Suicide Squad directed by David Ayer (Training Day, Fury) is the latest entry in DC Comics’ slowly growing cinematic universe. Following the mostly panned Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a lot was riding on this film to revitalize DC’s films and stimulate interest among fans to compete with Marvel’s juggernaut universe.
Disappointingly, Suicide Squad fell flat and made me question DC’s success in its cinematic future. I’d argue it was slightly better than BvS, but light years behind anything Marvel has made so far. This could have been DC’s Guardians of the Galaxy, but none of the characters had any of the chemistry or humor that Marvel’s team thrived on and didn’t make me care about them by the end. The first 30 minutes did a great job of introducing the prominent members with fun backstories, but everything slowly fell apart after throwing in unexplained antagonists, bland action scenes and a boring save-the-world plot.
World’s Worst Heroes
The Suicide Squad is a covert team of imprisoned supervillains led by government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to fight superpowered threats in return for shorter prison sentences. In the movie, Waller seeks to prepare for another Superman-level attack and recruits the strongest possible team to face it, which apparently includes a guy who can just throw boomerangs and a guy who has the power to “climb anything.” I wish that was a joke, but that’s literally how Slipknot’s abilities are described during his five minutes of screentime.
The mercenary Deadshot (Will Smith), psychotic Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and pyro El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) are the only characters with interesting backgrounds, but by the end they still don’t shine very much due to weak writing and few standout moments. Smith plays a smug hitman/father very well, but it’s not a role unlike what we’ve seen in his other films. It’s just Will Smith being Will Smith. Robbie excels at the hyper-sexualized, deranged Harley Quinn with a Joker obsession, but it’s not the breakout performance you might expect. A lot of her one-liners fall flat and her relationship with the Joker (Jared Leto) is never fully explained. I was hoping to see how Harley becomes crazy and falls in love with Joker, but their relationship’s origin is glossed over.
El Diablo’s pacifist routine and somewhat expected redemption arc make him stand out from his fellow villains, which is a welcome change. Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara) add nothing meaningful to the movie besides a few lines of dialogue and more muscle and boomerangs to the mix. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), the team’s handler, is just a gruff, no-nonsense soldier who slowly and predictably grows to trust the Squad. He especially suffers from bad writing and has some laughably bad lines throughout the film. Flag’s relationship with the Enchantress’ (Cara Delevingne) human host, Dr. June Moone, is just another of the film’s unexplained oddities. Delevingne plays a genuinely haunting and demonic witch, and could’ve added an interesting magical element to the team, but unfortunately the film squanders it.
My favorite performances were easily Davis’ Amanda “The Wall” Waller and Leto’s Joker who was shamefully underused. Tough-as-nails and manipulative, Waller pulls the team’s strings from behind the scenes and knows more than she lets on, similar to Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in the Marvel universe. Following Heath Ledger’s iconic Joker in The Dark Knight is an impossible task, but I liked Leto’s different take on a more gangster Clown Prince of Crime. Leto said in an interview with Telestar “there are a lot of scenes that didn’t make it to the final film,” which is painfully obvious given the Joker’s roughly 15 minutes of screen time. The months of hype surrounding Leto’s deranged method acting for this role sadly overcompensated for the little we saw in the final film.
Like many comic book movies before it, Suicide Squad suffers from a lackluster villain with an ambiguous plan and motives to destroy the world. It surprised me who the big bad antagonist was in the end, but that doesn’t help the evil master plan make an ounce of sense or give the final battle any weight or payoff. Also, the special effects and CGI for the mediocre villain and pitiful henchmen were underwhelming. The faceless goons offer no threat to the Squad and seem more annoying than dangerous during the several uninspired fight scenes.
The idea of supervillains coerced by the government to save the world has a ton of potential, but Suicide Squad doesn’t live up to the hype preceding it or the bar raised by other comic book movies. The first 30 minutes set a zany, dark tone and appeared promising, but the rest of the movie became a bland, run-of-the-mill action fest. For comic book fans, there are some nice Easter eggs and references thrown in, and it is gratifying to see these villains brought to life. Some of the music also complements the fight scenes and backstories well and feels natural with the characters.
Overall Suicide Squad is just very okay, which is disappointing considering how much excitement the trailers generated among fans. It fails in its main goal to make you care about this team of villains; none of the characters are fleshed out or interesting enough to make a lasting impression. It won’t leave you clamoring for more, it won’t blow you away, but if you’re looking for a mindless, shallow comic book movie then it should suffice. Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!