As Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad preps itself for its release this Friday, early reviews are beginning to pour in and its not looking good for the film that was supposed to save this summer from a dismal showing of films. Based off of the reviews that I’ve seen, critiques focus on a variety of factors: the writing, the lack of the Joker, and director David Ayer’s general handling and execution of what is considered to be the most anticipated film of the summer. In fact, it seems most of the criticism focuses on David Ayer and the script.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone takes off the gloves and goes in on Ayer, practically ripping him to pieces. You can feel the frustration of expectations not being met:
“]Suicide Squad wussies out when it should have been down with the Dirty Dozen of DC Comics. Audiences complained that Batman v Superman was too dark and depressing. So director-writer David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury) counters with light and candy-assed. I call bullshit.[…]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.
via Rolling Stone
Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter is a little kinder, but points out how the style of the film that had been earlier promoted is left hanging due to Ayer’s usual approach to his work, which is focused more on realism:
Problematically, the snappy, quasi-pop-art feel effectively emphasized in the film’s first trailers is felt only in the early stretch; if Ayer had been able to sharpen and sustain something resembling a darkly subversive cartoon style — which is what’s suggested in the interludes centering on Harley Quinn — he might have been on to something. But he’s a grim realist at heart, and it’s a sensibility that doesn’t jibe with this sort of material, which, at this stage of the superhero cycle, benefits from being approached with irreverence (as evidenced by the more entertaining Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool).
via Hollywood Reporter
Ensemble works require more delicate handling than smaller casts. Usually there is an issue with spending more time on some characters than others, with some characters being introduced as a sort of roll call before disappearing and becoming more like scenery. Ensemble work is something that directors like Joss Whedon and James Gunn have mastered over the years. However, it’s not just a matter of finding a good director who knows how to give everyone their spotlight. The writing has a lot to do with this as well.
David Ayer not only directed the film, but he wrote it. So, he is very much to blame for the lack of time that we get with some of the characters like Killer Croc and Diablo. As Germain Lussler of io9 points out in his review, the writing comes across as a chaotic mess with varied tones and a lack of cohesion, especially after we are introduced to all of squad members:
Unfortunately, once the assembled team begins their mission, that’s where Suicide Squad starts to go off the rails. The goal of the Squad’s mission is incredibly ambiguous, gets even murkier as the narrative unfolds, and then falls apart once all is revealed at the end. Plus, the at least partially cohesive tone of the first act of the film segues into a second act that’s radically different in tone, and more of a war movie than anything else. Characters spend a good 20-30 minutes walking around just getting into gun fights. If Suicide Squad were merely an action movie, this would be exciting, but these characters are villains, some of whom have superpowers. Merely seeing them shoot guns at things isn’t that exciting.
The most highly anticipated component of the film is Joker’s appearance. After Heath Ledger’s Joker came on the scene, the bar had been raised and set. Once we discovered that the Joker was going to make an appearance in Suicide Squad, expectations were high. Unfortunately, based off of the reviews, we should have kept our expectations low. As David Ehrlich of IndieWire, as well as several other reviewers, have reported, Joker barely makes an appearance and, basically, is a glorified cameo:
Leto is part gangster and part clown, but he’s not really part of this movie. Ayer never finds anything for the character to do, and so Leto’s role is reduced to a glorified cameo, a prelude to a more significant performance in a future installment. If not for the Joker’s storied history, his presence here would be truly baffling.
Looking at the reviews, it seems clear to me that the general consensus is that the movie is a mess. Although I am not familiar with David Ayer or his work, he appears to be the primary influence behind why the film isn’t selling itself well.
What are your thoughts and expectations for Suicide Squad? Are you surprised about the reviews or did you expect this to happen? Tomorrow Legion of Leia writer Witney Seibold will post her official review of the film. Stay tuned!