SPOILER WARNING: This article contains details about significant plot points in Suicide Squad.
Let’s get this straight: while David Ayer’s supervillain ensemble film Suicide Squad has gone under intense critical fire, there is fun to be had in this third installment of the DC Extended Universe. Fans and critics of the movie may have major disagreements, but everyone seems to more-or-less agree that the cast is full of talented actors, and that the film boasts some impressive makeup and costume design (most notably on Jared Leto’s Joker and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc). Plus, if you’ve been waiting years and years to see Harley Quinn on screen in a live-action movie, then seeing Margot Robbie portray the character should be worth the price of admission alone. Truly nothing can douse the spirits of hardcore DCEU fans who have already made up their minds.
However, amidst typically angry comments and petitions to silence the film’s detractors, though, those who didn’t enjoy the film have valid reasons to be disappointed. Here are seven of those reasons:
7 Things I Found Wrong with Suicide Squad
7. Enchantress is a terrible villain.
Enchantress (Cara Delevingne)
Everyone assumed that the Joker was going to be the big baddie in Suicide Squad. Bringing back the Clown Prince of Crime to the spotlight would have made perfect sense; the character was already teased in this year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it would seem appropriate to have the Joker be an unstoppable force that only the Suicide Squad would be able to bring down, and the character’s complex relationship with Harley Quinn would have upped the stakes for the entire Squad in general.
Instead, it’s revealed early on in the film that Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress is the primary antagonist of the film. This wouldn’t have really been a problem if Enchantress wasn’t such a bland, disposable, and forgettable character. Her powers are vaguely defined, her motivation has no emotional weight, and her relationship with Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is only developed before and after the mission—but never during the actual thing. She’s uninteresting, non-threatening, and barely even a full character in herself. Suicide Squad is a film about villains, so it’s baffling how they could’ve gotten their antagonist so wrong.
If you enjoy seeing Cara Delevingne belly-dance, though, you might enjoy her here. It’s all she does.
6. The posters lied.
Suicide Squad had one of the most memorable marketing campaigns in recent memory. The trailers definitely hooked people with their use of some amazing classic songs (more on that later), but the movie’s extensive poster campaign is what kept it in our memories. Colorful, playful, and brimming with creativity; the posters inspired loads of fan art, and gave a lot of us hope that we would be seeing just as many memorable images in the film itself.
Not only did Suicide Squad‘s cinematography (shot by Roman Vasyanov) have barely any of the colors seen on the posters; it also somehow managed to look even murkier than its predecessor Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Most of the movie comprises of ridiculously underlit nighttime shots and bland production design that fails to capture its characters’ personalities.
The film’s visual effects are also of shockingly low quality. The final forms of Enchantress and her brother Incubus (Alain Chanoine) always seem digitally pasted-on, while a scene where El Diablo torches a field full of people looks like a sequence from a PlayStation One game. Fans were promised something eye-popping, and got something painful instead.
5. The soundtrack tries too hard.
I loved the music that they used in Suicide Squad. It was a lot of fun to hear Twenty One Pilots’ “Heathens,” Grace’s “You Don’t Own Me,” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
The problem with these songs is how they were used. First of all, there’s no cohesion to the soundtrack. Individually, they’re all great songs, but nothing ties them together, which means that each song that comes up messes up the movie’s tone.
Secondly, so many songs are played so often within just the first half of the movie that they ultimately end up distracting our attention from what’s being said onscreen. The songs just don’t match the rhythm of the scenes and the editing—making it seem like the soundtrack is there to cover up for the lack of truly compelling stuff going on.
Finally, the film’s original score by Oscar-winner Steven Price—who won for his work on Gravity—is criminally underused. One does not simply shrug off a Steven Price musical score.
4. The characters aren’t bad guys at all.
If you look at everything that Warner Bros. and DC have done so far with their Extended Universe, it’s kind of incredible that they’ve somehow ended up portraying Batman and Superman as more ruthless and unforgiving than any member of the Suicide Squad. Seriously. It’s nigh unbelievable how nice these characters are to each other.
Would these hardened lawbreakers and criminally insane people really agree to stay on the same team right off the bat? Would Deadshot (Will Smith) really spare Harley Quinn’s life after being ordered to shoot her by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis)? Would any of these guys—especially Karen Fukuhara’s Katana and Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang—really help out with the final battle? Would Harley Quinn and El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) really refer to the Squad as their “friends” and “family” at the end? Is the Joker really not as abusive a lover here as how he’s portrayed in the comics?
If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then just imagine how much more interesting the characters would be if they all hated each other.
Additionally, these characters only really get fleshed out during exposition-heavy flashbacks at the beginning of the movie. No character development really takes place during the actual mission. And this hurts the film because it reduces these characters who are defined by their criminal actions and desire for redemption into cardboard cut-out superhero wannabes.
3. It has the worst editing in a superhero movie since Fantastic Four.
The argument could be made that the frantic and restless nature of the film editing during the first two acts of Suicide Squad is a natural expression of the characters’ insanity and attitude. But the film clearly attempts to communicate a handful of emotional ideas to the audience. Unfortunately, because the shot length in Suicide Squad is so short, we never get the chance to let any of these ideas really sink in. The whole thing feels like a music video. A two hour-long music video.
Suicide Squad also makes the misguided decision to split its focus among all eleven of the characters featured on the posters. This drags the movie down. Imagine how much more emotionally invested we would have been if the film focused primarily on just Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Rick Flag, and Amanda Waller. This would’ve given the movie some protagonists; the current theatrical release doesn’t have a real protagonist for us to follow.
2. It doesn’t take any risks.
We’re living in a post-Guardians of the Galaxy and post-Deadpool age. It’s practically been proven that irreverence and gratuitous violence in a mainstream superhero film can bring in a lot of money. So while David Ayer is known for his intense and gritty style of shooting action, everything is kept extremely tame here. All we see are the same close shots of people fighting. We never actually get to see how ruthless these characters are. And again: no focus on the abusive relationship between the Joker and Harley Quinn.
1. It’s a product of a toxic Hollywood studio system.
The Hollywood Reporter recently published a piece expounding on the behind-the-scenes difficulties that Suicide Squad faced all throughout production. In a way, the six other things listed above are a result of this single thing: studio interference. We’ve seen this before in the aforementioned 2015 Fox reboot of Fantastic Four, directed by Josh Trank—and we all know how hard that bombed. Suicide Squad is definitely going to earn a lot more money than that movie (thanks to star power and the marketing campaign), but it’s still disheartening to hear about how promising the original cut of this film was.
It’s tough to blame the studios, though. Any major film company that releases these tentpole blockbusters always faces a lot of pressure. They’re not just releasing a movie; they also have multiple merchandising deals to worry about, and they have to make sure that each installment adds to or builds on the entire franchise in some way.
But the reason why this system of film production is so toxic is because the producers ultimately get final say in order for them to safeguard their brand. The talents of the director, editor, cast, and practically everyone else are reduced significantly. Money comes first, not artistic expression. This system doesn’t always result in a bad film, of course. But in this case, it did.
We all know that a director’s cut / “Ultimate Edition” of Suicide Squad is going to be released on DVD and Blu-ray in a matter of months. The deleted scenes included in this extended cut will no doubt clarify many of the plot points and character relationships in the theatrical release. But why can’t we get just get a great movie in theaters? Why do we have to wait for a DVD release? The cast and crew deserve better, and DC fans everywhere deserve better. Suicide Squad could have been killer, but it’s mostly just kind of dead.
For the author’s full thoughts on Suicide Squad, you can check out his video review below: