What the critics are saying about Suicide Squad

After the lukewarm reviews that greeted Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the DC Extended Universe really needed to turn things around with Suicide Squad—and the studio's latest installment in its big build-up to Justice League seemed like it might be able to restore some of its lost luster. After all, the story offers something of a fresh twist: unlike BvS, which boasted prototypical good guys Batman and Superman, Suicide Squad offers up a bevy of baddies dragooned into attempting a supervillain takedown. So is the film a deadshot that hits the mark with a healthy mix of frenzied fun and crazy characters, or a killer croc of you-know-what? Here's what the critics have to say.

It's chaotic, and not in a good way

If director David Ayer hoped Suicide Squad would sidestep all the mistakes Zack Snyder made with BvS, it looks like those hopes were in vain. Reviewers largely describe Squad as an uneven and confusing landscape of characters, plot, and comedic afterthoughts (the movie's jokes, reportedly added in via re-shoots, are apparently very out of place). The Playlist's Rodrigo Perez, for one, described it as "a patchy, makeshift effort of mismatched tones, tacked on jokes and messy narrative" which never hits its stride as the Deadpool-style action-comedy it so clearly aspires to be.

It's also too dark

One of the chief complaints critics and audiences leveled against Dawn of Justice was the overwhelming doom and gloom of its tone, and despite the fact that the Suicide Squad previews teased a subversive thrill ride with kicky characters who know all about letting the good times roll, it doesn't deliver. Variety's Peter Debruge writes that the film "plunges audiences right back into the coal-black world" of BvS and fails to offer up any "levity and irreverence to an increasingly unpleasant comic-book sphere." So, not your basic bring-the-kids-and-popcorn weekend fare (like with any given Marvel movie)? Yikes.

The characters are charming, Deadshot and Harley Quinn in particular

The first act of the film establishes the squad, which includes Will Smith as auto-aiming marksman Deadshot and Margot Robbie as the delightfully unhinged Harley Quinn, and many critics say these scenes get the movie off to a promising start. Movies.com's Erik Davis praises the characters' quirkiness as a particular strength of the picture. "The greatest thing about this film is its groundbreakingly diverse ensemble," he writes. "The moments when they're together, going all-in on their respective characters' personalities, are among the best of the film."

Other critics contend that it's Smith and Robbie who stand out as the film's finest. The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips writes that Smith's turn as the can't-miss-won't-miss character is a welcome relief, writing, "His screen presence is informed by relaxed authority, there's underplaying is a relief. In this headache of a movie, he provides the aspirin." He adds that Robbie's turn as the demented doctor-turned-death-dealer Harley is "radioactively watchable, swinging her baseball bat this way and that, selling this skeezy male-fantasy nut-job with wide-eyed enthusiasm." Pretty close to the stuff fans hoped to see from these two, then.

But the plot is too bonkers to compute

The film attempts to establish a pseudo-supernatural evil element by way of a witch who transports her soul into an innocent woman (Cara Delevingne's June Moone), turning her into Enchantress. She creates a brother who can heal her from a stab wound to the heart and tries to build a giant portal through which terrible things can arrive—all of which is, per Uproxx's Mike Ryan, "baffling." He writes, "Doesn't it make more sense for the Joker to be the villain than a dancing CGI witch?" While Delevingne has climbed the Hollywood ladder in recent years, reviewers are simply not impressed with the material she had to work with here.

Leto's Joker doesn't have time to measure up to his predecessors

Jared Leto has admitted that the role of the Joker became "hallowed ground" after the late Heath Ledger's great performance in The Dark Knight Rises. And while critics give him credit for changing up the look of the character—in lieu of Ledger's gnarly face scar, Leto dons metal teeth caps and a multitude of tattoos, for example—they also contend the Oscar winner doesn't quite measure up to the giants who owned the role before him. "Leto brings a measure of the requisite unpredictability and evil glee to the role," wrote The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy, "but his Joker doesn't threaten the big-screen hold on the public imagination that Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger established."

Perhaps it's because he didn't get as much screen time as he may have deserved? The same reviewers who've blasted the plot note that he really isn't left with much to do in this movie except to explain away the sordid history that made Harley Quinn such a murderous maniac in the first place. As Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty puts it, "he's the most dangerous live wire in the film, but he's stranded in the periphery."

It still isn't as hated as BvS

Critics really hated Dawn of Justice—and while they aren't particularly fond of Suicide Squad, they seem to dislike it slightly less. The overall consensus is that it's a valiant attempt to try something new in the comics genre that fails to live up to the promise of its previews. All in all, it doesn't quite look like the DCEU cornerstone the studio's been hoping for in its quest to keep up with Marvel, but at least it's a small step in the right direction.