Suicide Squad is widely considered to have been an embarrassing failure for Warner Bros. and DC, but is that narrative actually true? By most metrics, the movie was a success and continues to have a huge influence on pop culture as well as the future of the DCEU.

Released in 2016, Suicide Squad was the third movie to be made under the DCEU banner. Coming in the same year as the divisive Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it was initially seen as a chance for Warner Bros. and DC to expand the DCEU brand by introducing a new set of fun supervillains while still playing to the fans who appreciated the "darker" tone of Zack Snyder’s superhero movies. However, plans to establish Suicide Squad as a key part of the DCEU quickly hit a number of apparent snags. Reports of extensive recutting led to bad buzz before the movie even screened, and after it arrived, critics savaged the film even more than Batman v Superman. Thanks in large part to that negative critical reception, the movie is now seen as an overall failure.

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Nevertheless, DC and WB plan to spin off the film’s most popular character Harley Quinn in a new team-up movie, Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), while James Gunn has been hired to write (and possibly direct) Suicide Squad 2 and several other Joker-related movies are in development. Many argue that these are unnecessary after the failure of Suicide Squad - they're spining off characters from a movie so many people dismiss as an embarrassment - but was the 2016 movie actually a huge flop?

Truthfully, the perception of Suicide Squad as a movie that helped kill the DCEU is in many ways a false one. Indeed, David Ayer's film may actually point the way to resurrecting the DCEU.

Suicide Squad Is The DCEU's Worst-Reviewed Movie

Critics wasted no time in getting out their knives for Suicide Squad in their reviews: the plot was called muddled and incoherent; the film was blasted for being cut like a trailer and featuring an over-use of pop songs; the movie’s tone was also criticized for being all over the place. Early trailers seemed to sell it as a “fun” movie filled with gleefully demented characters, but according to critics, it became bogged down in the same gloom and darkness that made Batman v Superman a turn-off. And those characters, critics said, were never given a chance to make an impression amid all the confusing comic book business.

Many reviewers zeroed in on Cara Delevingne's wizard-like villain Enchantress as being a particular problem, while others singled out Jared Leto’s eccentric Joker performance as the movie’s biggest weakness. Still others lambasted the film for wasting the characters of Joker and Harley Quinn on a prelude that felt like outtakes from a longer sequence (indeed, director David Ayer would later say he wished he’d gone a different direction with the Joker). Ultimately, the film would finish with a 27% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, tying it with Batman v Superman for the dubious distinction of worst-reviewed DCEU movie ever and furthering the negative view of the whole franchise.

Suicide Squad's Box Office Was Huge

Though critics hated the movie, creating the narrative that it was a flawed movie at best and a disaster at worst, Suicide Squad still did huge business at the box office. The movie’s final take worldwide was $745 million (on a $175 million budget), making it to date the third-highest-grossing DCEU movie ever: Batman v Superman itself still reigns atop the list with $873 million worldwide, followed by Wonder Woman with $821 million. Suicide Squad out-grossed 2013’s Man of Steel ($668 million) and 2017’s Justice League ($657 million), movies that benefited from featuring much more well-known characters with previously-established cinematic credentials.

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It’s worth keeping in mind as well that Suicide Squad achieved its relatively huge worldwide box office numbers without the benefit of a release in China. Given the massive popularity of superhero movies in the Chinese market, a release there may well have boosted Suicide Squad’s numbers close to the $1 billion mark. By comparison, the original Guardians of the Galaxy, seen as a gigantic international success, finished with $773 million; even without China, Suicide Squad was still profitable by any reasonable measure.

This works directly against many of the criticisms. While financial success doesn't necessarily translate into quality, it does show that many of the "unappealing" aspects of Suicide Squad highlighted in reviews were actually a big draw to audiences, with the vibrant editing and contrasting tone making for a unique viewing experience. After all, the audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes were positive!

Page 2: Suicide Squad's Success Will Shape The DCEU Future

Suicide Squad Was A Massive Success For The DCEU

The box office for Suicide Squad was undoubtedly strong, but its enduring success can be measured by factors beyond its mere grosses. In terms of pop culture impact, the movie was unquestionably one of the biggest of 2016, and continues to resonate like few other films from that year. Much of that lasting pop culture appeal is down to Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. Already a rising star in the DC pantheon, the big screen version exploded her popularity; for the last few Halloweens, Harley Quinn has been one of the most popular costumes, and this year competed with Wonder Woman as the most-searched costume around the United States.

Even among those who criticize Suicide Squad, there is general acknowledgment that the movie has a unique and memorable look. A big part of that look came from the film’s makeup, which of course was awarded with an Oscar. Many mock the idea of Suicide Squad as an “Oscar-winner, but it's unavoidable it represents a key technical achievement. That award-winning makeup, as well as the costumes and of course the actors themselves, have created strong fan followings for Suicide Squad's many characters. Considering how the DCEU has struggled to make icons like Batman and Superman work in their shared universe, that's a major win.

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Why Suicide Squad Is Still Important To The DCEU

Take away the savage reviews on release, and it's clear that Suicide Squad got a lot of things right and will be important to the future of the DCEU. Along with the direct sequel and a Birds of Prey spinoff focusing on Harley Quinn, there's been discussion of films for Will Smith’s Deadshot, multiple for Jared Leto’s Joker, and others. It's a mini-universe within the DCEU, and after Justice League struggled, represents an area of proven hype.

So while many look at Suicide Squad and see a flop, Warners and DC clearly see a film that was profitable and featured several characters who can stand at the center of their own future movies. Suicide Squad is not going to be forgotten any time soon, even if critics might want it to be (although it's possible subsequent success will lead to something of a reevaluation). The narrative that the movie was a failure largely does not hold up under honest scrutiny. When all is said and done, Suicide Squad may be looked upon as the film that showed the way forward for the DCEU.

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