Review Roundup: Suicide Squad Isn’t Batman v Superman–Bad, But It’s Still Pretty Bad

Photo: Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc

Suicide Squad was supposed to be DC's fun, raucous answer to the dark, dismal Batman v Superman. But according to critics, David Ayer's tale of villains called on to be heroes falls far short, lacking the laughs and lightness audiences have come to expect from, say, Marvel's superhero films. It takes comic book machismo to new heights. It skimps on story. It has too little Joker and too much bad editing. But! If you adjust your Squad goals and embrace the crazy, you might still enjoy the ride.

"Our war movies — and Suicide Squad belongs in the war genre along with most recent superhero films — have proven that audiences can be easily seduced into rooting for immoral characters, provided that they think the ends justify the means. But the makers of Suicide Squad can’t fully commit to their premise because they’re afraid that the mainstream PG-13 audience can’t handle it. The 'worst of the worst' turn out to be rather sweet underneath, and the 'suicide' part of the title means zip, nada. Many of The Dirty Dozen and The Magnificent Seven die in the course of their 'suicide' missions, but DC and Marvel can’t bear to part with copyrighted characters that have the potential for multiple spinoffs. So the climactic battles are just CGI in a void — sound and fury signifying nothing." —David Edelstein, Vulture

"Part smart-ass genre sendup, part grimy noir that wants to be as dirty as Deadpool but remains constrained by its PG-13 rating, and part short-falling attempt by Warner Bros. to get a big-budget DC Comics mashup right, the film starts with promise but disengages as it loses its creative bearings ... The action of the film’s middle and latter stages is largely set in a gloomy murk that recalls far too many previous dour sci-fi/fantasy films, and by that point, vestiges of the opening stretch’s humor and snap long have fallen by the wayside. Suicide Squad may not quite commit harakiri, but it certainly feels like it’s taken far too many sleeping pills." —Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

"Suicide Squad is bad. Not fun bad. Not redeemable bad. Not the kind of bad that is the unfortunate result of artists honorably striving for something ambitious and falling short. Suicide Squad is just bad. It’s ugly and boring, a toxic combination that means the film’s highly fetishized violence doesn’t even have the exciting tingle of the wicked or the taboo. (Oh, how the movie wants to be both of those things.) It’s simply a dull chore steeped in flaccid machismo, a shapeless, poorly edited trudge that adds some mildly appalling sexism and even a soupçon of racism to its abundant, hideously timed gun worship. But, perhaps worst of all, Suicide Squad is ultimately too shoddy and forgettable to even register as revolting. At least revolting would have been something." —Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

"[Ayer's] dialogue is sharp and tight: Even as these antiheroes banter and jaw and distrust one another, they reveal who they are. Suicide Squad is the rare superhero movie in which I actually found myself wondering about the characters' inner lives ... Ayer isn't really an action guy. When the Squad leaps into the fray, we get a generous amount of slo-mo beheadings and thousand-bullet shootouts, but it's all functionally violent — just gritty and loud enough not to lose us entirely, but rarely inventive, surprising, or exciting. And while the film has plenty of action scenes, I can't help but suspect that the director understands his own limitations: The best part of the third act is a random, chatty interlude in an abandoned bar, an unannounced pit stop sandwiched between two big face-offs. It makes very little narrative sense. You might even argue that it stops the action dead. But it feels like the movie's true climax — and the sign of a filmmaker asserting himself over the anonymity of his material. I'm glad it's there." —Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voice

"Who stole the soul of Suicide Squad? I'd say it's Ayer's willingness to go all limp-dick and compromise his hardcore action bona fides for a PG-13 crowdpleaser that would rather ingratiate than cut deep, or even cut at all. My heart sank during the film's big battle between the Squad and zombie soldiers. You heard me: zombies! The walking dead aren't the only clichés that eat away at the potential in this material. Superfreaks become supersweeties and Suicide Squad: Dawn of Dullness (my subtitle) does the impossible. Forget Batman v Superman — at least it tried. This botch job makes Fantastic Four look good." —Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"Needless to say stylistic flourishes, like unstable villains, are bountiful in Suicide Squad. The fun is in letting yourself go along with every silly bit. Do you like montages and flashbacks? Writer-director David Ayer loves them. He cannot get enough of them. He leans on both far too heavily for far too long in a movie so stuffed to the rafters with colorful characters, there’s barely any room for a serviceable plot. Instead, he moves his Squad inch by inch along a threadbare story just to have somewhere to go and things to blow up, trots them through a war-torn city and into random buildings to get to the Big Bad ... It hardly matters who the Suicide Squad is fighting or why: These supervillains just don’t feel like they belong in the same zip code as DC’s gritty urban antiheroes, let alone the same movie." —Jen Yamato, The Daily Beast

