josh lewis’s review published on Letterboxd:
honestly didn't anticipate or want to be adding to the already vicious pile-on here but fuck this movie... straight up.
i mean, i guess this is what we deserve for making comic book movie universe's the new ~it~ thing in town (an amalgamation of all their worst elements, with none of the redeeming ones), but this literally isn't even a movie--it's a patch job of monumentally poor expository set-up followed by what's ostensibly a single, poorly directed/edited setpiece. meanwhile characterizations range from flimsy to non-existent as this team of "bad" guys (the only element of the film that was supposed to make this story mildly interesting, that these people are villains, is dead on arrival since they go through the exact same basic beats of reluctance and then camaraderie that literally every other hero team has gone through) aimlessly wanders through action so dull i can't even think of one memorable beat, let alone scene. granted, i did get up and take a breather outside the theatre when they started shooting the anonymous + armed black blobs... in mostly close-up compositions... at night, so it's possible i missed the only one.
the one thing i kept asking myself throughout this thing's obnoxious marketing campaign was "who is this movie for?" and even after watching i am still left kind of baffled by it. it's not for fans of character/action/the visual medium of film, that much is clear. but it's not for fans of ayer either, because even when he fails with the other qualities he typically gets by on grim, often vile relentlessness and nihilism (in plotting/subject but also filmmaking, a la the excitingly and exhaustingly evil Sabotage, the movie i request we show aliens first when they eventually do get here) but there's none of that to be found in this. the closest this thing gets to an interesting nugget of an idea is the finale's momentary emotional beats on coping with tough realities like, say--SPOILER-- sacrificing a future with your child (or lover) for the greater good but of course it's erased seconds later because this is franchise filmmaking, baby!!!!! them sequels!!$!!$! etc. is it for fans of these characters? i'm unsure. not actual ones, i don't think, anyway. the only remotely engaging character moment is an evocative image of harley + joker's relationship literally born of toxicity, too bad that hint at the inherently abusive themes of their pairing isn't present in any other aspect of the story. (update: apparently, surprise, it was supposed to be and was cut to make their relationship less morally murky lol. i guess forcing us to consider tough moral questions would ruin all the ~fun~, besides, we all know nothing says clean, clear morality quite like... super... villains.) the broad hot topification of the characters certainly doesn't help anyone either (though will smith gets by on sheer charisma, a genuinely impressive feat tbh), and the few tumblr locals they managed to attract with it will check out with the casual misogyny/stereotyping, so it's not for them either. it's also definitely not for adam beach fans. there's some good music in it, but it's not for fans of the songs since they seem inserted at random to make montages appear less awkward. it could be for fans of viola davis i guess, she gets through the script almost entirely unscathed, has the most interesting morals-or lack thereof-and has the absolute best moment in the entire film. ("behold the voice of god" [cut to viola davis scowling on an ipad a la her character in Blackhat.])
if i had to make a guess right now, i'd say this movie is for fans of modern movie marketing. the editing hack job attributed to john gilroy, but more than likely actually owed to Trailer Park--the company that cut the film's teaser trailer that reportedly inspired reshoots to match it in tone--feels like what's hopefully a milestone in the breaking point (wishful thinking) of the endless #hype machine that pushes for prolonged engagement with marketing over engagement with... you know... the actual film(making) or whatever. the blame definitely deserves to be shared around on this, the few bits that still look/"feel" like ayer's original vision seem misguided at best, but this absolutely does feel like a final product constructed by a marketing team, emphasizing quick, flashy, "engaging" beats and basic plotting regardless of context to pique mild interest first, capture the actual story/characters/mood second, assuming they even exist, and if this is the way pop movie culture is going... consider me long gone. tough stance, i know.