Let’s get the primary question out of the way. No, it’s not bad.
In fact, I have no idea why the scorn for this film is so colorfully hyperbolic. Suicide Squad is a fun but not great offering from director David Ayer. Maybe what pissed the critics off is there are signs this could’ve been a great movie. But those signs never lead anywhere.
Here are the problems. Suicide Squad is perfectly cast, we’ve got Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Will Smith as Deadshot, and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. Jay Hernandez shines as El Diablo. Jai Courtney is so perfect as Captain Boomerang that if I see him I’m going to give him a hug. That’s why the fact that this movie has no idea who or what the Suicide Squad is makes it more difficult to accept. This film takes fascinating complex characters and flattens them into placeholders—especially when compared to the way comic book creator John Ostrander wrote them.
Harley Quinn loses most of her bite because the movie spends too much time focused on her butt cheeks. The film version is crazy, sexy, cool! Except Dr. Harleen Quinzel is so much more than that. She’s brilliant and ruthless, devious and witty. Margot Robbie could’ve pulled that off and would’ve looked great in a black and red jumpsuit. Too bad nobody wrote that into the script.
The same problems apply to Amanda Waller. She is equally merciless and intelligent. Except Waller has a cause, that cause is “America” and the safety of its citizens. She’s a patriot of the by any means necessary class and Viola Davis could’ve easily delivered all of the complexity that makes us love Waller despite all the wrong she does. Too bad her character wasn’t written with any descriptors beyond: bad ass. female. government official.
As far as the plot, there’s no destination, the movie just kind of wanders around, not knowing where it’s going. So of course it never gets there—wherever there was. Suicide Squad also strays from the classic Hollywood guideline of come in late, leave early to its detriment. The film starts too soon in the timeline, which creates a paradox because the first 20 minutes are so good they get us ramped up for a film we never get to see. The pacing is off, the jokes often fall flat, momentum stutters, and by drenching us in exposition rather than showing us why we should connect to the characters we lose any hope of caring what happens to them.
And that’s the heart of matter; this movie has no heart. Ayer doesn’t take the time to do the team building required to make us care. Suicide Squad has a pair of dueling romances and still…eh. It’s got a father who does the right thing because his daughter says so and still…meh. It’s got a man looking for redemption after incinerating his loved ones and still…hm.
But I’ll reiterate, Suicide Squad is not bad. It’s kinda fun. There are gorgeous visuals, like the transition when Enchantress first appears in front of a government task force (look for it!). There’s a squeal inducing cameo in an alley on a dark (k)night. There are Aztec gods, people—Aztec gods! The soundtrack is blazing. The action is fevered and there are moments to cheer for!
Still, Suicide Squad falls short in many ways. So, it’s not bad. But it ain’t good.
In the end: See it if you’re a comic book or WB Animation fan, otherwise wait for the digital release.