There is a hell of a lot of pressure riding on Suicide Squad, especially with Warner Bros.’ previous two efforts to kick start their DC Extended Universe striking out with critics and at the box office (relative to Marvel). Can Suicide Squad build upon the world conceived in Man of Steel and help boost this shared universe before the Justice League suit up in 2017?
For those without an encyclopaedic knowledge of comic books, Suicide Squad, or Task Force X, is a team of rogues and villains brought together by the government to undertake covert operations in exchange for time off of their prison sentences. Directed by David Ayer (Fury), this particular adaptation boasts a team that consists of Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and is headed up by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Throw a new interpretation of The Joker from Jared Leto into the mix with a talented director and cast, and you have yourself a very exciting project. Except, the final cut of the film doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights that its individual components, as well as the overhyped expectations of fans, promise.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good film. Probably the strongest entry thus far into the DC Extended Universe, but it has a lot of very obvious problems that will ruin your enjoyment of the movie, if you aren’t swept up in the characterisations of these DC villains. For those worried that Suicide Squad would follow the dark and gritty path that Zack Snyder has clumsily drawn out in front of him, fear not. Suicide Squad is a fun movie, that entertains with its strong breadth of character interactions, with the film retaining the aesthetic that made Batman v Superman look so good, only with appropriate levity and splashes of colour sprinkled throughout.
The characters, or rather the characters that are given a chance to flourish, are the highlight of Suicide Squad. Although the film is about a large team of rogues coming together to unwillingly do some good, the main focus of the story is on Will Smith’s Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, who achieve that difficult balance of being both funny and compelling. Their back stories are fleshed out the most, and they are given the heavier character moments later in the story, that do a great job of humanising these criminals. In particular, Harley Quinn is a stand out, with Margot Robbie absolutely nailing this interesting and flawed character, especially as the film explores her relationship with The Joker, but more on him later.
In terms of the rest of the characters, apart from a contrived love story between Rick Flag and Enchantress, they aren’t really given enough screen time to truly flourish in their roles. A lot of them feel like after-thoughts, tacked on to make the poster look cooler. They just take part in the CG heavy fight scenes and linger in the background. El Diablo is given a redemptive character arc that is tightly squeezed into the last 20 minutes, pretty much keeping quiet until then, and Captain Boomerang, although quite entertaining in his drunken Aussie persona, is just there for comedic presence.
This wouldn’t be a problem if the final act didn’t require the team of villains and criminals to suddenly develop a conscience, and risk their lives for each other. For the characters that are properly developed, Harley and Deadshot, you can buy the change in attitude, because we spend time learning about their individual wants and needs. However, when the minor characters start referring to the Suicide Squad as their ‘new family’ after only spending a couple hours with them, it’s extremely difficult not to roll your eyes back into your sockets, and go blind forever. The film was very in my face about how these characters are different and individual, but most of them just followed the hero path, seemingly against their own characteristics, without a moments notice, for the sake of the plot.
Despite the lack of actual characterisation for most of the squad, Suicide Squad is at its best when we are just watching these characters interact with each other. It is very entertaining to witness these different personalities clashing and contrasting, with each member getting at least one moment, big or small, with one another. Whether its Captain Boomerang having a crush on Katana, Deadshot poking and annoying El Diablo into taking action, or pretty much every Harley Quinn scene, Suicide Squad knows how to have fun with these larger-than-life characters.
The biggest complaint I have with Suicide Squad is that its very messy. A paper-thin plot of ‘rescue this VIP, and then go to the big, glowy, dangerous thing in the sky’, is only bolstered by a set of flashbacks that only serve to slow the pace down of the film. Flashbacks that are littered randomly throughout story, suddenly taking the audience out of the action and throwing them into a choppily edited sequence of Harley Quinn’s past. Not to mention, an entirely uninspired final act that I felt that I had seen 50 times before, only highlighting the very poorly written, and goofy performance from the antagonist.
There is a sub plot that involves the Joker reuniting with Harley, but it doesn’t really have any bearing on the plot, giving the impression that the Joker’s role was tacked on and, ultimately unnecessary. The Joker only seems to be present to help humanise and understand Harley, which seems like a massive waste of the iconic character. Either give him more than the 7 minutes’ screen time that he was afforded, or don’t use him at all. And I don’t know whether it was a symptom of the limited screen time, but The Joker was portrayed as an unstable gangster, rather than a psychotic anarchist, with a very over-top-performance from Jared Leto that felt more like a Jim Carrey impression than anything particularly sinister. Maybe I just can’t look past the on-the-nose tattoos and gold grill.
Overall, Suicide Squad is a fun and entertaining movie, with some very obvious flaws, that shines when its lead characters are interacting and bonding with one another. The poorly conceived story, choppy editing and uninspired final act might be too much for some to look past, but if you are looking for an enjoyable and funny summer blockbuster then its definitely worth giving Suicide Squad a shot.