Suicide Squad. 2016. Directed & Written by David Ayer.
Staring Viola Davis, Will Smith, Margot Robbie, David Harbour, Jared Leto, Jim Parrack, Common, Jai Courtney, Ezra Miller, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne, Joel Kinnaman, Adam Beach, Karen Fukuhara, & Ben Affleck. Atlas Entertainment/DC Comics/DC Entertainment.
Rated PG-13. 123 minutes.
I’ve loved comics and superheroes since I was a boy. Batman was the character I enjoyed most because of his humanity; he’s just a guy, a rich one at that, whose sadness and despair created a crime fighter. As of late, I’m getting sick of the superhero movies. I still read the comics and graphic novels. One shelf in my home library is dedicated to a bunch of them, from Batman: The Long Halloween to a ton of Alan Moore to much more. I’ve still got love for the basic stories and the characters throughout these worlds.
That being said, I’m sick of these movies. I give them a fair shake then they only wind up proving me wrong. I went into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice really wanting to enjoy what was going on, then it bored me, perplexed me, and left me wondering how a movie with both their names in it could have such a minor, badly ended confrontation as the climax.
Same goes for Suicide Squad, too. When I walked into the theatre, I was hoping DC and David Ayer (of whom I’m a huge fan) were about to throw me for a loop. A few times, I did enjoy myself. But on the whole, this is one huge misstep of a movie. There’s a number of problems. The music is like suffering the tortures of the damned. Some of the performances are far weaker than they ought to be compared to others. And with all the major hype around Jared Leto playing the Joker, his ridiculous makeup and character design (those tattoos… are you kidding me?), there’s not near enough pay off to make him worth it, nor enough to make him as interesting as Leto and Ayer so desperately want him to seem. So, in the end, I can’t do anything but chalk this flick up to another mistake on DC’s part.
They had the chance to do something interesting, different. I’m not a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy, but that had its heart in the right place, as well as the fact its use of music had a purpose, a reason, whereas Ayer’s film is loaded down with songs trying to make up for the fact there’s little palpable suspense or tension without them. Suicide Squad wanted to replicate the success of a weird, unexpected crew of characters, this time opting for villains. It misses the mark by a wildly long shot.
The first 20 minutes is one of the more insufferable sequences I’ve sat through in recent memory. Each villain is introduced using different music, as if each separate introduction is a music video unto its entirely. But it doesn’t stop there. When the Belle Reve men start shipping Harley Quinn and everyone else off, there’s only more and more of the musical offence. It’s tacky. Makes the whole thing feel silly, and not even in the appropriate comic sense. Just feels tacky and lazy. There’s a whole lot of this throughout the entire film. Once the Belle Reve criminals are brought out in front of the military at their location, it’s another god damn song. Never stops.
Honestly, I’m not able to remember a more poor use of music overall than Suicide Squad. That recent WB open letter from a supposed former employee isn’t hard to believe. I’m not exactly sure why DC decided to play it this way instead of stepping in, perhaps making suggestions on how to make it all feel less foolish. Because the music really takes away from the excitement. For me, anyway. I rolled my eyes every time “Spirit in the Sky” or an Eminem song started playing, at the most inappropriate of moments. One of the worst offences is when we see the supposed origins of Harley; all the emotional, visceral momentum of that scene is totally washed away by the terrible song accompanying those moments.
Leto is a good actor, I’m not denying that. His role in Requiem for a Dream is one that I’ll never, ever forget, both he and Jennifer Connelly. He turned in a fantastic, appropriately method performance alongside Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club. But with the crown price of crime in Gotham, he’s fallen short. There are moments where he’s creepy, unsettling, most of what the Joker is supposed to be in his rawest form. However, there’s something tired and overworked about the performance. As the scenes wore on, I found myself almost embarrassed watching some of his scenes. He tries to give it a dose of heaviness, of comedy and creeps mixed together. But his effort falls by the wayside. Not only that, apparently there’s a ton of his stuff cut, so there may have been a better performance lying in those missing scenes somewhere. Maybe.
They didn’t do the best they could with the Joker, nor with Harley Quinn. Although, I have to say that at least Margot Robbie captured some of Harley’s essence. There were lots of lacklustre lines out of her, which is too bad. The script needed better writing for Harley, as well as she and the Joker together. She did her best and gave a fairly manic performance to give the role something special. Along with her, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller was fantastic. She is the perfect addition. She’s strong, no nonsense, she plays the character pretty damn spot on.
A big part of why I hated certain developments and character arcs is because the screenplay follows aspects of DC’s New 52, of which I’m not really a fan. Especially the whole Harley-Joker situation. I hate that. I dig her story in Mad Love written by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, as it provides a normal (though crazy) explanation of how Harley ended up infatuated with Joker. A simple, twisted story of a doctor and her patient, getting much, much too close. With the New 52, you’ve got a Harley origin story where she’s dumped into a vat of acid by Joker, just like what happened to him so famously. To me, it does nothing except provide an elaborate set piece.
If we were to see them Arkham Asylum, that would’ve been a lot more fun, as we’d actually see the seduction, the craziness, the weird love between them. Instead, Ayer only provides us the tiresome backstory, which offers nothing more than spoon fed character development, or a lack of really. Harley and Joker could’ve been done much better. The actors are there, they try, but the writing is what ultimately hampers anything more interesting from coming forward.
I’ll give it a 2 and a half star rating. That’s as much as I can offer Suicide Squad. The movie they gave us is not at all what they wanted us to believe it would be, or could be. Ayer is a fantastic director and a competent writer, usually. This is a rare misstep for him, filled with mistakes and missed opportunities. I wanted to like it, I did. I’m not a man child like so many critics out there on the internet. Never have I prejudged a bit of cinema without seeing it; sure I’ve speculated, but I always leave my opinion open until my eyes have personally seen a film. Suicide Squad has the star power, the artistry, the technical magic behind it. Somewhere along the way, flash and music and bad one-liners weren’t enough to lift this above mediocrity. DC is certainly in trouble. If they can’t start figuring out how to hit the sweet spot, Marvel will only continue to dominate them. And this is coming from a guy who’s neither a big fan of Marvel, nor excited about superhero movies in general. They’re played out. I only hope someone can come along and make something strange, like this should have been, into something accessible and thoroughly enjoyable.
For all the love Suicide Squad is getting from hardcore fanboys and fangirls, the honesty about the final product is not there. People blame critics for standing against this movie. A stupid thing to do. Many critics just realise this is not what it had potential to be. It’s been overhyped and sold beyond its means, from Leto’s “method” performance (AhembullshitAhem) and his idiotic gifts to his co-stars, to the apparent darkness and then pivot-step to more comedy the studio wanted. Right down to the script – tons of shit dialogue and poorly written exchanges between characters – this is a dud. There’s a few shining points, enough for it not to be an absolute bust. Yet those shiny little moments are far and far between.