I’m not angry Suicide Squad. I’m just disappointed.
Do you remember where you were when you first saw this trailer?
How did you react upon first seeing it? Delight, disdain or something in-between? Personally when I first saw it all those months ago I was fully on-board. Not only did it feature characters I loved seemingly recreating a comic book series I had enjoyed, it made me laugh out loud and was rather fantastically sound-tracked (scarcely a day has past since that I’ve not listened to ‘Ballroom Blitz‘ at least once..!) Deadpool (click here for my review) set up a high benchmark for fun-filled action-packed R-rated hijinks. (It also led to last-minute reshoots and edits on the film in question.) Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (click here for my review) then drastically lowered my expectations for what DC Universe could actually offer as a true cinematic rival to the extraordinarily successful Marvel output of the last eight years. And yet still I was excited, relatively low expectations, but excited nonetheless. How could it go wrong? Ha! To answer this question I’ve divided the following review into three categories – the good, the bad and the ugly.
What if Superman hadn’t been a good guy who shared the same values as humanity? What if he had wanted to destroy us instead? Or, worse still, now that he has died (previously shown in BVS:DOJ) who can now protect us from the ever increasing bad guys of this world? High-ranking government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has the answer, from a group of bad guys, a squad if you will, who have no choice but to work for her/us. So Waller gathers together her group of supervillains and had them injected with a small bomb. It’s implanted in their necks and will be detonated if they disobey, sheer suicide for going against her will. When a dangerous threat, one that is both ancient and omnipotent attacks Midway City it’s up to the newly formed Suicide Squad to become America’s baddest heroes.
There is a fair amount of good stuff here. First of all there’s the closest thing we have to a protagonist, Deadshot (Will Smith) . It’s one of Smith’s best performances in years (though admittely upon closer inspection of his recent roles this isn’t the biggest of compliments). Of all of the characters he is the one who provides some bite to the film. Although his characterisation is limited to his motivation as a father wanting to see his daughter it’s a role he plays with ease and some style.
The same can be said for Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Her interpretation of the character is, for the most part, extremely successful. She magnetic, unrelenting at giving the role her all, and steals most of the sequences she appears in. Her relationship with The Joker (Jared Leto) (more on him later) provide the more memorable sequences within the film. Her fighting sequences are some of the film’s most compelling (more on this later too) and she is awarded some of the film’s best lines – although admittedly most of these appeared in the trailer…
Admittedly the film did have a few secrets not given away by the trailer. Character actor Ike Barinholtz has been around for a few years, regularly stealing scenes and causing audiences to go ‘Hey, it’s that guy from..’ whilst not remembering his name. His performance here as Prison Officer Griggs is delightful. He’s delightfully disturbing and one of the most memorable things about the film. The prize for best cameo has to go to The Flash (Ezra Miller). Although his screentime was less than a minute I’m truly excited to see him in the role in DC’s next output – Justice League.
Harley along with Deadshot make up the A-list of the squad. Both Harley and Deadshot are introduced in the extended introduction sequence that makes up the first twenty minutes of the film. Whilst BVS:DOJ introduced characters via video files on a computer Suicide Squad opens with a series of music videos. In many ways these sequences, which are essentially a series of montages with a montage, are the best and worst moments of the film. On the one hand they use great music (a factor which would ordinarily feature in the ‘good’ section) and yet the epic song choices have scarcely anything to do with the events they are soundtracking. It really feels when watching these sequences that someone (be that director or one of the money men controlling the director) watching Guardians of the Galaxy heard its truly fantastic soundtrack which fitted the scenes it accompanied and only took away half of why GOTG is so effective.
They are also far too short a way to introduce character the audience need to want to care about. By relying far too heavily on prior knowledge of the characters (an awareness that is immensely unlikely many of the audience will possess) and ingrained endearment of the music each character is attached to no true bond between audience and character is allowed to be established nor nurtured. It would have been far more interesting to spend longer with each character before having them forced into the squad. Marvel built up to the Avengers Assembled by having origin movies. Although these origin movies were of varying success it allowed for the characters to develop and grow.
