THE SUICIDE SQUAD: 8 Reasons The Movie BOMBED At The Box Office This Weekend

The Suicide Squad earned less than 10% of its budget domestically this weekend, and it's gone from being praised as one of DC's best films to getting touted as a flop. Here's where Warner Bros. went wrong!

The Suicide Squad is being released at an undeniably difficult time for the film industry, and the impact of COVID-19 and streaming will continue to be felt for a long time to come. 

Unfortunately, despite receiving heaps of critical acclaim prior to being released, James Gunn's first DC Comics film bombed at the box office domestically and overseas this weekend. Audience reactions have been less positive than anticipated with a B+ CinemaScore, and a massive $185 million budget (plus another $100 million on marketing) has proved deadly for Task Force X.

Where did it all go wrong? 

There are some obvious answers to that question (piracy, for example), and then some you might not have given any consideration to. In this deep dive investigation, we attempt to figure how Warner Bros. dropped the ball with The Suicide Squad, and whether this franchise, and indeed the DC Extended Universe itself, stand any hope of being salvaged...
 

8. Idris Elba Isn't Will Smith

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There's simply no denying that Idris Elba is an incredible talent, but he's not a box office draw. That's evident from the films he's had leading roles in outside the MCU (The Dark Tower, for example), so it's no wonder moviegoers weren't dying to see him in action as much as Will Smith's Deadshot. 

Smith and Margot Robbie sharing the screen is a big part of why 2016's Suicide Squad was so commercially successful. However, with the actor declining to reprise the role of Floyd Lawton here, Gunn's film becomes the latest sequel to a Will Smith picture minus Will Smith to flop at the box office.

Asking casual fans to get invested in the stories of villains like Bloodsport and Polka-Dot Man was a big gamble and not one that paid off. More of Deadshot and Harley Quinn's relationship, however, would have at least grabbed the attention of those who had a good time with this film's predecessor.
 

7. James Gunn's Name Means Very Little To Non-Fans

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From the start, The Suicide Squad has been heavily marketed with James Gunn's name plastered over posters and trailers. While some promos mentioned Guardians of the Galaxy, even that's not really enough to appeal to casual moviegoers who are so often unaware of who is behind the camera. 

As talented as Gunn is, he's not a Steven Spielberg or Christopher Nolan. Even helming two hugely successful Marvel Studios films hasn't quite put him on the map in the same way as those filmmakers, so Warner Bros. was expecting people to care about something that, honestly, means nothing to the vast majority of non-fans. 

At best, they've maybe convinced some big MCU fans to give the DCEU a chance, but what Gunn does here is so different to Guardians, we can't imagine they're gonna stick around now. 
 

6. A Confusing Marketing Campaign

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Gunn's name aside, and The Suicide Squad's marketing campaign has been baffling from the beginning. Right away, the film's immature, raunchy humor was front and center, and we have to believe that was a turn off for a lot of people...well, short of 14-year-old boys who think John Cena eating a beach covered in d*cks is the funniest thing they've ever heard. 

More important, however, was the lack of clarity over what The Suicide Squad actually is. Its title is nearly identical to a film that's widely considered one of DC's worst, and not even the cast seem to know whether it's a reboot or sequel. The truth is that it's essentially somewhere in-between, and a do-over for an effort that bombed back in 2016. 

That meant the trailers were promising a slightly less grimy version of what people hated watching in theaters five years ago. Warner Bros. dropped the ball here, and not knowing what this film actually was has left people with few reasons to want to brave theaters and seek it out.
 

5. People Don't Care About This Franchise

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Comic book fans may have spent years demanding a Black Widow film, but if those tepid box office numbers are any indication, it's not a sentiment the general public agreed with. With that in mind, not even Marvel Studios can elevate the Ant-Man franchise beyond a certain level, and that's because there's a limited amount of interest in certain characters and concepts. 

