Suicide Squad is the latest big screen superhero outing of the year and is DC Entertainment’s attempt to create its own cinematic universe to compete with rival Marvel’s cinematic universe. In the film, intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) decides to assemble a team of dangerous, incarcerated supervillains for a top-secret mission. Figuring it has nothing to lose, the U.S. government supplies weapons to Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and other despicable inmates. Dubbed the Suicide Squad, the united criminals must defeat a mysterious and powerful entity while contending with the antics of the diabolical Joker (Jared Leto).
In a smart (calculated?) casting move, Suicide Squad follows the Fast & Furious recipe of casting a racial melting pot of characters. This move makes sense since for big action, summer tentpole movies, foreign box office grosses are becoming increasingly more important than the North American box office. People don’t just want to see white people at the multiplex. Among the main characters, Robbie, Leto, Courtney and Joel Kinnaman represent the Caucasian contingent. Smith, Davis and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje represent the African-American contingent. Jay Hernandez, Karen Fukuhara and Adam Beach represent the Hispanic, Asian and the Native-American contingents respectively.
The diverse cast might be even more important for the studio since Warner Bros. might be banking on foreign box office receipts more than normal. As of today, Suicide Squad isn’t exactly a critical success with a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 44% on Metacritic. Suicide Squad could prove to be critic-proof however since Suicide Squad fans are threatening a shutdown of Rotten Tomatoes. Box office prognosticators are predicting an opening weekend as high as $140 million. If this holds true, the film could almost make back its reported production budget of $175 million (not including marketing costs) in its first three days of release.
Again, this is where foreign box office might come into play. China, which is the second most important global box office market (and soon to be first), isn’t too concerned with what American critics have to say. Even if Suicide Squad opens huge but has a huge second weekend drop, as long as the film is a hit overseas, Warner Bros. will have a hit on its hands. But back to the critics, I saw the film last night after seeing some absolutely scathing reviews. Needless to say, my expectations were low and I ended up being pleasantly surprised.
I enjoyed the film because of its tone. Suicide Squad is darker than many comic book films, even though most at least have a dark undercurrent. But what else would you expect from a movie named Suicide Squad? I wonder if its low critic scores are due to superhero fatigue. This year has been either a smorgasbord or oversaturation of superheroes depending on your point of view. Personally, I can’t wait for the fall movie season when I can watch some intelligent adult dramas that aren’t reliant on green screens and CGI.
On the other hand, I can appreciate a movie for what it is. Fans of the comics should be pleased with the result. Fans of the actors should also be pleased since most of the cast is each given a moment to shine. Speaking of shining moments, every time Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is on the screen, she steals every scene she’s in. This isn’t easy to do with a cast that includes award-winning actors like Davis, Smith and Leto. If nothing else, I’m curious to see what happens to Robbie’s career trajectory.
Suicide Squad opens in theaters August 5th.