“Suicide Squad” Movie Review
Why do we love villains so much? Of course we’ll always be rooting for the good-natured heroes like Superman, Captain America, Luke Skywalker and the like. But at the same time, it seems like we have a soft spot for their diabolical adversaries. I, for one, have been totally guilty of it. Batman is my favorite superhero. But after the 2008 release of The Dark Knight, I bought a few Joker t-shirts and pinned a poster of him on my bedroom wall. There’s just something so alluring about fictional supervillains. Maybe it’s their callous yet magnetic personalities. Or maybe it’s their fearlessness and their extreme disdain of the law. Either way, the bad guys are usually the cool guys.
Writer and director David Ayer (Training Day, End of Watch) assembles the best of the worst in Suicide Squad, the newest addition to the DC universe. The film follows Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman, which polarized critics and audiences alike and spurred doubt about DC’s future. The cinematic universe has struggled to find its footing since Man of Steel. In the wake of Marvel’s success of being light-hearted and narratively strong, the DC universe has managed to establish itself has being more dark, brutal, and, unfortunately, dull. But it also shows incredible potential. Suicide Squad definitely highlights said potential. Although it’s not much of an improvement in terms of storytelling, it’s still a ton of fun.
In the aftermath of the events of Batman V Superman, government intelligence officer Amanda Waller (portrayed fiercely by Viola Davis) proposes a plan to ensure national security: create a team made up of supervillains and use them to complete dangerous black ops missions. If the villains succeed, their sentences are reduced. If anything goes wrong, then government can place the blame on them. So when a powerful force threatens to destroy the world, the suicide squad is sent to set things right and save the day.
The film is a hot mess. It starts off strong with introductions to each character (including an awesome cameo by very familiar face), but after twenty minutes or so I started to feel like the placement of the scenes were scrambled. There are moments that would’ve worked better at the beginning, and scenes that should’ve been extended to get a better feel of atmosphere and character development. I read that David Ayer had gotten a ton of pressure from studio executives to churn out the script within a few months. There was also a stern push to slice and dice the film in order to make it more fun and light-hearted. This was in response to critiques that Batman V Superman was too dark. The stress and definitely shines through. The screenplay feels like a rough first draft and the editing is frustratingly choppy.
The team’s mission doesn’t even make a whole lot of sense. Yes, they’re a group of supervillains with super abilities, but the threat they’re going up against is so out-of-this-world. The team is built to handle small-scale missions, but then they’re forced to tackle such a large-scale, Guardians-of-the-Galaxy type scenario. Because the threat is out of their league, the characters aren’t used to their full potential. But whenever they do go into action, it’s still really fun to watch. Each scene is saturated in a consistent kinetic energy and a lively, neon style.
The best parts of the film were the characters. Even though some had more focus than others, they all were interesting and entertaining. Will Smith is great as Deadshot, a mercenary for hire, and brings the usual Will-Smith-isms to the role- snarky, charming, overall cool. Margot Robbie is great as Harley Quinn, portraying a deeply damaged character with a childlike insanity. I was worried about Jared Leto being cast as the Joker because it’s such an iconic character, and Heath Ledger had knocked it so far out of the park in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. But the biggest mistake you can make is to go in expecting a performance that either surpasses or lives up to Ledger- it won’t. This version of the Joker is more thuggish and modern, and Leto’s performance was on and off. At times he was genuinely creepy, but other times he overcooked it a bit. He’s barely in the movie, so maybe when we get a stand-alone Batman film, the Joker will have more screen time and thus I can see what more Leto can do.
The remaining members of the Suicide Squad are fine. Jai Courtney has funny lines here and there as Captain Boomerang, but the film doesn’t explore his abilities well. Joel Kinnaman is okay at the squad leader, Rick Flagg, though his romantic relationship with June Moone/Enchantress is completely forced and unbelievable. Jay Hernandez (Diablo), Cara Delevingne (Enchantress), Karen Fukuhara (Katana), and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Killer Croc) are fine although they get less chances to shine compared to Deadshot, Harley, and the Joker.
At the end of the day, I had fun with Suicide Squad. It’s definitely richer in spectacle than in story, and the story does crumble toward the end. However, the chemistry between the characters and the action sequences makes it entertaining. It’s nothing great-hardly anything really good- but it does add a little flavor to the DC universe.
Cosmic Grade: 2.9/5 stars