You ever see a movie and think to yourself, “Man, I really wanna know just what the heck happened to this during development”? That’s more or less the impression that I got with Suicide Squad. Make no mistake, this isn’t the movie that’s going to “save” the DC Extended Universe (or whatever they’re calling it), but it’s also not the movie that deserves all the flack it’s gotten. To be honest, it’s probably the most fun movie from the studio in quite some time, and if its production didn’t sound like an absolute clusterhell, it could’ve been a completely great time.
The basic concept for the team is that A to D-list supervillains across the comic book line are conscripted by the United States government into doing covert missions, kept in check via a bomb in their neck that can detonate if they decide to leg it or disobey any orders. In the movie, the squad is assembled by Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller, convinced that a war is coming after Superman’s death. Complications arise when her plan to control the 6300+ year old witch the Enchantress backfires after said witch summons her evil brother Incubus to the world. Having just been given the green light, Waller brings in Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, El Diablo, and Killer Croc to help Rick Flag and Katana go on a mission to bring the evil siblings down before the world ends.
It’s been a common complaint of the last two DC movies that they’ve been too grim and gritty to the point where it gets too overbearing. When Suicide Squad first premiered footage a few years back, that almost looked like a case of “third verse, same as the other two,” until the trailers and promos started displaying a movie that seemed to take itself less seriously and allowed for some fun. Sure enough, there are jokes here, and the laughs definitely come often during the two-hour run time. Unfortunately, there are some moments when the jokes don’t need to be in the film, leading to scenes that are supposed to be dramatic and somber until someone opens their mouth and chuckles come out.
The film also has the annoying tendency to repeat things that it previously established; at the beginning of the film, Waller gives us our exposition on the leads, complete with flashy intros and flashbacks. But most of the stuff she talks about it is repeated by the characters themselves and it makes you wonder why they didn’t just give us all the information in one go. More problematically, the editing is really haphazard, and there are parts that feel like they should have more weight to them get cut off. At one point near the end, a character says that the events of the movie have taken place over three days, but if they hadn’t established that, I honestly would’ve thought it all happened in one.
Will Smith and Margot Robbie fare the best during all this. This is the first time Will Smith has gotten to be Will Smith in a movie in quite some time, and he nails the whole thing completely. It feels natural to see him crack jokes at Joel Kinnamon before just standing on top of a police car and mow down soldiers with every gun strapped to his body. As Harley Quinn, Robbie absolutely owns the role, and she is every bit as funny as the promos have sold her on. She’s essentially to this movie what Kate McKinnon was to Ghostbusters, and it’s easy to see why they picked her for this role. Viola Davis, while she’s mostly a walking exposition machine, may be the best interpretation of Amanda Waller in live action. Make no mistake, CCH Pounder is still the prime vision of Waller if you grew up watching the Justice League cartoon as a kid, and Davis wasn’t kidding at all when she said she basically played the role as herself; this woman is fucking scary, and Davis makes it look effortless with how commanding she is.
Of course, if you’ve seen any of the prior work of these three actors, you more or less know this; the real surprise ends up being Diablo. There’s a genuine tragedy to him that Jay Hernandez mines, even when he’s not actively using his powers. He’s not given a whole lot to do action-wise, but he’s likable and sympathetic enough that when he does pop in for action, there’s weight behind it.
The rest of the cast do alright with what they’re given. Joel Kinnamon does good as Rick Flag, and Karen Fukuhara is plenty commanding and intimidating as Katana. Jai Courtney has, surprisingly, a lot of fun and personality as Boomerang, even though the movie and marketing have made a point to mention he’s got a fetish for pink unicorns that adds ultimately nothing of significance outside of one quick visual gag. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje looks amazing as Killer Croc, and has some great visual tics that an actual crocodile man would probably have (not to mention lends himself well to fight scenes), but he isn’t given a lot to do besides dropping some admittedly solid jokes.
If there’s one huge inexcusable complaint I have with the movie (well, it’s actually two), it’s that for all the talk of these misfits becoming friends, they don’t actually really feel like friends. It’s not to say that I’m expecting them to all form a friendship circle to blast the bad guy to hell, but it’s weird for the movie to try and sell us on a bond that’s not really there. Aside from Deadshot and Harley, none of the characters really react to each other positively long enough for there to feel like these guys are starting to form some sort of relationship with each other. Near the end, one member calls the rest of them their “family”, which would be sweet and touching… had the movie actually bothered to establish that beyond just them sitting in a bar, a scene for which most of them don’t really even speak that much.
The other problem is the villains, and they’re all really bad across the board. Much like Jesse Eisenberg in Batman v Superman, Jared Leto is in his own movie in Suicide Squad as the Joker, only I’m not entirely sure I want to see his. He’s completely obnoxious, he looks and sounds ridiculous in nearly every scene he’s in, and there’s absolutely no reason for him to be in this. His total screentime takes up something like 10 minutes, he just feels so completely out of sync with the movie. In a movie with crocodile men, he looks the silliest as he prances around with his fake grill and looks like he just came from an Insane Clown Posse concert. Meanwhile, the two actual villains of the film, Enchantress and Incubus, are a complete waste. There’s nothing to the latter besides just looking like a neon Oompa Loompa in Final Fantasy armor, and he’s pretty much just something big for the Squad to fight before they go up against his sister.
Cara Delevigne is a good actress in other movies, but that’s not the case here. She tries to bring some personality to both June Moone and her evil alter ego, but she’s basically relegated to crying and gyrating her hips for two hours, and guess which one gets the most devotion. There’s some spooky stuff with her appearance that could’ve been interesting, but not enough to justify what she goes through in the film.
Suicide Squad is probably the best movie in this DC universe. It definitely has the most style of the whole bunch so far, and knows how to continue being entertaining. If it had nailed the dynamics between all of its leads and brought a better villain along with it, along with dropping the dead weight of the Joker, it would’ve been a completely great movie. As it is, it’s a decent one that’s definitely got its problems, but enough of the cool stuff to hide its flaws. It’s not worth the petitions that have spawned from its less than stellar scores, nor is it the magnum opus that some will want it to be. This is, as much as some will hate this comparison, DC’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and if you’re fine with a solid action movie with good fight scenes and four really great performances, you’re in for a treat.
SCORE: 3/5 – FAIR