Credit: Clay Enos

Earlier this year, Zack Snyder’s superhero showdown Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opened to so-so box office success and downright scathing critical reviews. Critics savaged the DC tentpole, decrying it as dark, nonsensical, and bloated, and although Batman v Superman raked in $872.7 million worldwide, it wasn’t exactly the massive hit that DC was hoping for.

As a result, all eyes were suddenly on David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, With its A-list cast (including Viola Davis, Jared Leto, Will Smith, and Margot Robbie) and its delightfully bizarre trailers, Ayer’s villainous ensemble was hailed as the potentially fun, irreverent movie that could set the DC movie universe back on track. Which is a lot of pressure to put on a movie starring lesser-known comic book names like Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, and Killer Croc.

Now, the first critical reviews have arrived online, and it’s looking like Suicide Squad has more in common with Batman v Superman than people had hoped — and not for the better.

In his B- review, EW’s Chris Nashawaty writes that Suicide Squad “kicks off with a fizzy, punk-rock ferocity before turning flat and spiraling into familiar formulas.” Although Davis, Smith, Robbie, and Leto all turn in complex, layered performances, they get bogged down by the convoluted plot and a less-than-exciting big bad.

Read more of Nashawaty’s review below, as well as what other critics thought of Suicide Squad (opening Friday).

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)

“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.”

Peter Debruge (Variety)

While that idea doesn’t make a lick of sense — especially since the U.S. wouldn’t be facing a meta-human threat if overzealous federal agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) hadn’t unlocked these bad guys to form Task Force X in the first place — implausibility alone doesn’t make it any less enticing to imagine how a director of David Ayer’s caliber might pluck nine of the most ill-behaved characters from the DC stable for an intense spandex-clad, super-powered spin on The Dirty Dozen. But for reasons beyond Ayer’s control, he’s beholden to the corporate vision of other recent DC adaptations, most notably Zack Snyder’s sleek-surfaced and oppressively self-serious riffs on the Superman legend. While it would have been amazing to see the director (fresh off WWII-set suicide-mission movie Fury) push his own nothing-to-lose anarchic boundaries, he’s ultimately forced to conform to Snyder’s style, to the extent that Suicide Squad ends up feeling more like the exec producer’s gonzo effects-saturated Sucker Punch.

Joshua Yehl (IGN)

“After seeing the trailer showing DC’s most eclectic superbad team throwing out zingy one-liners and doing wild stunts to the tune of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ you’d expect Suicide Squad to be a fun, subversive romp brought to life with neon-laced style. And it certainly is… for the first act of the movie. From there, it loses its zany charm and becomes something familiar, unexciting, and, worst of all, predictable. There are some enjoyable elements, namely certain standout performances from the star-studded cast, but that’s not quite enough to prop up the uninspired plot.”

David Ehrlich (IndieWire)

“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.”

Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)

“A puzzlingly confused undertaking that never becomes as cool as it thinks it is, Suicide Squad assembles an all-star team of supervillains and then doesn’t know what to do with them. 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 alluring cast and great expectations roused by some deceptively fun trailers should spark major box office at the outset. But a sense of disappointment will soon enshroud Suicide Squad, as it did the recent Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Richard Lawson (Vanity Fair)

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.”

Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 48

Rotten Tomatoes: 37 percent

Rated: PG-13

Length: 130 minutes

Starring Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Viola Davis, Jared Leto

Directed by David Ayer

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Suicide Squad
  • Movie
  • 130 minutes