Doing a team-up film is tough, doing a team-up film based on a plethora of colourful comic book characters is even tougher, and you’d think after the disaster that was the 1997 Batman & Robin and all the negative feedback from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that DC Comics/Warner Brothers would have at least figured out what not to do. I don’t want to get into a rant about how the Marvel movies are doing it better but this film just screams out to be compared with Marvel’s Avengers. In Suicide Squad a good half of the movie’s running time is spent just setting up who the different characters are and how they become a team, while Marvel had released several stand-alone movies prior to The Avengers so all that Joss Whedon needed to worry about was the teaming up portion. So director/writer David Ayer was stuck trying to cram as much stuff into a two hour running time that would explain who everybody was, demonstrate their abilities, create a viable threat, and then come up with an original story. Sadly he failed at the last portion as he basically cribbed the plot of Escape From New York and called it Suicide Squad.
We are introduced to Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) as she briefs government bigwigs over dinner on her idea of how to handle future metahuman threats now that Superman is dead. She pulls out folder after folder containing the dossier of some of the world’s most dangerous criminals; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) the insane girlfriend of The Joker (Jared Leto), Deadshot (Will Smith) the most wanted assassin on the planet, Diablo (Jay Hernandez) a pyrokinetic gangbanger, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) a monstrous creature with cannibalistic tendencies, Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) an archeologist who shares her body with a powerful other dimensional being, and then there is Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney)…um, he’s Australian. We get brief featurettes on these characters as we learn of Harley’s origin and her love affair with The Joker, we see that Deadshot may be a ruthless killer but he loves his daughter, and that Amanda Waller’s team leader Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), a character and performance so bland he is coma inducing, is in love with the human aspect of Enchantress which is how Waller got him to lead this insane team.
The first hour is such an info dump it’s pretty much impossible to become invested in any of these characters; Margot Robbie does her best to inject life into her version of Harley Quin but whenever we get moments with her and Joker it’s like we are stepping out into another movie. You could probably make a good Joker/Harley movie along the lines of Natural Born Killers but trying to shoehorn it into a Suicide Squad movie does an injustice to them and the other teammates. Will Smith is doing his usual Will Smith performance and he wears Deadshot’s trademark for a whopping minute and a half, but that was to be expected because you don’t hire mega-star Will Smith and then stick him under a mask. This is why they should have cast anybody else to play the part.
After we get our multiple origin stories out of the way, and the ever important Batman and Flash cameos, we get into the meat of the story. Turns out that the Enchantress is only working with Amanda Waller because she has witches heart in a box, so she teleports into Waller’s home to try and get back her heart but instead she liberates the soul of her brother, which Waller kept in her study for some reason, he possesses some poor schmuck and turns into a CGI monster/warrior or something. This somehow allows the Enchantress to survive Waller stabbing her boxed heart. As all powerful witches/sorcerers are want to do she decides to take over the world, this involves making some kind of mystical machine and turning people into goey faced zombies. The Suicide Squad is activated and they are rushed into the city to find and extract a high-profile mark before Enchantress and her minions do.
After seeing what the DC Extended Universe installments of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice I went into Suicide Squad with pretty low expectations, and thus I was a little surprised that it wasn’t the garbage fire some early reviews led it to be. The action sequences were fairly well shot, meaning you could actually tell what was happening, Jai Courtney was surprisingly fun as Captain Boomerang, and if you are going to rip-off a movie Escape From New York is at least a good one to go with. I’ll say I’m not that big a fan of this version of Joker but I think they did do some interesting things with his and Harley’s relationship. It just didn’t belong in this movie.
I’m not saying this is a good movie, it certainly isn’t that, but it wasn’t nearly as depressing as the previous DC installments were. A lot of that is due to the negative feedback received after the release of BvS which caused Warner Bros to order re-shoots that would add more humor to the film. Suicide Squad is definitely lighter in tone but these re-shoots are probably responsible for the chaotic mess the script devolves into, and all the blasting rock songs in the world was not going to save it.
What we are left with is a group of anti-heroes we don’t really care about, a villain whose plan is as thin as it is boring, and we also get more set-ups for the Justice League movie because these films all seem to be two hour plus commercials for a film that won’t be out for another year. So if you hated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice you are most likely not going to fall in love with this one, but if you dug Snyder’s movies you may like David Ayers take on the DC Universe even more. I’ve already filed it away as mostly harmless disposable waste of time.
• Waller makes Deadshot give her a marksmanship demonstration to see how good he really is even though he is known to be the best shot on the planet. Dumb and unnecessary.
• Joker keeps popping in and out of this movie but has no bearing on the plot whatsoever.
• We are introduced to squad member Slipknot without any backstory or explanation of his abilities. He is there simply to demonstrate the effectiveness of the nano-bombs placed in their necks.
• Amanda Waller murders her people in cold blood because they weren’t “cleared” for what they witnessed. Why the fuck was her staff not cleared? This is some Bond villain level bullshit.
• Captain Boomerang carries around a pink plush unicorn toy. No explanation given. I kind of like that.
• Rick Flagg has a badass assistant named Katana (Karen Fukuhara) who seemed to have wandered in from a different movie.
• Diablo confronts the Enchantress because he “Won’t lose another family!” What the hell? He considers this group of murderers he’s known for a whole of twenty minutes family?
Suicide Squad (2016)
We may never know what this movie would have been like before the studio panicked and demanded re-shoots, but the end result isn’t terrible it’s just not that good either.