Suicide Squad Review
Suicide Squad is one grand and majestic waste; from talent involved to the opportunities afforded the project by its very concept – Suicide Squad marks yet another critical misfiring in the DC Cinematic Universe.
I adamantly defended Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice against the swath of negative media reviews. No matter how bad you felt that film was, for reviewers to put it in league with the Green Lantern movie or Ghost Rider is incredibly suspect. But whilst Batman V Superman was paced awkwardly, with a messy narrative and desperately tried to shoe-horn the titular confrontation into the plot, it was at least interesting. It cast an introspective eye on the actions of big blue, it took a fresh direction with Batman’s psychopathic crusade, and it set major wheels in motion for DC to develop a cinematic Universe worth our time.
Suicide Squad is the next in this sequence of world building. It brings many characters not yet seen on the silver screen to the fore front of popular culture; from Harley Quinn to Captain Boomerang, and right through to true Z-list villains like Slipknot, the breadth of characters on show is extremely exciting. However, the film strains to keep within genre trappings we should be moving beyond at this stage, ignoring the promising morale ambiguities afforded it by the source material in favour of re-treading the same old ground once again. Unfortunately for us, even the re-tread is executed sloppily and without much to write home about.
The titular Suicide Squad are an ensemble cast of villains assembled to be used as a disposable task force by the government. They are to be used to fight the first battles of the coming ‘meta-human war’, a theoretical conflict described by Viola Davis’ cold and manipulative Amanda Waller. The team are assembled through a ham fisted splicing of flashbacks and pseudo-montages, and are finally pulled together to fight a potential world ending threat, just like every other super hero movie you have ever seen. The first act of the movie is so frantically treading water under its own weight of exposition heavy flashbacks and world building that the characters have no room to breathe. By the time the movie’s conclusion had arrived I found that I cared little about the team or the films outcome.
The casting is the movie’s biggest strength; multiple big name powerhouses help to carry a lacklustre script. Will Smith is on form, a charismatic presence situated at the centre of the movie. His character of Deadshot is predictably upgraded to lead role in this depiction of the Squad, simply through virtue of being portrayed by one of the most bankable actors in all of Hollywood. He serves, predictably, as the emotional centre of the movie – his relationship with his daughter serving as a connection point for the audience that never truly delivers.
Jarded Leto and Margot Robbie are good. Very, very good. Robbie herself is a presence to behold, embodying such a beloved comic book character with a real energy. However, at several points I felt uncomfortable with the lingering shots of her strolling along in high heels and hot pants. A male gaze inhabits a lot of the framing, which really weakens the ‘empowerment’ people often argue Harley Quinn’s sexuality brings her. People will inevitably compare Leto’s portrayal of the Joker to Heath Ledgers – a tall shadow to step out from under. Personally, a comparison is irrelevant. The direction they have taken the character is significantly different enough for it to warrant its existence. His portrayal is un-nerving, and quite possibly the most unhinged a big screen adaptation has shown us. In mannerisms I felt he was somewhere between Hamil’s animated Joker and Neil Gaiman’s Joker character of the original Arkham Asylum graphic novel. His performance was so impactful that I was able to see past the hideous visual design of this rendition of the clown prince. Leto carries himself like a fully realised character, hinting at depth. And although I can’t wait to see more of him in his own movie, or a solo Batfleck film, his presence in this movie felt forced. After the initial flashbacks to Harley’s origin, Mr J makes his way into the central plot quite un-necessarily. As much as I want to see more of Leto’s Joker, this didn’t feel like the right time or place – it made the movie feel all the more cluttered.
The rest of the supporting ensemble is for the most part, very strong. The biggest ‘surprise’ being Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang; his smarmy and eccentric personality is a delight, and I only wish we had spent more time with this character than Will Smith’s family-centric backstory. Furthermore, other characters are reduced to plot points; Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flagg awkwardly spouts exposition from time to time whilst Slipknot is there to fill the role of z-list villain we can kill off to ‘raise the stakes’. Killer Croc is stand-in for the teams ‘muscle’, serving to bring a recognisable Batman villain to the squad that couldn’t support his own movie.
Instead of taking the “villain’s forced to work together” concept and running with it and the morale ambiguity it could support, we are instead given a rather poor attempt at an ensemble of anti-heroes. As much as it pains me to constantly compare DC’s forays into cinema to Marvels’ unfavourably, Suicide Squad ends up feeling like a weak version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. One of the weirdest elements of Suicide Squads persona is its odd use of licensed music; we are treated to sections of Led Zeppelin, Eminem, Queen and Kanye West, almost at random, for early sections of the movie. A more sceptical critic might suggest that this was an attempt to ape the 70s and 80s soundtrack that played such a pivotal role in the promotion of Guardians.
But where Guardians managed to weave an earnestly sentimental plot point out of the soundtracks inclusion, Suicide Squad feels force and out of place. And that is the problem, it all feels rather forced. The film gives little room for characters to develop and breathe, we are constantly moving forward towards a need for a show down with a powerful and dangerous force, and a need to indulge in emotional and relatable backstories that fall flat.
In spite of all this, the film isn’t bad per say. It is just boring, dull and rather forgettable. In a time when we weren’t spoiled with interesting and fun super hero movies this could have stood out. Unfortunately for all of those involved, this came about 15 years too late.
To live in a world where a Suicide Squad movie was actually made is incredible. However, something like this could have been a masterful introspection on the genre as a whole if it had come a wave or two into the DC cinematic universe. Instead, the film has been misfired off early as a formulaic brand builder that misses out on so much promise. Suicide Squad is well and truly a wasted opportunity.