Man of Steel kickstarted the DCEU and gave a refreshing, gritty rejuvenation of the Superman origin story, and Batman v Superman created political turmoil within the universe, adding a dark, effective, and fittingly bleak layer to the overarching story. To say that Suicide Squad did much to progress this new superhero universe would be a lie. The most fragile and unstable of a universe that many consider to already be about ready to implode, Suicide Squad does very little to add anything new or give any hint for things to come. It feels almost like a separate entity, besides a few cameos and a great mid-credits sequence, and is overstuffed with so much that it feels as if it is about ready to burst, but it also feels rather empty. It is a cinematic anomaly in that way, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a little bit of fun.
The film begins with the strongest section of the film: an introduction to all of the members of the “Suicide Squad,” a team of incredibly dangerous criminals put together in order to protect the world in case the next “Superman” doesn’t end up sharing our same ideals. Albeit some jarring editing and transitioning, the introductions to each of these characters was interesting and engaging. We got to see the origins of the deadly hitman that never misses, Deadshot (Will Smith), the beautiful psychologist turned raving lunatic Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the Australian bank robber Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), the former gangster turned peacenik El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and the 6,000 plus year old witch, Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). This ragtag group of criminals is led by the intimidating and confident Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) and controlled by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a woman whose job is to get people to “act against their own interests.”
After the introduction to the Squad, the team is briefed and each member is separately given a chance to show their worth. A scene of Will Smith’s Deadshot shooting a range of targets to the tune of Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” was especially enjoyable. After these scenes, the main conflict begins without much of a warning, and the Squad is sent in to take on the threat, that threat being another 6,000 plus year old witch, the brother to Enchantress, as a matter of fact.
This is where the film begins to fall apart. It stopped being a compelling look into criminal’s psyche and began as a generic superhero blockbuster with hordes of inhuman creatures to terminate and plenty of citywide destruction. Director David Ayer, while establishing a bleak, dim environment for these vibrant characters to inhabit, has an awful lot of trouble controlling his script and story as it begins to fly all over the place into a frenzy of incoherent chaos within most of the second and third acts. It is rather surprising after he was able to handle the star-studded cast of 2014’s Fury so well, and it is difficult to come up with another director that would yield a better choice to introduce these characters to the world.
What Ayer does well is his incorporation of humor into the script. One of the DCEU’s biggest criticisms since Batman v Superman has been its lack of life and humor, and Ayer manages to maintain the universe’s darker tone while also injecting his script with all of the humor it needs, and a lot of it lands. The laughs are very frequent, especially from the excellent Margot Robbie who plays her respective role with just the right amount of charm, sexy, and crazy, often not having to say a single word in order to get a laugh out of the audience. The cinematography is stark and barren and the overall tone is consistently menacing, but the characters do manage to light up the screen and give the DCEU a welcome helping of “fun.”
There are three villains of Suicide Squad: Enchantress, who betrays humanity in order to resurrect the spirit of her ancient brother, Enchantress’ brother, and the Joker. Enchantress makes for a compelling villain due to Flagg’s relationship with the woman for which that spirit shares a body. The film’s finale packs a rather surprisingly emotional punch and a real sense of accomplishment. As for the other two villains, little merit can be given to either of them. The brother to enchantress is as generic as comic-book villains come: big, loud, and unemotional. However, the Joker is where I was surprised. Perhaps it is due to the lack of screentime he possessed, but I found Jared Leto’s Joker to be bland and underwhelming. He was neither threatening nor diabolically entertaining and lacked the gleefully unhinged manner of past representations. Hopefully, as we see more of him, Leto will delve deeper into the character and give us something to remember.
There is a scene right in the middle of all of the chaos of the second and third acts that caught me off-guard. It is a quiet sequence taking place in a bar where, between scenes of shooting and fighting, the members of the Squad all sit and have a drink. They talk about their pasts and their hopes and aspirations and it becomes increasingly personal as the discussion goes on, uncovering a lot of what is going on through these character’s heads. At the end of the day, these people are villains, and in a movie like this it is sometimes easy to forget that. I know I did during this sequence. If this whole mission goes awry, all of that blame will be placed on them, and you start to feel empathy for these characters. “I just don’t want my daughter to think I’m a pile of sh*t,” says Deadshot. If only the movie had more scenes like this.
2 out of 5