The events of “Suicide Squad” come in the aftermath of the finale of the previous film in the DC movie universe, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” As it opens, we find various villains from the DC comics wasting away time in prison. They won’t remain their long, however. Amanda Waller, one of the higher-ups in the U.S. government program A.R.G.U.S., has designs to put together a group of expendable metahumans and super criminals. This group would theoretically be designed to fight back if the next Superman turns out to be a bad guy (and do the dirty work of the government in the meantime).
Waller finds a great deal of resistance to the idea, but the task force is fast tracked when Midway City suddenly finds itself under threat.
Can these killers and misfits work together under duress to defeat the threat? Can they actually ever be controlled? What aren’t they being told? What will happen when they find out?
The film is very much a comic book film, with kooky characters, powers, abilities, and raucous action. It is aimed at people who enjoyed “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” while also trying to widen the net to a larger audience by including more humor and “edginess.” DC fans generally will enjoy seeing characters they know from the comics and animated series on the big screen. What awaits to be seen is if they will enjoy the way the characters are portrayed, and the story that they have been placed in.
The film is designed to be more humorous and fun than “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and it is made to be a summer blockbuster. People who are looking for more in-depth character studies, or interesting themes, should probably look elsewhere.
There are some people who will absolutely hate this movie. They have some good reasons for their hatred. “Suicide Squad” has many flaws. It has choppy editing and storytelling, with poor flow between scenes. It has an inconsistent tone that flits between humorous, lighthearted action and over the top drama. It has occasional characterization missteps, and often underutilizes characters, like Jared Leto’s Joker, and there is some wasted potential from the core concept.
All of those flaws pale in comparison to the poorly conceived plot and unfortunately chosen villain. The nature of the villain, the evil plan, and the story’s very basic and stereotypical plot all undermine the film and its promise. This film could have crafted a distinct identity for itself, and the trailers made it seem like it was going to do that, but in the end it is just another typical superhero film, with the exception that the “heroes” are bad guys.
Still, there are things to like in the film. While there are design missteps, I mostly looks terrific with well-made costumes, and an interesting and distinct visual flare. The soundtrack is terrific, and while the tracks do not always pair well with what is happening on screen, when they do it just feels right. The cast is great, and each actor is well selected to play their part. The performances are spot-on from all of them, but especially Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn.
There is a lot of crap to sift through to get to the good bits. I would never say that this is a great film, but did I have a good time at the theater? Yes, I did. It may not be a film to go gaga over as I had hoped, but it is worth a rental. It is an enjoyable enough movie to watch. More than anything, however, it is fun to see these characters on screen. I enjoyed “Suicide Squad,” despite the myriad valid reasons why it is an objectively weak movie, so in the end it is really just a…
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If you enjoyed this review, keep on reading for “The Long Take” which goes into more detail, but avoids major spoilers, and “Spoiler Talk,” where I can and will talk about anything I like. Don’t forget to support me on Patreon!
Note: “The Long Take” is where I go into more detail as to what I liked and didn’t like in a film. While I do not spoil specifics about any ending, I use this space to openly discuss things like character screentime, motivations and certain relationships. I may even mention the end in vague and generalized terms. I save any specifics for “Spoiler Talk,” but if you are especially averse to anything like a spoiler, I would not read further.
The characters of “Suicide Squad” are the clear strength of this film, even if several of them are criminally underutilized. Deadshot and Harley Quinn are the real main characters here. Will Smith brings just the right mixture of ruthlessness, humanity, and humor to make the role of Deadshot work. Margo Robbie absolutely inhabits the role of Harley Quinn and, outside of the different costume, it feels like she was translated directly from the animated series to the big screen.
None of the others get nearly as much time or characterization as those main two, but they’re still interesting to watch. Jai Courtney as captain boomerang was actually a lot of fun, and he brought a sort of filthy mischievousness that rounded out the group’s personality very well.
El Diablo was another great character. I liked his tragic backstory and redemptive character arc. He also added some moral musing that none of the other characters allowed themselves to do.
Killer croc croc looks great visually, and I like the brooding danger he adds, but I feel like he was mostly present only for the fighting. The most he does is growl, throw some punches, throw some people, and swim a little.
Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag, and Cara Delevinge’s Enchantresses both play a big part in the plot, and there are many reasons that they should have played a big role in the heart of the film to help the audience care more about the stakes in this film. However, The few scenes we are given in which to feel for these characters are not enough. Rick Flag comes across as a bit of a boring hypocrite, and Enchantress, while visually interesting at times, has problems that I will hold for “Spoiler Talk.”
I really have no idea why Katana was in this film. Of all of the characters she has the least to do, and the lease to add to the feel of the movie, to the core concept, or to the plot overall. There is a lot that could be done with her character, but not in this movie. Ultimately her presence is a waste.
Most unfortunately, Jared Leto’s Joker, who is sold in the marketing as playing a much bigger part, is marginalized and sidelined. Again, I feel that I can go no further without spoiling what exactly happens in the film so I will talk more about how I feel the Joker should have been used in “Spoiler Talk.”
Viola Davis is absolutely terrific as Amanda Waller. She plays her in such a cold, calculating, ruthless, and yet pragmatic manner that she thoroughly nails the part. She is powerful. She is smart, but she has no sense of remorse. She is heartless, and she is by far the best live action version of the comic book character so far.
Throughout the film these people are given some decent character moments. They each exude the personality of the source material. In many ways I just wish that there would have been a lot more of that, And a lot less of the things I didn’t like.