This is not factor that is accounted for here with Suicide Squad – we have very little reason to identify with the characters or worry about their fate. I’m not suggesting each member of the squad required a solo movie before this one, but time needed to be allocated to set them up. Let us enjoy spending time with them before they spend the remainder of the film walking. Yep, of the film’s two hour running time 20 minutes are introduction and the remaining 100 minutes are of them taking part in one mission. And most the taking part in this mission comes from them walking. The same pattern follows of walking, mini-fight, snarky comment, walking, mini-fight, snarky comment. Repeat. Repeat.
Another less than flattering comparison with Avengers Assembled would be the use of A-list and B-list. Whilst Robbie and Smith get the most screentime, quips and established back story the other members of the squad are rather poorly handled. I would have loved to have seen more of Katana (Karen Fukuhara). Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) were also successful incarnations of comic book characters who were charming in their own ways – a real shame all three were drastically underused.
And then there’s Boomerang (Jai Courtney). Whilst not the worst thing is this film – incredible after his supremely wooden performance in Terminator: Genysis (click here for my review) – he’s still not very good. If Google hadn’t informed me that he is actually Australian I would have confidently placed bets on his accent being fake – it’s actually that bad. Other reviews have commented on his charisma in the role. I don’t agree but then again each to their own…
Another divisive character has to be the latest incarnation of The Joker. In terms of characterization with lots of gangster influences I quite liked his take on the role. I particularly liked how no two laughs of his were never alike. The exploration of his relationship was also something I enjoyed, successfully replicating the glamorised Sid & Nancy dynamic without judgement that most of their shared history in the comic books possessed. What was ‘Bad’ however is the messy way their story is shown, via randomly displaced flashbacks, that engage but are then abandoned. Then there’s that fact he has such little screentime with very little to actually do. Considering how the promotional campaign has centered around him and how he went ‘method’ I felt rather shortchanged by his lack of presence.
I’ve mentioned before on this blog about Hollywood’s current villain problem. Considering how many films have come out of this comic book adaptation boom we currently live in there has not been a truly memorable villain since Loki (as played by Tom Hiddleston). Without a true villain providing a motivation for the protagonist and an actual threat their lives and of those around them then there really is not point to what we are seeing. The villain of Suicide Squad is June Moon/ Entrantress (Cara Delevingne). Delevingne is truly dreadful in both rules, although in her defence this is not totally her fault. Her Dr June Brown, an archaeologist, is laughably cliched – with her hair up in a tight bun, glasses, long-sleeved shirt and khakis – and a figure we know little of beyond her romance with so-vanilla-of-an-all-American-hero-that-it-hurts Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). Then there’s her Entrantress.
There is nothing redeemable about both the character and her performance. All she does is spend the film moving in a weird gyrating dance whilst wearing various scraps of material. She poorly mimes along poorly to some truly ridiculous dialogue whilst undertaking an evil plan that is barely outlined and makes very little sense. The fact she is accompanied by her brother who looks like an extra from Gods of Egypt (click here for my review) really doesn’t help, nor does the fact the CGI is so poor it looks like it was rejected by Gods of Egypt for looking too cheap…
Her treatment as a character is as poor and offensive in its ridiculousness as my least favourite sequence. There’s a point early on when Batman (Ben Affleck) makes an extended cameo. He forces Harley and Joker to crash their car into the water. Harley is seemingly lifeless as Batman approaches her to rescue her – she isn’t – so he punches her unconscious when she tries to attack him. He carries her to the car then proceeds to provide her mouth to mouth before restraining her. The whole sequence is hypersexalised to an appalling and creepy extent, almost festishing the rescue and the subsquent disressed damsel-dark knight dynamics. That, along with the all two frequent shots of Harley Quinn’s physique (particularly her bum) really alienated me from the film. It set a tone that was seedy and nasty as opposed to ‘bad’.
The main problem with this film is exemplified by the mantra Deeds Not Words. Show the viewers something don’t just tell them something. The poorly-scripted dialogue is littered with ‘Isn’t this fun!’, ‘You’re crazy!’ and ‘We’re bad guys!’. If the film actually possessed any of these elements it would have shown them as opposed to bludgeoning us with insistent and incessant dialogue instead. There are some goods moments to be found here but they get lost due to messy storytelling, a disjointed narrative and uncertain intent. Although well-meaning it’s not the movie fans nor the general public deserve.