Seen in a vacuum, Suicide Squad is a flawed action movie. Add the context of Suicide Squad as part of the DC Comics Cinematic Universe and you get a watchable—even enjoyable at times—movie. Suicide Squad is painful at moments, but unfortunately, it’s zero-gravity, moon leaps better than Batman v Superman and Man of Steel. I guess we can be thankful for small favors.
There are things I liked about Suicide Squad. Will Smith made a good Deadshot, and the incomparable Viola Davis made a near-perfect Amanda Waller. Jai Courtney’s Boomerang and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc were good performances too, despite the fact that we saw little of them. I even liked some of the moments with El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), even though his character’s dialogue and backstory were heavy-handed at times. See, it’s a flawed movie, even in the parts that were working in the film, but the worst parts of the movie were Joker (Jared Leto) and Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). They were awful.
Enchantress was hokey and didn’t work well as the main threat, but Leto’s Joker is easily the worst portrayal of the character to date. There’s no humor to him. Now Joker’s not supposed to be funny to the audience/reader per se, but he should find his own sociopathic antics funny. There was none of that in Suicide Squad. In fact, Leto’s Joker created a twisted family and frankly, he was too kind to Harley Quinn. I know fans like to romanticize Joker and Harley, but Joker’s abusive to her. He sees her as an object, not a person. So, why would Joker go to the hassle of trying to rescue her? There could be reasons—she could have something he wants/needs—but Suicide Squad chose love, and that’s just wrong.
Suicide Squad also had the prerequisite action and special effects for a film of its nature. With the exception of Joker’s appearance—I still think he looks like a Juggalo—and Enchantress’s Cabbage Patch the demons to do her bidding, Suicide Squad is a slick-looking movie. And yet we can find another problem with the movie in this arena. The editing made little to no sense. Flashbacks were fit into the film at odd times (near the end was the most jarring), and that detracted from the experience.
This was a fun experience, but it lacked the same level of fun you could find in Deadpool. I think that’s because Deadpool had no desire to fit into a cinematic universe, while Suicide Squad tried to resuscitate hope in DC Comics films. To be fair if DC Comics movies continue with Suicide Squad’s upward trend, we could have a good movie by Wonder Woman or Justice League.
Kyle thought I should do the spoiler-y take on Suicide Squad. There’s not a ton to spoil here, but just for the hell of it, the butler did it! Okay, there’s no butler, but you get the idea. Some spoilers may follow.
If you go into Suicide Squad hoping the critics are wrong, you may be a little bit disappointed. The critics are not wrong, but they are, in my humble opinion, drastically overstating their cases against the movie.
Suicide Squad is not as good as you hoped it would be, but it’s not nearly as bad as the critics are saying. It held my attention for two hours. Unlike Batman v Superman, it wasn’t just a long, unrelenting effort to bum us out, and I was entertained.
The worst parts of the movie are Enchantress and Joker. Enchantress is an undercooked villain whose motives are never explained beyond a generic desire to rule and/or destroy the world. The performance is over-the-top, and once it becomes a CGI fest during the final showdown, it gets pretty awkward to watch.
If you follow me on twitter (@JimPlath), you probably know I haven’t been a fan of the Joker’s new look. The movie did nothing to win me over. Part of that is still the look. Leto explained the character is highly influenced by cartel kingpins, and that shows in the worst ways possible. In short, he looks too much like something we’ve seen before, too much like something we can wrap our minds around. Cartel kingpins are motivated by all the things we expect, and as far as we can tell, so is this version of the Joker. When done right, it should be shown that everything the Joker does and says, is done and said because he thinks it’s funny. There’s really none of that here, and Leto’s performance as well as the writing are to blame. Watching Leto reminded me of being at a party and seeing someone do their best impression of the Joker to improvised lines. It was off-putting in all the wrong ways.
Kyle’s point about the relationship between Harley and Joker is spot on. This movie shows the Joker pining for Harley, a wreck while she’s missing, driven to find her. It feels like pandering to the shippers online who somehow believe anything about Harley and Joker’s relationship is romantic. It probably wouldn’t bother me so much if it weren’t such a very toxic message to send. In the end, they needed to give Joker an ulterior motive for wanting to find Harley, because in truth, Joker does not love her.
Harley herself is well done, and she shines when Joker isn’t on screen. In these moments, the film cracks some jokes and lets itself have a little personality.
Deadshot is also a bright spot in the film, and while I think the movie goes a little too far in trying to make him “not such a bad guy deep down,” it works more than it doesn’t.
With the possible exception of El Diablo, whose story is spoon-fed to us, the rest of the squad mostly disappears, Actually, Slipknot’s sole purpose for being in the movie is to have the bomb in his neck detonated to show Amanda Waller isn’t bluffing.
In the end, I think Suicide Squad succeeds because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Seeing a film like Batman v Superman is something like listening to someone spout bullet-points from Philosophy 101, boast about their IQ of 160, then smack their head attempting to push open a pull door. Suicide Squad hits its head on plenty of doors, but it gets up, takes a bow, and says “I also do Bar Mitzvahs, folks.” It’s easier to forgive that way.
Suicide Squad makes me hopeful for the future of the DC film universe. It also reminds me of how much I hated Batman v Superman. Seriously, Batman killing people? If Batman were ever willing to kill, I assure you the Joker would be dead, but let’s not open that can of worms again. When Batman v Superman opened, and received the backlash, Suicide Squad was mostly finished. Yes, the editing was baffling. Yes, Joker was horrendous. Yes, Enchantress was awful, but it’s a step in the right direction.