It has the star line-up. It has the cool characters. It has the devoted fan base. It even has a series of cracking trailers that have successfully roused the general public into a barely-contained lather of excitement.
But all of this has amounted to not nearly enough according to the majority of early 'Suicide Squad' reviews, which have collectively labelled the latest offering from DC Comics as messy, uninspired, and -- surprisingly -- dull.
Starring a roll-call of Hollywood's most popular actors (our own Margot Robbie and Jai Courtney among them), and directed by David Ayer ('Fury', 'End of Watch'), 'Suicide Squad' was meant to be DC Comics' answer to Marvel's 'The Avengers'... in other words, a refreshing, revamped look at a superhero world with a never-ending budget and super famous cast to boot. AKA, box office gold.
While 'Suicide Squad' may still reel in the punters (even the most scathing reviews can't undo a marketing campaign that good) early viewers are issuing a single warning to those lining up for tickets: prepare to be disappointed.
Based on the DC Comics antihero team of the same name, 'Suicide Squad' is comprised of a bunch of dangerous, incarcerated supervillains who are released from prison by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) in order to complete a top-secret mission.
The supervillains in question are namely Deadshot (Will Smith), a deadly assassin known for his marksmanship; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) a former psychiatrist who went nuts after treating and subsequently falling in love with The Joker and Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a tattooed pyromaniac with the ability to spew flames.
There's also the Aussie thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney); Slipknot (Adam Beach), a rope whisperer who can 'climb anything', possessed scientist June Moon (Cara Delevingne) and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) whose name is pretty much self explanatory.
Finally, Jared Leto brings his trademark method acting process to the role of The Joker, but we'll get to more on that later.
As for what the critics have been saying?
The most damning review comes from Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair, who wrote:
Suicide Squad is bad. Not fun bad. Not redeemable bad. Not the kind of bad that is the unfortunate result of artists honorably striving for something ambitious and falling short. Suicide Squad is just bad. It's ugly and boring, a toxic combination that means the film's highly fetishized violence doesn't even have the exciting tingle of the wicked or the taboo. (Oh, how the movie wants to be both of those things.) It's simply a dull chore steeped in flaccid machismo, a shapeless, poorly edited trudge that adds some mildly appalling sexism and even a soupçon of racism to its abundant, hideously timed gun worship. But, perhaps worst of all, Suicide Squad is ultimately too shoddy and forgettable to even register as revolting. At least revolting would have been something.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wasn't much kinder, giving the film one star out of four and opening his review with the paragraph:
The anticipated savior of a bummer summer turns out to be a grabbag of what's been off and awful about recent comic-book epics (Captain America: Civil War excepted). Suicide Squad wussies out when it should have been down with the Dirty Dozen of DC Comics. Audiences complained that Batman v Superman was too dark and depressing. So director-writer David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury) counters with light and candy-assed. I call bullshit.
The attitudes to individual performances were generally kinder, though many noted the actors were forced to do what they could with sub-par material.
"Smith and Robbie had sparkling chemistry together in 2015's little-seen con caper Focus, and of course Viola Davis is Viola freakin' Davis, and these noble three do slog their way through the gunk of this material and occasionally find something worth playing, reflecting a tiny bit of light that dimly bathes those of us in the audience," notes Lawson, while The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw writes:
"Robbie steals the movie from most of her co-stars, but the real scene-stealer is Viola Davis, playing soberly dressed federal apparatchik Amanda Waller: it's an excellent, coolly menacing performance."
McCarthy arguably sums it up best with his observation "the result resembles a sports dream team whose combined efforts don't nearly measure up to the talents of its individual players."
And as for Leto's Joker?
Well, apparently he's not really in the movie that much.
"All that talk about Jared Leto going super-Method to play the Joker, tormenting his castmates and whatnot, has led only to a lukewarm display of villainy that, it turns out, teeters on the line between small supporting role and outright cameo. After all that, Leto's Joker is barely in the damn movie, and when he is, he's entirely underwhelming," fumes Lawson.
Peter Debruge of Variety writes "[Ayer] and Leto manage to invent a version of the Joker every bit as unsettling as the late Heath Ledger's immortal incarnation, turning the iconic Batman rival into a ruthless seducer (hunt down "Mr. Nobody" to see the origins of Leto's wicked deep-throated cackle), but the character barely has anything to do."
Says Zacharek: "Leto is so textbook twitchy that he barely comes off as menacing. And his scenes with Robbie have no spark, no lunatic ardor. If you can't strike a spark with Robbie, something's terribly wrong."
So there you have it.
While there's little doubt 'Suicide Squad' will perform at the box office, it's a shame to think what could have been a bonafide masterpiece could turn out to be a massive flop.
And in case you think we're overreacting, we'll sign off with Travers' parting words: "Forget Batman v Superman -- at least it tried. This botch job makes Fantastic Four look good."