Certain pop-culture juggernauts — Star Wars, superhero flicks, even Harry Potter to some extent — are review-proof. Critics have little impact, because fans will watch these films in droves and subsequently make the studio bank, regardless. Suicide Squad falls into that same class, but as a big blockbuster this summer, it has an added boost to its quality: its competition, and its stakes.
It hasn’t even hit theaters yet, but it’s already the best blockbuster of the summer. If we look at the season’s other popcorn-style offerings, Independence Day: Resurgence is a dud, the Blake Lively shark and seagull movie is shockingly not destined for pop-culture longevity, Ninja Turtles has come and gone faster than a throwing star, and Warcraft quite impressively managed to underwhelm already low expectations.
The Lobster is excellent and the Daniel Radcliffe farting corpse movie is better than it has any right to be, but neither are mainstream works. Ghostbuster and Jason Bourne will be perfectly serviceable, but they’re both tiresome repetitions of recycled material. Sure, the Joker is recycled too — which might be why he was the most disappointing part of Suicide Squad’s trailer — but Harley Quinn, Ike Barinholtz’s mysterious character, and surprisingly Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang are invigorating screens with fresh characters. Even the square-looking squad leader Rick Flagg is more intriguingly bonkers than he seems.
It’s also trying to make Scott Eastwood happen, but you can’t win ‘em all.
And Suicide Squad has something unique that no other summer movie has: actual stakes. The failure of Batman v Superman has inadvertently given Suicide Squad an intriguing narrative around the film itself. After all, every good story needs stakes, the question of “will they or won’t they?” succeed at saving the world or getting the girl/guy or getting the Iron Throne.
In this case, this zany action-comedy populated by an oddball cast of characters and helmed by a guy best known for making cars go vroom now carries DC’s future on its shoulders. In the Snyderian era, we’re all wondering if DC movies can actually tell engaging stories. No other summer movie is surrounded by these kinds of stakes — except perhaps for Ghostbusters, but those are more about squashing misogyny than proving that it has storytelling ability.
By default of its comparisons to both its summer movie competitors and its DC brethren, Suicide Squad is automatically the movie of the summer, then. And so, in a move that makes a diabolical kind of sense and seems oddly fitting for our times, the unlikely savior of summer movie season is the Worst Heroes Ever.