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Suicide Squad: A Success or Failure for the DCEU?

Suicide Squad: A Success or Failure for the DCEU? image

With a global box office that's about $500 million bigger than its production budget and a 26% score on movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, there are a lot of people wondering just whether or not Suicide Squad is going to be considered a success when all is said and done.

First off, real talk: about a week ago, when I realized that Suicide Squad was close to earning $500 million at the global box office, I casually remarked to a friend that a $600 million haul would likely be seen as a hit internally by Warner Bros. With that number seemingly surpassed as confirmed by director, David Ayer, that's an observation that seems to be turning into reality but more on that later.

It should also be acknowledged that the answer is likely to depend heavily on who you're asking.

The movie scored an "alright" B+ CinemaScore, and according to Rotten Tomatoes it earned 68% positive marks from audiences. That's somewhere in between the 65% scored by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the 75% from Man of Steel. So even while Suicide Squad earned the lowest rating yet from critics, audiences seem to generally like it.

(Yes, 68% is hardly an overwhelming number, but combined with the box office, it seems to be a pretty good indicator that people are thinking.)

Batman v Superman itself is a bit of a complication, too: the film is reported to have been budgeted at about $240 million, with a worldwide box office tally that more than tripled that number at $872 million. That would be a success for most movies, but given the profile of the project and the movies it was being compared to (including Marvel's $1 billion-grossing Captain America: Civil War), it's generally acknowledged that Warner Bros. wanted more from it internally.

Right now, Batman v Superman's theatrical run is sitting at almost $200 million more than Suicide Squad has made yet, and it seems unlikely, just due to the pace at which movies tend to earn their money, that Suicide Squad will equal that number.

Possibly more likely - although still a bit of a stretch, probably - is that Suicide Squad might catch up to the $773 globally earned by Guardians of the Galaxy, which could be a pretty meaningful metric.

The Guardians number may seem arbitrary, but there's something to be said for the comparison. First of all, Suicide Squad is one of a number of movies based on somewhat lesser-known comics projects, which have benefited from the success of Guardians. Given the copycat nature of Hollywood, some of them have even been attributed to the success of Guardians, but that's likely simplistic thinking: with comic book movies doing the kind of business they have been since about 2005, it was inevitable that sooner or later most of the A-listers would start to become exhausted and we would get some lesser-known comics characters onscreen.

Guardians, though, is an interesting basis for comparison because it is generally considered to be an unqualified hit. With a budget nearly identical to that of Suicide Squad and a similarly huge promotional campaign backing it, the biggest difference is that Suicide Squad featured cameos by Batman and The Flash -- although Guardians not only showcasing Thanos but explaining for the non-comics audience what the Infinity Stones are might even up that handicap.

Currently, Suicide Squad is about $100 million away from equalling Guardians' take, and it's pacing ahead of Marvel's surprise sci-fi hit by about $50 million worldwide. Still, Suicide Squad's reviews stung, and it's earning its money at a much slower clip than Guardians was at the same point. It started out huge but has dropped precipitously week over week and after four weeks at the U.S. box office, it's already earning less per week than Guardians did. This makes it feel pretty unlikely to catch up to the $772 number - or the $333 Guardians made domestically (Suicide Squad is currently sitting at $274).

So some of this might come down to whether or not Warner Bros. was hoping for a Guardians-size success. Early on, it was hinted that they had much more modest hopes for Suicide Squad; since it was being produced relatively inexpensively compared to the recent Batman and Superman films. Of course, that was before a torrent of praise for the film's trailers, before Batman v Superman did less than they wanted - basically it was back when Warner Bros. had a whole different take on what Suicide Squad was.

So...was Suicide Squad a hit? If you ask critics, absolutely not: fewer of them liked it than liked Batman v Superman, and that's pretty dismal. If you ask fan, it's a reserved yes. The impression seems to be that the movie could be better, but that it does what it sets out to do and entertains its audience. And if you ask Warner Bros.? Well, that's up in the air at this point, but that $600 million mark - especially if it can cross $300 million domestic (which should be a matter of days now) - is a pretty big number that's nearly four times the movie's production budget. It seems like that's hard to sneeze at.



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