After months of insane marketing and sheer, unavoidable hype which gave the impression Suicide Squad would be the smash hit the DCEU seriously needs, reviews for the David Ayer movie hit this week, and what happened next was savage. Even cast members such as Will Smith and Cara Delevingne couldn't resist responding to the critics. As of today, Suicide Squad actually has an inferior Metacritic score (42/100) to the widely-panned Batman v Superman. That's depressing.
Is Suicide Squad honestly a two-star movie? X-Men: Apocalypse faced many similar criticisms (though it did a touch better critically, at 52 on Metacritic) but turned out to be a hugely entertaining blockbuster. Was it perfect? Did we really need to see Psylocke posing like a stripper at Auschwitz? Probably not. But it felt like a comic book slapped onto the page in all of its chaotic glory, and taking a magnifying glass to the logic of the plot is kind of missing the point.
So, on the eve of Suicide Squad hitting theaters at long last, here are five rseasons you absolutely must check in with Harley Quinn and friends when Suicide Squad arrives this weekend.
1. It's Like Easter Came Early
What would a superhero movie be without a ton of Easter Eggs? Part of the experience is connecting the dots between what's happening in Midway City when Amanda Waller unleashes Task Force X, and what's happening elsewhere in the unseen corners of the DCEU. Batman v Superman referenced everything from the presence of The Riddler in Gotham City to Zorro, the very first American superhero movie.
I already wrote a guide to five Easter Eggs to keep watch for in Suicide Squad, but the truly committed, those who have consumed decades of DC Comics history and will most likely spot every veiled allusion to Poison Ivy or absent members of the squad, might prefer to go in blind and put their knowledge to the test. Two shoutouts have been confirmed already: Harley's iconic red-and-black jester suit (although sadly the Jersey girl won't actually be wearing it), and the fact that Captain Boomerang's long-time enemy The Flash will be the one to throw him into Belle Reve.
Assuming David Ayer knows his stuff, there'll be at least fifteen or twenty more Easter Eggs hidden away. How well do you know the DC Universe?
2. The DCEU Is Essentially The Batverse
Batman did not need to be in a film titled Suicide Squad, and arguably is only there because of his obvious box office draw and comic book fanboy appeal — but he is there, and that's an excellent thing because Ben Affleck's take on the Caped Crusader is the glue that will hold the entire DCEU together going forward. (He's also rumored to show up in Wonder Woman, and obviously takes the lead in Justice League.)
In fact, the DCEU could easily be referred to simply as the Batverse at this point. Bruce Wayne's vigilante alter-ego is arguably the most beloved superhero of all, but all of his cinematic outings so far have been self-contained stories (or a trilogy, in Nolan's case) which didn't leave much scope for exploring the Bat from the perspective of other heroes or villains in Gotham, Metropolis and beyond.
What we have now is a chance to explore everything around Batman: Arkham Asylum, his vast gallery of deliciously disturbed rogues, the filthy, crime-riddled streets of Gotham. The Batman mythos is so much more than the man himself, and that's the territory DC is now able to mine, making Batfleck's presence felt even when the man himself is lurking in the shadows. The DCEU may not yet have produced an epic as sprawling as The Dark Knight, but with Affleck in the director's chair for the upcoming solo Batventure, you'd best believe it's coming.
3. Amanda Waller Redefines The Evil Svengali
Marvel has a number of superbly talented serious actors doing God's work in the MCU (Samuel L. Jackson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton and, when Thor: Ragnarok hits, Cate Blanchett), but arguably none have the sheer gravitas of Viola Davis. As Amanda Waller, the MVP who brings the Squad together without a dime of concern for whether they live or die, the double Oscar nominee is quite simply the perfect marriage of actor and character.
When the dust settles on Suicide Squad, and whether we get a sequel or not, DC will have to find an excuse to bring the CIA agent back. Waller exudes murderous charisma, and although she describes her team of bad guys as "the worst of the worst", it's impossible to shake the suspicion that she is colder, more ruthless and more deadly than all of her puppets.
4. Straight-Up Heroes Have Become Boring
Put simply, superhero movies have reached an impasse. The bad guys of Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse were boring, which is a problem in a genre which needs villains for its heroes to have any purpose. (In DC's defense, boring is the one word that could never be used to describe the Lex Luthor of Batman v Superman.)
Suicide Squad is gleefully switching the entire, played-out good guy/bad guy dynamic on its head. There hasn't been a movie in this genre which really dives into what it is that makes the bad guys tick since, well, The Dark Knight.
Are Diablo, Boomerang, Deadshot and the rest of the crew truly "the worst of the worst"? Probably not. They're all recognisably human, but equally they've done bad things and probably will do again.
It's a truth universally acknowledged that superheroes who are just straight-up good have become dull, which is why Civil War and Batman v Superman went to such (sometimes misguided) pains to paint Captain America, Batman and Superman as morally corrupted by the very nature of being a "hero". Heroics are dead. It's about time we got to set up shop in the bad guys' lair.
5. You Know What The Last One Is...
I could spend all day raving about Amanda Waller or Batman, but let's face it — the star attraction here is the Clown Princess of Crime. Yep, Margot Robbie's breakout turn as Harley Quinn is the stuff of wet dreams for DC fans who probably never thought they'd see the Joker's on-off girlfriend tear up the big screen with a pair of skimpy shorts and a baseball bat. Harley is already a cult icon, and this is her movie.
So, there you have it: 5 reasons to dive into your wallet and head for the theater this weekend. Suicide Squad is a bit like hanging out with those mates from the year above you at school. You know they're trouble, but they're so much more fun than your usual friends, so you roll with them for an hour or two, break some shit, and then marvel in how good it feels to be bad — if only for a night.
Suicide Squad hits theaters tomorrow, Friday August 5.