The review embargo for Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer for Warner Brothers and DC Films, was lifted today. So I am going to use this blog post to process the reactions to this film from the movie critic community, similar to what I did with Batman v Superman. Please note that I will be focusing on Metacritic as a review aggregator, because Rotten Tomatoes is so misleading and misunderstoond, and I will also try to reference specific reviews as I am able to read and react to them.
Here's my prediction about Suicide Squad's success (prior to reviews).
Thus far Metacritic is registering 26 reviews and the average score out of 100 is sitting at 47. Thus far it is looking like a solidly average critical reception, with 7 positive reviews to 5 negative reviews, but a lot (14 out of 26) sitting in the middle and favoring 40 or 50 out of 100 instead of 50 to 60.
Bear in mind that there will probably be close to 50 total reviews when all is said and done, so we're only a little over halfway to a final average... but chances are very high that the average will end up somewhere between 40 and 55. In other words, we can be very confident already that it will be a middle to low reviewed film and it is NOT very likely that it will be in the red (below 40) or in the green (above 60).
I'm going to take a look at a few fairly reputable critics now...
Peter Travers from Rolling Stone seems to key on the fact that the "worst of the worst" are too redeemable and too likeable. This may be a matter of taste -- how bad does each audience member want the bad guys to be? In his review, he positions this as the filmmakers taking the safe way out rather than being truly daring with the movie. He loses respect from me quite a bit by the end, though, when he lobs needless insults at Ayer ("limp-dick") and says that Suicide Squad is worse than Fantastic Four. Now, I haven't seen the movie yet, but that still seems like hyperbole to me. He awarded a 25/100.
Brian Truitt from USA Today had a much more positive spin (88/100). He views the characters as rich and as having souls, even if they're villains -- and he views this as a good thing. This seems to confirm to me that the sympathetic take on the members of the Squad may really be a matter of taste. The main drawback that Truitt mentioned was simply wanting to see more of certain characters (e.g., Katana, the Joker), though he specifically praised Will Smith's performance, calling it his best in years.
No new reviews have been added to Metacritic in the last half hour, so the average is still 47/100.
Let's look at Richard Roeper, who is right around the average, giving a 50/100. He criticizes the movie for actions scenes that are non-innovative, some overly sentimental backstories, and he was not a fan of Robbie's performance as Harley Quinn. He also didn't seem to connect with Enchantress's character, but he gave some nods at the end of his review about some of the visual moments and some of the dynamics between characters (e.g., Deadshot and Flag). But overall, the review made it seem like he was going to give a worse score than 2 out of 4 stars.
Jamie Graham gave a 60/100 and called out the movies marketing as promising a more daring and unhinged movie than it delivered. Some of the character arcs are predictable, even if there are some good interactions between characters.
As usual, the reviews really seem to depend on what expectations the reviewer brought into the movie. If the expectations are met, then a film is reviewed more highly (and this is related to, but somewhat independent of the straight-up "quality" of the film). A pattern that I'm detecting in the reviews that I've read thus far is that people were expecting Suicide Squad to push the envelope farther than it actually did. They are dinging it for playing it relatively safe. Now, safe can still be well executed and good, but it may not be what some people were hoping for from this movie.
Only two more reviews have been added to Metacritic over the last 3 hours. There are 28 reviews in our of probably around 50 eventually, and the average is now 46 out of 100. One main thing I'm noticing is that a narrative is forming where Suicide Squad is being perceived by fans and opponents as being blasted by critics, or taking in overwhelmingly negative reviews. But it is not correct to talk about this as a negative reception --- thus far, it is a decidedly MIXED reception from critics. More than half of the reviews (15 out of 28) have given a mixed review, and there are more positive reviews (7) than negative (6). This, together with the average, paint a very clear picture of mixed reception.
A negative reception would have a plurality of reviews in the negative category, whereas SS has the least number of reviews in the negative category. A negative reception would lead to an average below 40, if not below 30. Instead, SS is mixed, which means rather than being a poorly made movie, it is very likely that it will be a matter of taste -- some people might connect with the tone, characters, and plot, whereas others might not connect with it at all. That means, for me at least, I am going to want to see it to find out for myself.