After the backlash against Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad was meant to be the quirky younger sibling, DC’s saviour to a universe slowly losing its marbles. It had all the potential in the world, but high expectations may have been the final knife in its back. For a film so hyped, is anything less than the best a felony?
After the death of Superman, a secret government agency fears the surfacing of even more powerful metahumans, and recruits a group of dangerous and deranged supervillains to form a black ops mission squad to defend the city of Midway against them. Enter super-assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), psycho Clown Princess of Crime Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Aussie drunkard criminal Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and fiery metahuman Diablo (Jay Hernandez), just to name a few, led by Lt. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis).
Where Batman vs. Superman tried to do way too much, Suicide Squad was quite the opposite: there was barely any plot, and what we did get, a typical “let’s get from here to there” was very uninspiring, present only to facilitate character interactions which, though reasonably interesting, couldn’t stand on their own. This is a comic book movie, people! Where’s the questioning of the nature of good and evil, which would be so effective in a film about supervillains (even Batman vs. Superman did better at this – and it was total melodrama)? And unfortunately, this couldn’t be saved by the presence of a complex, menacing villain, the kind which DC does so well, because the villain was so lazily chosen, so carelessly written, and so absurdly imagined, that the entire climactic act was extremely hard to take seriously.
To compensate for lacklustre plot, most of the storyline was serviced through flashback, to introduce us to the diverse backgrounds of some of DC’s most interesting characters. We see Deadshot’s relationship with his daughter, and his heart-wrenching sacrifices; we see Diablo’s torturous past; and we see Harley Quinn’s tragic love story with the Joker. But oddly enough, all of this was a bit overkill: characters either received no introduction at all, or enough to constitute an origin story, leaving fascinating characters like Katana (whose sword traps the souls of those she kills, played intriguingly by Karen Fukuhara) and Killer Croc (whose reptilian nature is barely explained, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) out in the cold. It also made the BvS mistake of inadequately incorporating great comic book storylines: Harley Quinn’s descent into madness as she falls for the Joker was heartbreaking, one of the best scenes of the movie, yet it took less than five minutes of screen time. They might be trying to please fans, but surely the most pleasing thing would be a good story. Right?
Suicide Squad’s saving grace was meant to be its light, quirky tone, a foil to BvS’s heavy pallor. But I don’t think David Ayer does “light”. What are clearly his best scenes – the torture scenes at the beginning, some of Amanda Waller’s more badass scenes – contrast quite heavily with some of the more bubblegum scenes: Harley Quinn stealing the handbag, the bar scene teased in the trailer. And whilst sometimes they seemed quite stark, they still both worked: the film was both funny and gritty, shocking yet silly, something that the characters reflected.
Because the characters are easily the best part of this film. Despite having Bill Murray syndrome and always playing himself, Will Smith is extremely enjoyable as Deadshot, a witty asshole who can still make us cry. Margot Robbie was born to play Harley Quinn, never toning down the crazy to be likeable, was even more unpredictable than the Joker. Because damn, Jared Leto’s Joker was boring. Clearly drawing inspiration from a gangster iteration of the Joker, Leto’s Joker shouldn’t be compared to Heath Ledger’s icon, but Leto’s Joker was lacking that unpredictable menace that made him so compelling, reducing his performance to gimmicky. It didn’t help that he had so little screen time, either. Instead, it was Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller who was the most sinister and threatening; who else could control all those supervillains? For what seemed like a minor character, it was interesting to see such a fleshy backstory for Jay Hernandez’s Diablo, though it would’ve been nice to see more of Captain Boomerang, Katana and Killer Croc. And Cara Delevigne’s Enchantress was comically absurd, taking what could’ve been an interesting character and making her rather boring, with a rather unexplained mythology.
Suicide Squad is clearly divisive. Despite brilliant characters and some rather fun humour, a story as lazy as this can’t be excused, because when the excitement of seeing such a great Harley Quinn onscreen wears off, we aren’t given much to cling onto. But, even though it’s not perfect, people should still go see it: it’s fun, it’s out there, and it’s different to a lot of other superhero movies out there, because it’s not one. It’s a villain movie. Our characters are complex, and despite how evil they are made out to be, it’s fascinating to see characters who are more evil than them calling the shots. It’s broad strokes away from our Captain Americas and Iron Men, and that doesn’t make it a bad thing.
DC’s plan seems to be to churn out films as quickly as possible, and as keen as I am to see more of the Justice League, maybe they should stop and smell the roses, spend time on a great story, and make something we can all appreciate. Because Suicide Squad wasn’t terrible, but really, a comic book universe with some of the greatest storylines of all time shouldn’t have so much trouble coming up with a good plot.
With such a huge cast, here’s my top five films starring the cast of Suicide Squad:
- The Help – Viola Davis
- The Fresh Prince of Bel Air – Will Smith
- The Wolf of Wall Street – Margot Robbie
- Bad Moms – Jay Hernandez
- Fight Club – Jared Leto
Photos taken from IMDB.com: