smart, dangerous, mad, and loony all boiled into one. She longs for her "puddin" but balances it out with independence and self-reliance when absolutely necessary. Robbie's performance really taps into Harley's psyche and turns her into a complete mystery, her next moves almost always unexpected. Unlike most of her other material, though, Quinn is an overtly sexualized figure and does not don her classic jester outfit for the majority of the film (save for a few token scenes where she either wears or sees it). This had been explored in the comic-book series Suicide Squad is inspired by, but the film walks a dangerous line by presenting Quinn as either a model of feminism or a sexist, uncomfortable, and typecast figure. It's quite a risk to take and an interesting move by the creative team to make this version of Harley Quinn so unique.
Amanda Waller and El Diablo have more reserved and simple characteristics. El Diablo, like Deadshot, has family troubles and a chance for retribution, and the film gives him an opportunity to reflect on why he chooses to make these decisions. Viola Davis as Waller is perfect casting too, and Waller's cold and calculating demeanor is well translated as the manipulative and intelligent director of this task force.
The rest of the cast doesn't hold up. Colonel Flag as the task force's ringleader is boring and clichéd. The Enchantress is such a weak villain and only serves to dish out a rushed third act that leaves no real explanation or motivation for what her ultimate goals are. Captain Boomerang and Katana are wasted side-villains (even though Katana is briefly given a story arc, it's never fully completed). However, the cameos are well utilized. Common's appearance is brief but cool, and Ben Affleck's Batman returns briefly, but never to steal the show. The Flash is seen in action a little bit and Aquaman appears in a photograph, serving as nicer yet subdued teasers for the formation of the Justice League.
And then, there's Jared Leto as the Joker. The stakes were high for Leto in having to follow the phenomenal Joker established by the late Heath Ledger, and he really did try to go after something new and refreshing with this icon. That being said, the Joker is the single most disappointing failure of Suicide Squad. Part of this is not Leto's fault considering a number of his scenes were presumably cut from the final edit, leaving what was left of him much to be desired. His Joker, however, is not really that scary, not that funny, not that sadistic, and overall just awkward and weak in comparison. He is, however, still a master of manipulation when the film briefly explores his unhealthy and twisted relationship with Harley Quinn, but the editing of these scenes only hints at this trait and robs viewers from its full potential. Perhaps if Leto didn't spend all of his time on set pranking the other cast and crew members with his sick and twisted gifts could he have delved deeper into why and how the Joker has become one of the greatest villains of all time. In a match against Affleck's Batman, he would lose. Badly.
The humor in Suicide Squad is a nice touch, and for most of the time, it doesn't feel forced. From an artistic standpoint, the visuals are creative, mostly original, and very distinctive. The song selection isn't integrated into the film like Peter Quill's mixtape in Guardians of the Galaxy, but they aren't major distractions to what's happening onscreen and instead compliment it really well.
The editing, on the other hand, is the second-largest flaw of Suicide Squad. It's a piss-poor, cobbled mess of just over 2 hours of footage (save for the opening 20 minutes and a good post-credits scene). As soon as the task force is on their mission, it's rushed and formulaic (including 4 scenes of landing somewhere, seeing monsters, fighting, and throwing in a quip every now and again) slamming into a confusing third act. Scenes of some character development tie it all together, such as a bar scene with the main squad that does stand well on its own, but they also feel forced because of the poor editing job.
Half of the problems with Suicide Squad exist because of behind-the-scenes troubles and the restructuring of DC Studios. Had studio executives not ordered reshoots and a reedit of the film, I fundamentally believe it could have been so much better. The creative team, cast, crew, and Ayer all put in their damndest to make that happen, but Warner Bros.'s panic that settled in from the initial reactions to Batman v Superman ruined its chances of greatness. Sure, there's problems with Suicide Squad from story, casting, and characterization flaws, but it's a tolerable flick, has great potential, and is undeserving of the strong hate it's been recently receiving. Some of it is absolutely justifiable, but the film does have its moments. And there's plenty more of them than BvS.
Suicide Squad overall is not the greatest movie in the DC universe, but it's a solidly decent attempt to revitalize the series' greatness and a clunky but general step in the right direction for this expanded universe.
A few afterthoughts: Assuming that the box office returns dwindle over the next few weeks (although it did have a strong gross this weekend), an R-rated (or even Unrated) Ultimate Edition will likely be released and improve Suicide Squad, restoring some of the footage that was taken out. Perhaps the DCEU just needs to take baby steps to restore the former glory of previous films. Finding their niche, however, won't happen by recycling the Marvel formula or going down the darker path that Zack Snyder already established. Hopefully, they will be back on top of their game soon.
The petition to shut down Rotten Tomatoes due to the negative reception of this film was a complete waste of time and a joke. The petition was then altered into a statement of all DC fans tired of critical reception being unfavorable to DC films and favorable to Marvel films. Yet, none of them seemed to remember all of the critically-acclaimed iconic DC films from these same critics. Richard Donner's Superman and his cut of Superman II, for instance. Or Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, just recently released in the last decade!! Even Tim Burton's Batman films!! All of them seemed to forget there was a time that DC comic-book movies were well-crafted and loved by everyone, and they fail to realize that maybe there's something fundamentally missing from these new installments that's been causing this recent backlash: a consistent plot, well-developed characters, even just a heart and soul, all of which at the point of BvS had been missing!
The cast and crew of Suicide Squad have all gone on press interviews disowning the negative reception as well, with the majority of them going on record and stating they "made it for the fans." So critics can't be fans of superhero films anymore? They're too pretentious and involved with praising their artsy, independent, award-baiting chic?
I have a counterstatement to the studios involved with Suicide Squad and to all who stated they made this movie "for the fans": Stop alienating your audiences. Stop giving us formulaic trash and wasted talent. Stop causing the DC fandom to lash out in violent anger whenever anyone disagrees with them over a movie. Guess what? Critics are people too. They're doing their job. It's time you did yours. Don't give just the newer and younger fans what they want; give everyone that loves what DC has always stood for a better chance to appreciate what you're trying to accomplish with this new franchise. Give them what they, and these iconic characters, deserve.