At the time of writing, obvious Disney-bought-and paid-for critical mouthpiece Rotten Tomatoes has the greatest movie since Citizen Kane, DC Extended Universe movie Suicide Squad, on a 26% approval rating.
Despite everyone on the internet responding to this in a typically calm manner, Suicide Squad‘s critical mauling has been the talk of movie people for the past few weeks.
As a person who saw the movie on opening night, and loved it, were the critics right?
I will use for reference the critical consensus description on Rotten Tomatoes, which reads: “Suicide Squad boasts a talented cast and a little more humor than previous DCEU efforts, but they aren’t enough to save the disappointing end result from a muddled plot, thinly written characters, and choppy directing.”
The following post contains spoilers for every aspect of Suicide Squad. Do not read until you have seen the movie. Consider yourself warned.
Were they right? Yes
Come on. Suicide Squad is a trailer with delusions of grandeur. From one scene to the next, the movie is a series of interesting ideas slammed together in an eye-burning affront to the senses.
Character introductions drop into plot development, which drop into more character introductions, which drop into plot development and occasionally some team building. It puts a lot of faith in your ability to forgive it skipping giant portions of story that would be necessary to give its finale more impact than it has.
“Thinly written characters”
Were they right? Yes
By the final act of Suicide Squad, characters are making decisions that are not completely unsolicited, but which require a huge stretch of the imagination to make a whole lot of sense.
El Diablo’s decision in the final fight to yell “I’m not losing another family” required a good 20 minutes of internal debate to realise he meant the other members of the Suicide Squad – people he’d known for half a day and with whom he had exchanged about twenty lines of dialogue.
Enchantress’ journey from “Hi, I’m Enchantress, and I can be controlled” to “I am out of your control and the fact you didn’t think this was possible is really quite silly of you” is a meaningless leap to create a villain. You can admire the pace with which the movie wants to get on with things, but its villain and her emotional ties to Rick Flag are so marginalised that any emotional punch the finale is meant to have is reliant on another huge leap of the audience’s imagination.
Deadshot, and especially El Diablo, resemble walking racial stereotypes at times. Deadshot is probably the best written character in the movie and Will Smith‘s delivery makes his “that’s gangster” joke lines easier to bear than El Diablo. His few lines of dialogue revolve around being called “esé” and calling everyone else “homes”.
He’s a Latino gangster and I have no doubt that’s how he was probably written in the comics, but when that’s all there is to him, you can’t shake the feeling that every time he’s included in conversation it’s to say “I’m the Latino one”.
Were they right? Mostly
David Ayer can direct action and he definitely has an eye for smart visuals. Both of those things are impressive in Suicide Squad.
How all of his ideas blend together is where the problems come to the fore. Introducing Deadshot and Harley before a title screen was interesting. Then you have Amanda Waller rattle them all off one by one in short introductory segments. This was another good idea, but it didn’t work with the previous elements, and didn’t work with what followed, which was to take large breaks from the ongoing story to jump into more character background. This mainly involved the Joker, who I don’t believe should have been in this film at all.
What this movie missed was a lead – one character to be a straight-faced centre amidst the chaos, who gives all of the other character’s back stories and personal journeys something to hook themselves on. The most natural choice here would have been Will Smith’s Deadshot. Given a bit more screen time he would have connected with the audience and the rest of the ensemble.
Without it, a lot of the leg work to like the characters is left to the audience, which is a symptom of a movie with a lot of style but a lack of direction.
Despite Suicide Squad‘s glaring, and I mean glaring, faults, I really enjoyed it. Is it perfect? No. Does it have the finesse of a Marvel movie? No. But I liked it a lot more.
It’s easy to understand why critics find it easy to pick flaws in this. Like Batman v Superman, this doesn’t follow many of the laws or rules of normal superhero movie making. Whether that’s due to incompetence or a deliberate flouting of genre conventions is a discussion for another day.
This movie is the very definition of brash entertainment. It throws everything it has at you in the hope it sticks. Most people, when they think about it, can appreciate that doing so created a movie that is a tonal and narrative mess. However, while it’s happening, it is wildly entertaining. A bit more competence would have made this movie great.
The question that any critic should answer is: is this movie worth watching and spending your money on? The answer is absolutely yes.
Do you agree? What did you think of Suicide Squad? Did the critics get it right? Let us know in the comments section.