‘Suicide Squad’ Writer John Ostrander Says Critics ‘Came Prepared to Hate’ the Movie
Negative reviews of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice led some DC fans to theorize that film critics are being paid by Marvel to bash the competition, and that journalists are out to “get” DC. Similar reviews of Suicide Squad only served to embolden these particular fans, who believe the negative critical response validates this wacky conspiracy theory and proves that critics have already made up their minds to hate DC films sight unseen. And now they have a little support from an authority on the matter: Suicide Squad comic book writer John Ostrander.
The veteran writer and creator of the modern iteration of Suicide Squad penned his own review of David Ayer’s movie for ComicMix.com. Ostrander was particularly fond of Viola Davis’ performance as Amanda Waller, who is based on the one original character he created for the comics. He also heaped praise on the casting of Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie, and applauded the depiction of their respective characters — though his description of Harley Quinn as “sexy, innocent, funny, lethal, crazy and dangerous” highlights the film’s weird, unfocused treatment of the fan favorite villain.
Ostrander’s reaction wasn’t entirely positive, though; he calls out the film for its weak villain(s) and criticizes Ayer for ignoring an opportunity to explore social and political themes:
The antagonist(s) are not well defined and, to my mind, you need a good antagonist to help define the protagonist(s). It’s the antagonist who usually sets the plot in motion and it is defined by what they want. The story is a little more generic “we have to save the world” than I usually did; I always liked having one foot squarely in reality.
I also liked having a political and/or social edge in my Squad stories. That would also give a greater feel of reality and I don’t see that here.
As for the negative reviews of Ayer’s film, Ostrander — whose wife, the late Kim Yale, was a film critic — offers empathy for journalists who “have to see all the films” and are likely suffering from superhero fatigue. But like many disgruntled DC fans, Ostrander believes critics are making a conscious decision to dislike these films before they see them:
If every superhero film is not The Dark Knight, they’ll bitch. I think that’s going on here to a certain degree. Just as I came prepared to love the movie, they came prepared to hate it.
Not only is that an unfair assumption, it’s a wholly inaccurate one. I don’t know a single journalist who writes about movies because they hate them, or who walks into a theater expecting a film to be terrible. We love movies, and we hope each one we see surprises us in a positive way; doubly so when our peers tell us a film isn’t good.
Many critics — like myself and our own Matt Singer — are fans of superheroes and comic books, including DC Comics. We didn’t want to dislike Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad. Our negative reactions are the result of genuine disappointment and frustration. Look, I named my seven-year-old cat after Harley Quinn. I want a movie starring Harley Quinn to be great.
Despite this unfair assessment of film criticism, Ostrander ended his review on a positive note, offering a piece of productive advice to the fan community:
Look, you can be the most important critic on Suicide Squad. In this case, your voice is your money. You decide if you want to see the movie and then go. If you like it, tell others. I guess you could also tell them if you didn’t like it but you don’t have to. I won’t mind.
And there it is. If a critic doesn’t like a movie you’re excited about, that’s okay. You can still go see it. Your friends can still go see it. And if you guys like it, share that enthusiasm online instead of spreading negativity and spouting hateful vitriol at film critics who don’t agree with you. It’s really that easy.