Suicide Squad was DC's chance to be bold and weird, yet David Ayer's latest journey into comic book darkness is mostly an interesting mess, occasionally blending together talented actors with an offbeat story, but mostly just coming across as a missed opportunity.
WB and DC have re-situated, after the fumbles discovered in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which directly impacted the tone of David Ayer‘s offbeat Suicide Squad, while also altering the future of the DC cinematic universe. Suicide Squad isn’t a complete failure, but instead an interesting mess that attempts to piece together an established character origins story with very little time and lots of ground to cover. It’s wild, it’s “out there” and it’s definitely unique, but Suicide Squad is not the re-branding that haters of Batman v Superman are going to want and it’s not WB/DC’s answer to the over-abundance of negativity that they’ve received.
Suicide Squad follows a shady government official by the name of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) as she assigns marine Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to lead a rag-tag group of criminals in attempt to stop the world from any future destruction from evil meta-humans.
The team assembled includes The Joker’s (Jared Leto) crazed girlfriend Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and various other misfits.
It’s an odd team that Waller has convinced the government is going to do a lot of good, especially after the events of Batman v Superman have left Gotham City and Metropolis in a vulnerable state.
Suicide Squad has been marketed as DC’s re-brand after Batman v Superman pissed off a whole lot of people and the tonal shift is evident in the film and one of the biggest factors of the film’s unbalanced feeling.
Director David Ayer is credited as the solo writer, yet the film bounces around more than anything else that he’s ever written/directed. The first act plays off as your basic origins tale of only a few characters, mostly highlighting Will Smith‘s Deadshot and Margot Robbie‘s Harley Quinn through various flashbacks, while guys like Captain Boomerang get a whole 5 seconds to show the team their worth.
And that’s okay, because Ayer understands the talent that he’s assembled with Smith and Robbie at the head. Both bring their A game, with Smith’s character giving Suicide Squad its only real beats of emotion, while Robbie’s Quinn is as unhinged and bizarre as you’d expect, perfectly complimenting Jared Leto‘s barely-seen Joker.
Ayer’s script unfortunately doesn’t make enough room for the rest of the squad, which makes the constant flashbacks to Deadshot and Quinn feel sort of redundant and incompetently edited.
Why must we re-learn that Deadshot doesn’t miss his targets and will do anything to make his daughter proud?
Again, Smith brings the goods and delivers a truly engaging performance, but it doesn’t help the rest of the film from feeling rushed and cut to pieces.
Finally, Jai Courtney is given a role that actually fits him quite well, but sadly it matters zero percent as he hops around most of the film with no importance whatsoever.
Jay Hernandez‘s El Diablo is also one of the film’s biggest heavy-hitters, becoming one of the most powerful character’s in the known DC universe, while also adding some empathy towards his character and the entire situation. Hernandez doesn’t completely shine until the film’s third act, but luckily he’s given his due once the shit hits the fan.
And boy does it! Suicide Squad doesn’t bother with a steady second act. It follows its ramped-up intro first act with an immediate third act that focuses on the team’s first mission. It’s a bit of a jump, but it benefits from Ayer’s ability to shoot team-based action with enough style and flare to hold your attention.
The film’s re-shoots and multiple edits feel apparent, almost confirming the rumors of WB producers coming in and toying with Ayer’s film to ensure a lighter and more comical tone after BvS‘s grim-dark approach. There are parts of Suicide Squad that feel appropriately dark and gritty and then there are parts that are light and almost over-the-top comical. Most of the back-and-forth banter works as bursts of humor injected into the film to help remind you that these bad guys can be funny and worth the watch, but there are points when Suicide Squad‘s conflicting mood sticks out like a sore thumb.
The soundtrack particularly feels a bit too on the nose and forced. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy managed to incorporate its lively soundtrack in a way that felt organic, while Suicide Squad cuts far too quickly to top 100 songs simply to make you point and laugh. It gets old really quick and distracts you from the scene at hand.
I feel like weighing in on Jared Leto‘s Joker too harshly or supportively is a bit pointless, because he’s in the film for a grand total of fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes at max.
His version of the Joker is definitely just as crazed as Heath Ledger‘s, but he’s lacking that true menace that made Ledger’s Joker so frightening and diabolical. Leto’s is mostly an obnoxious goof that fits given the context of the film and direction of this new DC universe, but I’d like to reserve critical judgment until I actually get to see him interact with members of the Suicide Squad (or anyone else on the cast list) aside from Harley Quinn.
Without going into spoiler territories I’ll simply say that the film’s villains are weak, with one of them being possibly one of the worst on-screen baddies in quite some time. I’m talking truly boring with a horrid design that screams RUSHED PRODUCTION/WASTED BUDGET.
That being said, Viola Davis‘ Amanda Waller sinks her teeth into the film and gives you one seedy individual to despise, despite not being the film’s actual bad guy. Waller is the back-stabbing, do whatever it takes kind of woman that simply doesn’t accept no as an answer. Davis brings the intensity in a way that even makes most members of the Squad fear her simply by looking at her.
I haven’t really reached a conclusion on Suicide Squad yet, because there are lots of things to both like and dislike about it. It’s an interesting mess that occasionally sticks a scene or two because of the performers that Ayer has assembled, but then almost immediately after it retreads into typical summer comic book cliches, with uninspired action that’s followed by a rushed sense of catch up.
It is very clear now that DC is doing absolutely whatever it takes to catch up to Marvel and that ultimately hurts what could have been had Ayer had his complete way with Suicide Squad. He has commented before that they have been super supportive and have simply allowed him to go back and shoot more, but this cut of Suicide Squad clearly feels like there were too many cooks in the kitchen and that Ayer had to settle for the least destroyed version of his initial vision.
I’m not saying that Suicide Squad is bad, but I am saying that it’s not the “cure” for those that despised Batman v Superman. It’s not even a step in the right direction, instead simply being a step in a different direction. In this case, different works, because this is a film about DC’s villains and not Superman or Batman, but even with that in mind Suicide Squad is still a confusing attempt at counter-marketing.
I like that WB and DC are rolling with the idea of an already established universe, because now we don’t have to sift through boring origins stories or have basic comic book concepts explained to us over and over. I also really like how heavily they are embracing the wild side and diving right into the magic stuff and the heavy comic book sci-fi stuff.
I just hope that they continue to do this for the right reason and I really hope that Justice League isn’t simply their answer to The Avengers for the sake of a fat payday.
DC is still very different than Marvel in terms of tone and (lacking) consistency, but I’ll support them regardless, because I still find their characters to be more interesting and unique, but none of that is going to matter if their films continue to suffer from rushed productions and multiple edits. Trust in your filmmakers or don’t trust in them at all.