If you look on Rotten Tomatoes, you'll find that the Suicide Squad has a low score with the critics (26%) and a decent score with the fans (72%). This is similar to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that (27% critics v 65% fans). What can explain the diverse reactions? Could it be something as simple as the critics are tougher on movies than fans are? I have a theory… and that is part of it.
When a movie like this comes out, I try to see it twice. Sometimes the fan in me overrides the writer and I don't really see the flaws on the first pass. I saw Suicide Squad on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend and where my overall feeling is that I like the movie and look forward to Wonder Woman to continue the building DCEU… I saw the flaws and I get what the critics are talking about.
There are three major flaws with this movie that I don't think the critics can get over but audiences do. Without getting into spoilers, here they are.
The opening – This is by far the worst opening 30 minutes of any superhero movie. As a writer I cringed at how much exposition took place around tables. First at the restaurant and then at the government meeting. The opening prison scene was unnecessary and then to spend that much time showing flashbacks and clips to just set things up. I'm guessing this was some of the reshoots put into the film because executives were worried that the audience needed to be spoon fed. I can't think of any screenwriter who would purposely front load a film with that much set up. This had to start things off badly with critics.
The mission – once we finally get to the action and a major super-villain starts to destroy a city… the team suits up and heads in to rescue a high-valued target. They are not given the mission to take out the villain. Why would the government green-light a team of meta-humans and not send them after the person causing the problem? It's not like the HVT had the ability to stop the bad guy either. That to me is a huge plot hole.
The marketing – The trailers seemed to frame the film as the second coming of Deadpool. That there would be a lot of irreverent humor. There was humor, most of which seemed to work better with the second audience I was with, but it was nearly as edgy as the impression the marketing gave it. This is the comic book equivalent of the Dirty Dozen, but it's much tamer than the fast past, Quentin Tarantino looking film the trailers were selling.
Now, once the film gets going, the team comes together and they get out there doing their thing… it picks up and becomes a fun, action-packed ride. You forget the horrid opening, skip over the mission flaws and enjoy the chemistry between the characters and the big fight. Hence most audience members coming out of the film thinking good things and glossing over the bad.
Critics don't get to do that. Their job is to remember both. Viewed with a critical eye the film falls apart… as does Batman v Superman. They judge the entire film from beginning to end. Audiences can judge a film based on how they feel coming out of the theater, and Suicide Squad does leave you feeling like you had fun.