Suicide Squad review: Safety in numbers
You almost have to admire Warner Bros. Despite overwhelmingly mediocre reviews and less than hoped for box office results, WB refuses to admit anything is wrong with its DC-based properties. It’s kind of like staring into a dumpster fire and calling it affordable heating.
Following the mixed reviews of Man of Steel and the mostly negative impressions fans and critics had of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, you’d think that WB execs would tackle Zack Snyder when they saw him walk onto set and stop him from influencing the other WB/DC movies. At the very least someone should roll up a script filled with his notes and smack him on the nose while screaming “No! Bad director! Stop making everything gritty! No!”
But alas, either the studio is slow to react or Snyder has some truly exceptional blackmail photos. Regardless, the result is that Snyder’s stink is once again all over another WB and DC movie. Suicide Squad is David Ayer’s film and ultimately his responsibility, but it’s Snyder and WB’s decision making that really Legion of Doomed this film from the start.
Suicide Squad is the result of WB refusing to shift gears away from Snyder’s DC murderverse. It’s not funny, it has almost no depth, and the characters – despite being supervillains – aren’t really that exceptional or interesting. They present themselves as dangerously unpredictable, yet ultimately they are neither.
But it’s not all bad. The talented cast does its best. The film viually looks better than Snyder’s fetish for darker hues and sepia tones. The action scenes are very action-y. There’s also a lot of neat music. Beyond that though, the film has all sorts of issues ranging from the pacing to the characters to the plot.
If you aren’t a fan of DC comics – and for this property, your geek roots need to run deep – you may not be aware of the Suicide Squad as a team. As a concept though, there are plenty of comparisons. The idea is you take a team of bad guys – people with exceptional skills that the powers-that-be deem expendable – and you send them on an impossible mission. It’s The Dirty Dozen, just with superpowers.
The film picks up shortly after the events of Batman v Superman, with the government left to wonder what happens the next time a metahuman decides that it would be fun to play Godzilla and go wrecking shit. The answer comes from the enigmatic and kind of assholish government… something, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who convinces others that the answer lies in throwing special criminals at the menace. This proves to be a ridiculously bad mistake.
Waller forms a team of misfits and killers, including the world’s greatest hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), the Joker’s girlfriend/victim Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Australian comic relief and boomerang/knife expert Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), gangsta and fire starter El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), the half-man/half-crocodile Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and a guy that’s really good with ropes named Slipknot (Adam Beach). They are forced into service of the government when a metahuman begins tearing up Midway City. Conveniently, none of the other superheroes – including a few that make cameos – seem to give a shit about Midway City, so the Suicide Squad is sent in.
The team is joined by Black Ops legend Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), sword master Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and a collection of redshirt soldiers. The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and the Joker (Jared Leto) are also thrown into the already crowded mix.
There is going to be a lot of talk in the months and years to come about some of the character choices in the film, especially the Joker. Some are going to like Leto’s portrayal, others are going to hate it. In fact, a lot of people are going to hate it. He’s basically a slightly psychotic gang leader. Maybe more time focusing on him would have helped, but the Joker is a subplot in a film built around subplots.
Suicide Squad feels like it was written in stages, and the stages don’t always flow together, and then edited by people that hate each other. For example, the movie starts with a quick introduction to Deadshot and Harley Quinn. It then cuts to Waller who introduces Deadshot and Harley Quinn again with some cool and flashy visual effects that break the fourth wall (and oddly never return), along with a few of the other team members. It then sort of introduces them again.
That redundancy is a problem throughout the whole movie. Rather than expanding on the characters, it offers a single aspect and repeats it again and again.
Once the fighting starts, the plot more or less dissolves. There’s a thing to do, and they have to do it. The main plot is sort of feeble. There’s a villain that wants to do villainous things for vague reasons. Maybe they got stuck in rush hour traffic one time too many and just lost it. It’s never really clear or important.
And that’s kind of the major problem with Suicide Squad – it never really stands out at any point. Sure, Robbie has some good moments, and sure, Will Smith is charming as a sociopath (despite some oddly contradictory moments). Beyond that though, the film is hollow. Most of the characters exist to serve one single purpose before disappearing back into the background.
The characters are one-dimensional and more about style and flash than substance. In that, it feels very much like a Snyder movie. There are even two love stories actively interjected in the film, and both are entirely to drive the plot. There’s no emotion to either.
Suicide Squad is also surprisingly tame for a team about supervillains and murderers. The promise of outrageousness never comes to anything. The team just goes from point to point, occasionally bitching about things, fighting nondescript enemies that never really seem like much of a threat.
That all leads to the biggest sin a movie based on superpowered people can commit. It’s kind of boring.
Suicide Squad Review: Conclusion
One thing the film does do well is not waste time with multiple origin stories, but that’s a small mercy. For those that don’t already know the characters though, you probably won’t remember more than a handful of their names. You’ll just remember them as that guy that makes the odd joke or the reluctant one or the one that looks like a crocodile. The majority of them don’t stick because the film doesn’t give you anything to attach yourself too. Even when you have something like a love story, it’s just glossed over quickly.
Maybe it’s not fair to blame Snyder, but Suicide Squad feels like it belongs in the same universe as Snyder’s previous DC films. For better and mostly worse.
Suicide Squad is rated PG-13 with a running time of 2 hours and 3 minutes