The latest installment of the DC Cinematic Universe is here! Will Suicide Squad help right the ship, or is it another leak in the hull? Find out now!
Suicide Squad (2016)
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robie, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney
Directed by: David Ayer
Now more than ever, Suicide Squad needs to be a hit. After the “successful failure” of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, all eyes are on David Ayers’ new superhero film. The second of Warner Bros’ DC films, Suicide Squad would be a risky move regardless of how Batman V Superman was received. From the Joker’s tattoos to the look of some of the characters, there was plenty to be worried about when it came to this movie. It’s focused on a team of villains that we’ve largely never met before, and it’s going to be the second move that WB releases for their DC movies? Add in the news of reshoots and poor to mixed early reviews, it’s no surprise that some people are very hesitant to give WB another chance with their hard-earned dollars. And while they are right to be a little hesitant, Suicide Squad’s real strength lies in its characters.
Look, Suicide Squad is a bit of a messy film. It’s rushed, has two (or three) introductory scenes for Deadshot alone, and the main villain is pretty lame. But the strength of its cast helps elevate it above the train wreck that the Tomatometer would have you believe it to be. This is one of those movies where the performances by the cast and the charm of the characters help elevate a movie that, under any other circumstances, would’ve been another stumble for Warner Bros’ DC films.
If you somehow couldn’t piece it together from the trailer, Suicide Squad is the newest DC expanded universe film, where Government Agent Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis, who oozes badassery) assembles a super black ops task force of some of the worst criminals in the world. Since Superman has died, she believes that she’d rather have a group of “metahumans” that she can control than wait for another one to pop up that might fall in line with her beliefs. This Squad goes on missions that are sure to kill or maim them, but if they survive they get time shaved off their lengthy prison sentences. With her plan finally approved by the higher ups in the Pentagon, she assembles a crew to help her incapacitate The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), her first “recruit” that has now gone rogue.
That’s essentially the plot in a nutshell, and getting from point A to point B involves some weird detours and a few jumps in logic, and if I’m completely honest, you can kind of guess where it’s going to go. After a stellar opening act that sets up the different members with cool onscreen graphics and a quick recap of their history (and how they got under Waller’s control), the movie starts to loose steam once Enchantress’ plan starts moving forward. Going from a creepy cave witch to someone who looks like they walked out of the character creator in World of Warcraft, Develingne is really the film’s weakest link, and it makes you wish that David Ayer would’ve taken another look at the script and tried to come up with something better for her to do. Instead, she just stares into a beam of light shooting up into the sky and gyrates around it until the Squad catches up to her (yes, this is another superhero movie that has a giant beam of light shooting up into the sky, and yes, it was old 3 movies ago).
However, the strength of Suicide Squad isn’t in the plot. Hell, if I’m being honest, it’s not even in David Ayer’s directing. It’s in the performances of the Squad members, specifically Will Smith’s Deadshot, Margot Robie’s Harley Quinn, and Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang.
Yes, I’m aware I just praised Jai Courtney. It’s weird for me too.
Seriously though, Courtney’s Boomerang offers a lot of weird, off kilter fun that helps bring a lighter touch that previous Warner Bros DCEU movies were sorely missing. He’s not in the movie nearly as much as he should be, but the scenes he’s in are a ton of fun, and he seems to be having a blast playing this psycho. All Boomerang really cares about is beer and money, and watching his crazy, Wild E Coyote eyes take in the chaos around him is really entertaining.
Will Smith brings a new angle to Floyd Lawton, aka the mercenary known as Deadshot. There’s an incredible opening sequence with him that will be sure to melt fans of the Dark Knight’s brains, and while it’s a little odd having a character that wants to die in the comics be suddenly turned into a caring father, Will Smith absolutely delivers the charm needed. He’s having fun in the role, and helps sell Lawton’s drive to be a part of Waller’s mission.
Also having fun is Margot Robie’s Harley Quinn. Bringing a character I’ve loved since I was six years old to the big screen was not going to be an easy task, and I’ll admit to be a little apprehensive going into this movie, but I have to say, Robie steals the show. Not all of her jokes land, but she gives Harley the cinematic treatment she’s long deserved, and strikes just the right tone. Much like the use of Deadpool in his solo movie this year, Harley could’ve easily been annoying or over the top, but she’s used perfectly in this movie.
Of course, I can’t get this far into this review without bringing up the elephant in the room: Jared Leto’s Joker. There have been countless articles discussing his “method acting” to prepare for the role, from sending Margot Robie a rat to giving the whole cast a dead pig. After watching all the promotional materials and hype, you’d probably be surprised to find that he’s in the movie for about 15 minutes (and that’s probably being generous). Mainly he’s around for flashbacks and to try and get Harley back, and that’s the extent of his appearances in the movie. He doesn’t even interact with any of the other Squad members, which kind of makes you wonder why they even bothered to hype him up so much in the first place.
With that in mind, I honestly can’t give an opinion on his portrayal of my all time favorite villain. There are aspects to his performance that I really enjoyed (this Joker definitely has no problem with tearing down your ideas of being a “tough guy”) and some that I didn’t (he seemed a little too obsessed with Harley, as opposed to being obsessed with Batman). But there wasn’t anything here that struck me as being too out of character for the Joker (except for the tattoos of course). If he was given a bit more screen time he might make a bigger impression, and in retrospect Ayer probably would’ve been better off making HIM the villain. As of right now though he’s not the best Joker (Mark Hamill, forever and always), but he’s definitely not the worst either.
It’s a shame that Suicide Squad has had a ton of extra pressure put upon it after the release of Batman V Superman. You can definitely tell that there was some studio pressure and recuts being made on this to try and make it into a more “marketable” hit. Warner Bros wants to have a brand that will compete with Marvel, but they’ve also said that they want each of their movies to have a distinct director’s vision, and that’s where a lot of the problems with Suicide Squad come from. The soundtrack definitely feels like they’re trying to tap into Guardians of the Galaxy, and at times you can tell that scenes and characters were cut or shortened for time. Warner Bros is still figuring out this whole “shared universe” thing, and they’re going to have to learn quick that they’re going to have to either let directors do their thing and have each movie be slightly different, or hire people that they can easily push around so every movie “fits”. There aren’t as many moving parts as in Batman V Superman, but you can definitely feel just as much studio pressure, and it’s hard for it to live up to being a movie it was never intended to be.
But at the same time, this is a movie that introduces some pretty fun characters, and their interactions with one another really do work. It’s not the movie that WB probably should’ve released, but it’s a step in the right direction for their future films. There’s plenty of problems to be had, but when you compare Suicide Squad to a majority of the other films that have been released this summer, it has some very entertaining moments. At the very least, I really want to see Captain Boomerang, Harley Quinn, and Deadshot appear in a future DC movie, so that’s gotta count for something.