A movie with a crystal clear case of identity crisis. Warner Brothers has to decide what they want their movies to be before the cameras start rolling if they want to stop the avalanche of criticism.
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Suicide Squad is an incoherent stitch of an obvious conflict between a director, studio executives, and no less than three different editors. Suicide Squad is not “terrible but hilariously awful” like Battlefield Earth, it is a boring mess. To clarify, yes, Warner Brothers has improved upon their DC slate with Suicide Squad after the failure of Batman V Superman, mostly by virtue of not trying to be eight movies at once.
I was looking forward to Suicide Squad! Viola Davis sounded like the perfect fit for Amanda Waller due to her character from How to Get Away with Murder, Annalise Keating. Margot Robbie was my top choice for Harley Quinn after watching Wolf of Wall Street. Will Smith as Deadshot made me care about a character who I always looked at as a discount Deathstroke. I grew more confident in Joel Kinnaman after his performance on Netflix’s House of Cards. Cara Delevigne is a fashion model who actually has acting talent. I’ve always considered Jared Leto one of the most overrated actors ever, and his look for the Joker was… not convincing, in addition to his obvious Heath Ledger impression raising red flags. However, we Bat-fans have been wrong before about casting for both Batman and Joker. I was among those who thought Ben Affleck would be terrible, but he’s my favorite live-action Batman now. I even took a chance on Jai Courtney, who might turn in a good performance now that he’s using his natural accent instead of focusing on a fake North American one.
I wanted to come out saying, “Hey, I was wrong! The DCEU has some bright spots!” No such luck I’m afraid. Granted, there is more to enjoy in Suicide Squad than BvS, but mostly in the, you guessed it, Batman-related areas. Batman is my favorite superhero and even I’m annoyed!
For non comic readers, Suicide Squad is about the US government taking in super-criminals and coercing them to conduct covert ops by planting bombs in their necks, affording the US plausible deniability if anything goes wrong. Essentially The Dirty Dozen, but with superpowers.
Suicide Squad is like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Fant4stic: movies cut to pieces from whatever the original vision of the movie was supposed to be, to the point where it makes you wonder why these studios even hire directors anymore. Strangely, Suicide Squad is obviously shredded, but it feels like just enough of the original vision was maintained. I went in aware of the studio interference, curious about what was being presented. It was enjoyable as an analysis of why studio executives should stay away from making movies.
The first half of this movie feels like it was supposed to be a linear sequence of events, then rearranged to fit a studio executive’s idea of “cool”. First we see several flashbacks introducing us to the cast of characters. Right after that, we are introduced to them AGAIN, going from cell to cell in Belle Reve Prison, New Orleans. Why are we seeing this? We just were introduced to them a minute ago. There isn’t any new information being given here.
Interestingly, in Harley Quinn’s flashback we see her with Joker at a strip club where she is performing. Joker “offers” Harley to a gangster who declines because he says he’d like to, but she’s Joker’s girlfriend. I thought that was a sign of fear/respect for Joker, not touching his woman. But then Joker yells and shoots him multiple times. I thought Joker was supposed to be very possessive of Quinn due to how famously/infamously abusive Joker is to Harley. Why is he mad that the gangster didn’t touch his woman?
Waller has a steak dinner with a few US Military generals to explain why we need Suicide Squad. The very next scene is explaining to US Military generals why we need Suicide Squad, but at the Pentagon. We need the Squad because Superman (Henry Cavill) was a good guy, but the next one might not be. That’s why we need Margot Robbie with a baseball bat, Will Smith with a wrist gun and sniper rifle, Jai Courtney with boomerangs and a unicorn stuffed doll, and Joel Kinnaman and Scott Eastwood (Chicago Fire, Fury) with M4A1 carbines, because those would be effective against Zod (Michael Shannon). I would have pitched causing havoc in North Korea, Iran, and Russia without risking full-blown war. They could kill African and Middle Eastern warlords and terrorists threatening American interests and allies. Plus, the Squad could conduct covert ops on American soil and disguise them as common criminals performing criminal activities so the military can get around congressional and public outrage about ops on American soil.