Now, it may be time to accept that the Suicide Squad franchise is one of them. The idea of villains being sent into battle as "heroes" to earn time off their sentences is a novel one, but it has limited legs beyond that. The Suicide Squad is a major upgrade from the 2016 film, but the concept is identical and Gunn actually repeats at least a few of David Ayer's mistakes.

After those initial shock deaths, pretty much all the leads make it to the end, and the idea they can be blown up for going rogue factors into this re-do only a couple of times. Looking ahead, the Suicide Squad might make for a better supporting act than a team given their own series of films. 
 

4. COVID-19 And The HBO Max Problem

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It's obvious that COVID-19 is causing problems right now, especially as cases continue to rise thanks to the Delta Variant. Theaters haven't closed, but people remain wary about sitting in a packed room and that's hurting the box office. However, with so many people vaccinated and the chance of death or serious illness lowered for them, the pandemic can only be blamed to a point.

Another problem posed this weekend was the ability to watch The Suicide Squad for free from the comfort of home. That's something film fans have embraced over the past year in a big way. 

There are those who still crave the big screen experience, but if you can watch a blockbuster like this bundled into the cost of your HBO Max subscription on a 65" TV, why bother risking the theater? We've still seen an apparent lack of interest, however, as The Suicide Squad debuted behind Mortal Kombat, a film that released at a time theaters were fully closed with mixed reviews.
 

3. The Unnecessary R-Rating

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We're not prudes here at CBM, and Deadpool, Joker, and Logan are all R-Rated comic book movies that made great use of their non-PG-13 ratings to do something new with the superhero genre.

That's not a club The Suicide Squad belongs in. Beyond some extremely OTT gore here and there and a lot of bad jokes, there's nothing thematically or tonally that requires an R. The story would remain largely the same, the characters wouldn't have to undergo any significant alterations, and the jokes would probably be quite a bit funnier (we're still cringing at the "splooge" line).

The key here is that without an R-Rating, this is a film that would have appealed to a wider demographic. Kids love Harley Quinn, and they'd have loved King Shark too.

With younger viewers unable to watch the film, The Suicide Squad instead targets a niche audience (primarily older males based on box office stats) and misses out on the families who helped Jungle Cruise and Space Jam: A New Legacy exceed expectations when they opened in July.
 

2. The DCEU Is Damaged Beyond Repair

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This isn't going to be an easy point to accept if you're a huge fan of the DC Universe, but Warner Bros.' "DCEU" (which still doesn't technically have an official name) may just be beyond saving.

The vast majority of films released under this unofficial banner have either been critical flops or commercial disappointments, with Wonder Woman and Aquaman the main exceptions. However, even the former was rejected by critics and fans alike after being released last December, proving that not even the same cast and creative team are surefire signs of another success. 

At this point, it feels like the DCEU has sunk to the same depths as the Transformers and G.I. Joe franchises. Sure, there will be some good films here and there if you go looking, but the general audience knows this isn't a brand associated with any sort of guaranteed quality...unlike the MCU. 
 

1. Harley Quinn Isn't As Popular As Warner Bros. Thinks

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Suicide Squad was a box office hit in 2016, and while it failed to resonate with most critics and film fans, the majority agreed that Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn was a highlight. The actress has certainly put a lot into this character, but when Birds of Prey was released in 2020, something surprising happened: the film underperformed (even with Harley's name in the overly long title).

Despite rave reviews from many critics, it seems the interest in the character wasn't as high as Warner Bros. suspected, with fans rejecting a version of Harley without Joker at her side. Similarly problematic was the fact that this wasn't the Birds of Prey film that they had spent years longing for. 

Ultimately, the biggest takeaway here might be that, while Robbie's Harley Quinn was part of a high-grossing film back in 2016, she's far from the DCEU's Iron Man. Anything she's put in does not find immediate success, and banking on her to guarantee that seems to have backfired with The Suicide Squad (Gunn has confirmed the studio wanted her in there) and further damaged the character.
 

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