I don’t feel like there is much to spoil about Suicide Squad, but I make no attempt to keep away from them here.
Oh DC, you are trying so hard and yet you are failing so bad. After the complete shitshow that was Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice they’re hitting back with Suicide Squad. A film whose marketing campaign is selling it as a wacky take on the superhero genre where the bad guys are the good guys. Does it work? Well, no.
Mainly because introducing eight supervillains – plus a few government officials and a new Joker – in one film is madness. The entire first hour of this is a montage of getting the gang together montages. As Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller goes around pressganging her group of misfits, each one gets a short introductory clip. Except from Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Will Smith’s Deadshot (the real stars of the film) who both get two or three. The problem is that a quick blur of activity isn’t enough to get you emotionally invested. Especially, when you then drop Slipknot in with no introduction at all before blowing him up a few minutes later. By mentioning him in more than one sentence, we are giving him more than the film did.
Despite that, quite a few of these are fun. The introduction to Deadshot is great and is a timely reminder that Will Smith doing Will Smith is a good thing. Jai Courtney meanwhile actually shows that he has a modicum of talent in this as the boomerang-wielding Captain Boomerang and gets many of the films best lines. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to get past how underserved Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc is and the absolute horror show that is living and breathing Mexican stereotype El Diablo (Jay Hernandez). I mean seriously, who thought the way to bring some emotion to him was to show a flashback where he slaps his wife on the arse and then kills her and his kids when he loses control?
The real thrust of the marketing, however, has been focused on Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, and I’d like to think that isn’t just because they’ve shoved her in the shortest pair of hot pants they could find. Robbie has the potential to be a great Quinn. She nails the mannerisms of that character, and she brings a bit of the unhinged charisma that was evident in Wolf of Wall Street. Sadly, she is underserved by both the script and David Ayer’s direction. Quinn’s story is by its nature a tragic one, and yet that isn’t emphasised here. Leto’s recent comments about Joker scenes getting cut make you wonder whether that story is what we lost. It leaves you with a half-baked character that has no ambition in its presentation – something that seems to be the case for all of the female cast. Plus, look I get it, she’s hot, but do we need a hundred different shots of her arse?
Talking about the Joker, Jared Leto is the latest to step into his completely unhinged shoes. When I first walked out of the cinema, I was confused as to my thoughts on this portrayal. Leto is barely in the film and the only Suicide Squad member he has any interaction with is Robbie. His version of the Joker also appears to have gone a bit gangster and channels Alien from Spring Breakers. However, he isn’t as insufferable as that character. There’s something to it, but the idea of him playing across from the Bat for a whole film is a bit trying. That aside, he’s done enough to deserve another chance.
Which is more than a hell of a lot of this cast, although not generally because of the actors themselves. There is so many of them that to go into them in detail would take forever so here’s some quick thoughts. Katana (Karen Fukuhara) spends the whole film speaking Japanese and having Rick Flag translate for her before revealing she can talk English. She also appears to serve no purpose in the plot at all apart from leaving her sword around somewhere for Harley to stab the Big Bad with. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman)is the definition of meh. He has some nice exchanges with Deadshot, though. Ben Affleck could be the greatest Batman of all time if he gets a decent film. And finally, Viola Davis is the actual bad guy in this with Amanda Waller making some truly baffling decisions. At one point she kills off a group of government staff for no real reason. However, Davis does make her terrifying which allows us to get past them weirdness.
Another thing it feels like we should be moving past by now is characters, but there is still one more to tackle with Cara Delevinge’s Enchantress. After initially being set up as part of the squad she goes rogue and takes up the position of the film’s Big Bad along with her brother who I don’t even think is named. I’ve been a fan of Delevinge in the past, but she is genuinely awful in this film. Enchantress seems to be enacting her evil plan because she can, and Delevinge has none of the charisma needed to get past that flimsy reasoning. There is a scene near the end when she is talking to our ‘heroes’ while doing these weird dance moves and it is hilarious. Not for any of the right reasons, though.
All of this sounds very harsh because, well, it is. Suicide Squad is a mess and even Robbie’s and Smith’s great moments aren’t enough to save that. The stories of studio interference make sense because there just doesn’t seem to be a plot here. The first hour gets them together and in the second hour they walk through a rainy city and hit minions who have raspberries for heads. That is all there is to it, and it never grasps its convictions. It even wimps out of making these characters truly bad as shown by Deadshot’s ‘he loves his daughter’ storyline.
But Suicide Squad could have been a great film. I am certain that there is a brilliant movie to be made out of focusing on the bad guys of the comic book world. However, it won’t be with David Ayer as director and it it isn’t going to happen while DC are the trainwreck they currently are. This universe isn’t working, and while it will keep going as long as they are making money; if they keep releasing films like this, that won’t be for long.