The DC Extended Universe’s worst film yet.
Minor plot spoilers follow:
“What if the next Superman turns out to be a terrorist? Who would stop him?” asks Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a government official who wants to put together a team of metahumans to fight the extraordinary threats that a regular person wouldn’t be able to handle. She decides to recruit a team of super villains, designated “the worst of the worst” to be her task force. I guess she forgets about the metahumans part of her plan, as her team ends up mostly being comprised of unpowered individuals: Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman)- the special forces agent who leads the squad, Deadshot (Will Smith) – an assassin that never misses, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) – the Joker’s (Jared Leto) psychotic girlfriend, Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) – a bank robber with a penchant for boomerangs, and Katana (Karen Fukuhara) – an expert martial artist with a sword that traps its victim’s souls. Powered individuals include Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) – a reptilian cannibal with rage issues, and Diablo (Jay Hernandez) – an LA gang member with the power to summon flames.
Oh and Slipknot (Adam Beach), a guy who “can climb anything” is introduced just as quickly as he exits the film. Waller assembles her gang of misfits, injects them with explosives in case they step out of line, and lets them loose to track down and take out Enchantress (Cara Delevigne) and her brother as they wreak havoc on midtown city. The first act primarily focuses on introducing each member of the team through a series of vignettes, with almost each character given a title card and theme song, accompanied with a flashback.
It’s all very messy, there is no real flow between the introductions. The film quickly zips through these scenes, with brief snippets of music accompanying each scene change. It’s almost cut like a really bad MTV montage, and the whole tone and pace of this first act completely clashes with how the rest of the film is put together. Suicide Squad wants so desperately for you to think that it is cool and edgy, but it just comes off as trying way too hard.
Part of this is due to its cluster fuck of a script. It’s very obvious that David Ayer was rushed writing this film, as it reeks of lack of re-writes and over-editing . Character motivations are all over the board. Like I mentioned earlier, the team itself doesn’t even make sense. Waller wants to put together a task force to take on superhuman threats, but she fills her ranks with a bunch of criminals with no real discernible abilities.
Ayer just didn’t know how to balance and get meaningful interactions out of these characters. Killer Croc is apparently a cannibal, but other than flavor text, his “superpower” doesn’t play into the story in any way. Captain Boomerang throws maybe one boomerang in the film, but other than that he doesn’t really do much. Katana was a completely pointless addition to the cast, she had absolutely zero depth to her character, other than the fact that her sword held the souls of her fallen enemies. Sounds bad ass, right? Too bad the film literally does nothing with the concept. The film is filled with half-baked ideas such as these that fail to pay off in any meaningful way whatsoever.
The sad thing is, I actually really enjoyed all of the actual performances from each member. Will Smith was able to actually disappear into the character of Deadshot, I was afraid going in that he would overtake the movie, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that wasn’t the case. Margot Robbie is the breakout star of Suicide Squad, as her performance as Harley Quinn is excellent. She brought an extra sense of danger, excitement, and unpredictability to an already unstable character that it really helped bring her to life. These were the two best performances in the film, and they so happened to be the best written as well.
Deadshot and Harley were the only two characters that actually felt like fully fleshed out people, with tangible motivations. I bought into their character arcs, I only wish that carried through to the rest of the characters in the film. Jai Courtney gives the best performance of his life as Captain Boomerang, he’s surprisingly charismatic as the character and I was interested in seeing more of him. Unfortunately, he is given next to nothing to do and just feels like an extraneous addition. The same goes for the rest of the squad. They are all acted well and have great chemistry together, but the film fails to do anything interesting with them. They try to give Diablo an emotional arc, but it feels so forced that when the character reaches his emotional climax I found myself rolling my eyes.
Not being able to buy into the actual squad is bad enough, but Suicide Squad lacks any sort of engaging narrative pull or forward action. The Suicide Squad travel to Midtown, get shot down (it’s never explained who shoots them down) and wander around the city fighting ugly and faceless monsters for an hour and a half, and then it ends. Sure they have to stop Enchantress and her brother, but they are such terrible villains that I was struggling to even care.
When I say terrible villains, I mean terrible. Suicide Squad may have taken home the award for the absolute worst villain in a comic book movie that I have ever seen. Enchantress is given no motivation for her reason to want to suddenly take over the world. No insight is given to what exactly she is doing other than the generic “shooting a portal in the sky”, and the atrocious performance from Delevigne certainly does the character no favors. Adding to that, whenever she was on-screen, Delevigne would do this weird thing where she constantly flailed her arms, like she was participating in an infinite invisible hula-hoop competition. There’s not much to say about her brother: he looked like a rejected CGI render from The Scorpion King, and he had a fight scene. That’s about it. I’m hesitant to even call him a character.
The Joker really should have been the main antagonist of this film, because as of right now I have a hard time coming up with any reason as to why he was actually in this thing. He has about five minutes of screen time, does not interact with anyone besides Harley, and does nothing to effect the plot. I have a hard time even commenting on Jared Leto’s performance of the character because there is so little there to dig into. He could have been a random mob boss and it would have made no difference. Leto is an Oscar award-winning actor, and he is given nothing to work with. What a waste.
But that applies to the entire cast. Suicide Squad takes a fantastic cast and drowns their performances out with a terrible script and story, middling directing, haphazard editing and pacing, and action boring actions scenes filled with the same faceless horde of monsters we’ve seen a million times. Suicide Squad encapsulates all of the worst trends of the DCEU so far into one nice two-hour package. The thing is, I want to see a sequel, just so I can see these same actors and characters in a film that’s worthy of their talents. Just keep David Ayer and the WB execs far, far away.