Enchantress (Cara Delevigne) is a spirit who possesses Doctor June Moon because on an archaeological dig in Central America, Moon picked up an ancient artifact and cracked it open. Moon just picked up the object without any care, and cracked it open like a beer bottle. I guess Moon was sick for the class that teaches archaeologist to actually preserve ancient objects with care.
Enchantress goes rogue, frees her brother, begins wiggle dancing in front of a tornado generating giant blue lasers in the sky, makes her brother a CGI monster for the main characters to fight, and creates an army of faceless henchmen with no personality. Definitely not like a movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)!
For the first half hour of the movie, it is just pop song after pop song after pop song after pop song after pop song. Every five seconds is a different pop song. I believe at least half of the movie’s budget went to paying the production companies who hold the rights to these songs. Definitely not like a Marvel movie (Guardians of the Galaxy).
The second half is more coherent but also boring. It is also where we acquire a full taste of The Joker! One of the most iconic villains ever in all his Hot Topic glory! A guard slipped Harley Quinn a cell phone in prison and she uses it to contact Joker. Joker arrives on a helicopter meant to evacuate Waller and deactivates the bomb in Harley Quinn. Quinn escapes, only to have the helicopter immediately shot down, and replaced with another to extract Waller. Also the bomb in Harley’s neck being disarmed feels pointless because at the end of the movie everyone acts like it’s still armed.
The most iconic villain ever, The Joker, and he’s only in the movie for fifteen minutes. Then again The MCU’s Spider-Man (Tom Holland) had a similar amount of screen-time and Holland’s is now the best live-action Spidey. How is Leto’s Joker? Bad. Very, very, bad. This is not the Clown Prince of Crime. This is not the Jester of Genocide. This is a generic disco gangbanger who is one of the most boring things ever. It feels like Leto watched Breaking Bad, said, “Yeah that’s nice, but it needs some disco and grills”, and that’s how we have… whatever this performance is. I refuse to call him Joker. Jared Leto is, without a doubt in my mind, the worst Joker ever. I didn’t think it was possible, but they made the Joker boring. Now I’m genuinely worried about Ben Affleck’s solo Batman movie because Leto might ruin Affleck’s writing.
At one point Deadshot finds at “Top Secret” file from the crashed helicopter Waller was in, and then throws it at Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman). Deadshot demands answers and Flagg explains… something we already had shown to us in the movie, twice! The whole movie stops to absorb this event as if it were some huge twist in an M Night Shyamalan movie.
Deadshot and Harley Quinn have a fling in this movie because the executives saw Focus, everyone loved Smith and Robbie in there, and told them, “do whatever you did in Focus”. Yes I know about their relationship in the New 52 comic continuity but I also do not care for the New 52, and neither do a lot of people. The relationship between Deadshot and Robbie in this movie starts unannounced after little, if any build-up to it because the movie was focused on a buddy-cop bromance between Deadshot and Flagg. Robbie, Davis, Smith, Hernandez, and Kinnaman are good throughout the whole movie. Courtney is still bland, boring, and emotionless even when he doesn’t have to hide his accent. Karen Fukuhara, in her cinematic debut, plays Katana, a Japanese swords-woman wielding a mystical blade that has the soul of her husband sealed inside. Fukuhara does excellent with the material provided, even if it’s only about five lines of dialogue.
Suicide Squad is not terrible in the mold of Batman v Superman as much as it has an identity crisis. I don’t think the movie knows what it wants to be. It acts like it wants to be a Guardians of the Galaxy for the bad guys, then a 90’s action flick, then a black ops stealth movie. Suicide Squad is a mess that clearly shows the toll taken upon it from the studio mandated reshoots that Warner Brothers ordered after being blindsided to the polarizing reaction to Batman V Superman. Like BvS, Suicide Squad has had its idea and premise sent through a paper shredder to the point where I am starting to wonder why WB hires directors at all if they’re going to change everything after the cameras have finished rolling.
Image from The Guardian