Commentary: "Suicide Squad" is exactly as bad as you think it is, says CNET's Caitlin Petrakovitz. Why? Probably because DC's writers and directors think we're idiots.
Caitlin PetrakovitzDirector of audience
Caitlin Petrakovitz studies the Marvel Cinematic Universe like it's a course in school, with an emphasis on the Infinity Saga years. As an audience expert, she rarely writes but when she does it's most certainly about Star Trek, Marvel, DC, Westworld, San Diego Comic-Con and great streaming properties. Or soccer, that's a thing she loves, too.
"Suicide Squad" didn't start this joke of a cinematic universe, but it sure isn't the savior it could have been.*
The biggest sticking points with DC universe movies? DC makes disjointed films. DC thinks you need your hand held to cross a street. It thinks you won't be able to tell the difference between a music video and a movie.
Even more than the universally slammed "Batman vs Superman," "Suicide Squad" felt utterly confusing, in large part because it doesn't know what it wants to be. Is this a lovable ragtag group of "good yet so bad" guys? Is it the Will Smith posse? Why should I care about any of them? I'm still not convinced I should.
As CNET's Luke Lancaster says in his review, the whole film feels "more like a two-hour trailer than a feature-length film." And that's no surprise. Warner Bros. brought in the company that cut the original "edgy" trailer to edit parts of the film after the studio was scared by negative reviews of "BvS," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Writer/director David Ayer gives you zero chance to get to know these characters organically and smacks you over the head with their "accomplishments" by way of head honcho Amanda Waller. When the characters are introduced, it's through character cards** and poorly constructed flashbacks.
The film starts with our bad guys in custody already, instead of showing us how they got there. Then evil leader Waller spends the next act telling the bigwigs onscreen (but really us, the viewers) how all these baddies came to be jailed at a Louisiana black site.
What happened to the tried and true "show don't tell" rule? Show me how they all got caught (except Slipknot, I guess^), then show me where they're being kept. It would've given the audience a better chance to get invested in the Joker and Harley Quinn's relationship, and set up Deadshot's family issues in a more relatable way -- oh, and been a way more fun look at the not-so-secret Batman cameo.
More importantly, DC and Warner Bros., it would've proven that you have faith in your audience, that you trust us to get there on our own.
"But 'Guardians of the Galaxy' did the same thing!" I can hear you saying it already. Except, no. What "GOTG" did was exactly what I'm suggesting: Marvel threw the characters into a fight, showed us their skills and desires and then gave us tiny, mini-bios on them, sans-flashbacks.
"GOTG" didn't shove that ragtag team's life stories in our face first; Marvel gave you a reason to understand and maybe even like those random rejects. DC gives us no reasoning and, even worse, no desire to care about these bad guys.
The worst part is about "Suicide Squad" is the movie could have been so awesome and fun, a real lifeboat for the filmic DC Universe. Instead it's a really bad, ugly joke of an effort.
** Yes, you read that correctly: There are character cards in the movie. They look like promotional materials, and if they came any earlier in the film I would've thought it was a preview before the actual movie. I mean, Are you kidding me Warner Bros? You legitimately thought that was the best way to introduce these new characters?!? Man, I miss the days of heavy-handed newspaper headlines.
^ Slipknot's death is so telegraphed it has no scare factor (which is, incidentally, the only reason for his death). He dies shortly after his one line, which directly follows our first look at him. He didn't even rank a title card. Listen, if you're gonna kill a character to prove you can, don't telegraph his fate.