For all of the things I liked, there were quite a few things that I felt were questionable or outright poor. Starting with the small things, the film is very exposition-heavy at the beginning. That is a nearly inescapable issue with large ensemble films like this one – especially when many of these characters have never been put to screen before. That doesn’t prevent it from feeling like we are having the story told to us rather than experiencing it.
To be fair, they did some pretty good little vignettes for most of the characters. In fact, if they had managed to keep that look and tone for the majority of the movie I think it would have turned out better for them. It was a little fourth-wall breaking, and self-aware in the vein of “Zombieland,” though not as extreme as “Deadpool. They did not keep up that style, however.
The sad fact is, they couldn’t seem to decide on a tone. It was all over the place. Sometimes it had the edgy humorous tone from the trailers. Other times, it was overly dramatic, with slow motion and swelling music.
None of that is helped by the choppy editing. It just seems to jump around, and it serves to break up the flow of the storytelling and the atmosphere so that you are unable to fully enjoy either. There was little connective tissue or effort to add flow. Instead they jump roughly from one scene to another. It makes it feel like a jumbled mess.
Speaking of jumbled messes, the action scenes should have been a highlight of this film. That is not the case. The action scenes are shot from weird and close angles, and with such quick cuts that you cannot fully make out what is going on. What’s more, the bad guys they’re fighting are the sort of boring, faceless, cookie-cutter enemies that players might mow through during a basic video game level. There are occasional standout moments where the action is pretty cool and intense, but that should be a given in a film like this.
As rough as all that is, they were not the most frustrating flaws. The biggest flaw this film has is actually something else. It all comes down to the villain. The bad guy in this film is very impersonal. Not because it couldn’t have been made more personal, because those threads did exist, but rather because they did not do enough with what they had set up. Beyond that, they did a poor job of explaining who the bad guy really was, and what their plan was all about.
What we ultimately have is another worldwide threat – a beam in the sky, with danger floating above the city in all its cliched and boring glory. Some films that have this kind of threat also manage to pair it effectively with a villain that feels more personal or more charismatic. It might be a little unfair to compare this movie to “The Avengers,” but in that film the giant portal in the sky was paired with the very personal, interesting, and charismatic Loki. This film does not have that balancing factor.
Because the villain is ultimately a worldwide threat, the whole film is undermined. It is not just the tone, it is the whole concept. Why would these misfits and criminals be sent after a worldwide threat when characters like Flash clearly exist? This is especially true for low-power characters like Harley Quinn. I get that you would want to fight crazy with crazy, or that the government might want a black ops team that they don’t have to worry about keeping safe and that they can always write off in case things go south. However, they don’t really fit the bill of the threat level in this film.
Conclusion and Star Rating:
Almost all of the film’s issues feel like they were caused by studio meddling. It feels like there were two very different versions of what this film was supposed to be, and so these two visions were forced into the same skin. Unfortunately, this means it came out with little soul. It lacks a lot of the cleverness that I feel was promised. It doesn’t have much artistry either – not even just in higher-minded things like themes, but also in the simple things like plotting and action. However, outside of a director’s cut we will never know how much of the film’s problems lay at the feet of the studio, and how much at the feet of the director.
I enjoyed seeing these characters on screen being portrayed by capable actors, and I like the style and attitude it brings. Is it a particularly great film? No. Can you still have fun watching it? Yes. Because of that, I will say that “Suicide Squad” is a “Good” movie.
There is only one thing I really want to talk about in this “Spoiler Talk,” and that is the villain, the Enchantress. I love a lot of things about her initial smoky and almost Gollum-like design, and about the potential in her character. It also makes sense that of all these characters she would be the one who is least controllable. However, the second she joins her brother everything becomes a little silly, and it begins to feel like they belong in a different movie. The brother turns into a giant CGI monster. The Enchantress turns into a female wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man. If her erratic movements and her mostly still head were supposed to be unsettling, then they succeeded, but not quite in the way that I think they would want. It is unsettling, because it feels so fake and CGI, not to mention a little ridiculous.
The whole design of the final confrontation felt very uninspired. It felt like a basic D&D boss encounter, where our intrepid adventures have wandered into the layer of the lich who is casting a big spell and must be stopped. That sort of thing is fun to play, but it is fairly boring to watch unless they managed to bring some cleverness to the design of the encounter. There was no wit in this one’s design at all.
She also has some of the stereotypical villain moments that make no sense. At one point with a wave of her arm she disarms all of the characters, but for a whole fight scene previous she was leaping around, fighting and slashing at the main characters with blades. Was she just doing that for kicks? Why didn’t she disarm them sooner? On top of that, the film has to bend over backwards to make our heroes feel like they could possibly take on this challenge. The resolution feels very ham-fisted.
There are a number of ways that they could have fixed this film. Perhaps they could have them sent out of the country to do a black ops mission that the government would not want known. When they get there everything goes to crap, and you could have backstabbing and betrayals and you could have a lot of fun with it. There would also be more room for down to earth action scenes that fit their power sets. Or, you could have the government try to send them to take out the Joker. That way, you could include the Joker while making it a task that they could perhaps actually succeed in. This would also provide a lot more personal drama since Harley Quinn has complicated relationship issues with the Joker. It would also give Jared Leto the additional screen time he deserves for his interesting and unique take on the Joker.
Aside from that, there are a couple other character notes that I would have liked to see approached differently. Will Smith’s Deadshot “likes putting the mask on” but almost never does. Rick Flag gives Deadshot a helluva time for being a murderer, and then just sort of shakes his head when Amanda Waller kills a whole bunch of innocent people in cold blood. I believe there were a few others, but they are not coming to mind right now.
Well, I believe that is all for this review. Until next time!