"Just when you think the summer movie season can’t get any worse, along come the “Worst. Heroes. Ever.” And while the film’s official tagline is selling its stars a little bit short (surely last year’s incarnation of The Fantastic Four still holds that dubious distinction), the mundane, milquetoast, and often mind-bogglingly stupid Suicide Squad almost makes good on the threat of its marketing campaign ... Intended as an antidote to the rest of the DC Cinematic Universe (in that it’s aggressively flippant instead of gravely serious, and merely bad instead of soul-crushingly awful), Suicide Squad promises to flip the script on superhero movies by forcing the audience to root for the bad guys. Alas, that wild and crazy idea is the only thing that separates this dank sewer of messy actions beats and misplaced machismo from any of the other films that have come to define its genre." —David Ehrlich, IndieWire

"Writer-director David Ayer (End of Watch) skillfully sets up the film, introducing each of the crazies with caffeinated comic-book energy. But their mission — to take down Cara Delevingne’s undersketched witch, Enchantress, and her giant golem-like brother — is a bit of a bust. The stakes should feel higher. As someone who isn’t fluent in Suicide Squad lore, I can’t imagine there wasn’t a better villain in its back ­catalog. Still, it’s nothing compared with how wasted Leto’s scene-stealing Joker is. With his toxic-green hair, shiny metal teeth, and demented rictus grin, he’s the most dangerous live wire in the film. But he’s stranded in the periphery. 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

"Robbie steals the movie from most of her co-stars, but the real scene-stealer is Viola Davis, playing soberly dressed federal apparatchik Amanda Waller: it’s an excellent, coolly menacing performance. Waller has a duplicitous plan to use the Suicide Squad to cover up another plan. If only Davis were involved a bit more; if only we could scale down the inevitable FX-driven action finale involving slightly tiring supernatural forces, in order to beef up the dialogue and the chemistry. And maybe lose some of the more incidental appearances from B-list Squadders who are hardly used, and perhaps even cut the incidental franchise-signalling cameos, like the Flash (Ezra Miller) ... Suicide Squad promises madness, and a dense downpour of madness is what it delivers. I could have done with more fun and more lightness of touch." —Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

"Ayer's previous films include End of Watch and Fury, and his own warring instincts as a director — effective melodrama clashing with cheap pulp — made him a pretty good bet for Suicide Squad. But folks, this is a lousy script, blobby like the endlessly beheaded minions of the squad's chief adversary. It's not satisfying storytelling; the flashbacks roll in and out, explaining either too much or too little, and the action may be violent but it's not interesting. At this point in 2016 America, if there's one thing I could vote out of all movies, permanently, it's the drooling slow-motion close-up of hundreds of assault weapon bullets bouncing off gorgeously lit pavement." —Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

"Rather than bringing levity and irreverence to the increasingly unpleasant comic-book sphere, as its psychedelic acid-twisted marketing campaign suggests, Suicide Squad plunges audiences right back into the coal-black world of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, picking up after the Man of Steel’s demise to imagine a government so desperate that its only hope to fight the next “meta-human” threat is by assembling a team of the gnarliest super-villains around ... The Joker exists only to inspire his deranged arm candy, Harley Quinn. As evidenced by her gratuitous bathtub cameo in last year’s The Big Short, Robbie seems to represent what red-blooded, Maxim-reading audiences want from women on-screen in the year 2016: A doctor stripped of her intelligence and her conservative tweed professional attire, squeezed into hooker hot-pants and a too-tight baby T, who walks like a pole dancer and fights like some sort of homicidal cheerleader. Ayer allows Harley Quinn a certain deranged sense of humor, giving her the chance to deliver the sarcastic zinger to multiple scenes, but he only half-recognizes what a tragic character she is, and it’s discouraging to think that the film’s biggest laugh comes at the expense of Batman punching her in the face." —Peter Debruge, Variety

"I loved the fact we got some matter-of-fact Batman moments here and there, the way a comic might reference some other prior issue or story and we’d see a panel or two depicting the relevant events for context. That’s another way Suicide Squad feels more like an actual comic book come to life than any other 21st Century DC Comics superhero movie, excepting maybe Green Lantern. There are some minor quibbles I have with the film, most important being that the superhero genre has a recurring problem with establishing villains’ immense powers only to have them hold back in the climax and resort to simplistic fisticuffs when they could be waving their hands making the impossible take place instead." —Mark Hughes, Forbes