Before I began, don’t be discouraged by the number that I have to give. Suicide Squad has a lot of things to love, but it also has a list of things that I thought could have been much better. It is an entertaining film, but falls short of being a great one.
The film follows Task Force X, a group assembled by government operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Task Force X is assembled to tackle dangerous missions, in return for reduced sentences. With bombs implanted in their necks, the group are nothing more than pawns who can be used and blamed for any government failures if need be.
Suicide Squad was one of my most anticipated films for this year and my most anticipated comic book film. We would get the first live-action, silver screen Harley Quinn and a new take on The Joker, one of my favourite fictional characters. Since so much of the film’s hype surrounded these two I figure I will start with them. Not only were they prominent in the marketing but they are also two of the film’s biggest highlights.
As a disclaimer, The Joker does not have that much screen time. I am not faulting the film for this since he is not a central part of the story. His screen time fits the grander narrative without overloading it. However, it appears many people felt misled by the marketing and see the short screen time as another fault of the film. A good portion of The Joker’s screen time comes from flashbacks, showing the transformation from Harleen Quinzel to Harley Quinn. These scenes are some of my favourite ones in the film. I can’t say whether I like this Joker as much as Heath Ledger’s but it is a tough comparison since I only have about twenty minutes to judge from this film. Additionally, this version of The Joker is much different.
The tattoos and the grill aren’t explained here, but I hope they will be in future installments. Maybe there won’t be one cohesive explanation, maybe this version of The Joker is simply one that gets tattoos. While Heath Ledger’s was an anarchist who was willing to light a mountain of money on fire, this one appears to own a club as a revenue stream and a front for more illegitimate business. Brian Azzarello’s graphic novel Joker also had its main character involved in club management for revenue, so this change didn’t bother me. When it comes to this Joker’s appearance, you can either accept it or you can’t. If you can’t accept the look you’ll probably view the performance through a biased lens.
From the limited screen time I did enjoy Leto’s take on the character. With the time we get, The Joker is more serious than some may be used to, but we have to realize that the Joker’s moments of pure insanity are best when they are balanced out with calmer ones. We get calm and we get mayhem. Deleted scenes will likely show more as well, there were about ten more minutes of Joker footage cut from the film from what I have heard.
Since The Joker’s plotline is intertwined with Harley Quinn in this film, we needed a strong Harley Quinn in order to strengthen the arc for both characters. Robbie delivered. Some people seemed worried that she didn’t have a Brooklyn accent but I can assure you she does. Also, she delivers much more than a Brooklyn accent. She is captivating, charismatic, funny while also displaying the violence and psychosis that makes her a villain. The Joker and Harley relationship has often been portrayed as one where Harley genuinely loves The Joker, while he often manipulates or abuses her. We get hints of that here and I look forward to seeing what the filmmakers do with the characters from this point on. While this film does still leave me excited for future DC films, it stands as a solo film better than the theatrical version of BatmanvSuperman does. Cameos and references to other DCEU characters are much more streamlined than some of the ones we had in BvS.
Aside from Harley, Will Smith is also great as Deadshot. People complained about a black actor getting the part, but as I’ve discussed before, people always defend whitewashing. If you don’t like white characters getting taken away, don’t just sit on the sidelines and tell me “It’s just a movie” when white actors portray minorities. Will Smith brings the same charisma and attitude from early roles like Men in Black and Independence Day, which may annoy some viewers. However, he still inhabits a new character well and doesn’t simply turn Deadshot into another role we’re used to.
Jay Hernandez is another memorable addition as El Diablo, who has one of the most interesting backstories in the film. Jai Courtney, who receives his fair share of hate online, also provides a great take on Captain Boomerang.
Viola Davis is the reason I started watching How To Get Away With Murder and she is pretty good here as well. I loved how her character was written, embodying the Machiavellianism I remember from the Justice League television show.
Aside from these four, a lot of the other main characters are somewhat forgettable. I loved Joel Kinnaman in The Killing and House of Cards but he falls flat here for the most part. Katana is a cool character but has very little screen time. She is not a villain here, but is a bodyguard of sorts for Rick Flagg. Despite this association with the main group of the film, her and Killer Croc both have few lines. Most of their screen time comes in the final battle of the film. Speaking of Killer Croc, he was almost a caricature of a black person.
Of course, Croc is mutated but the comics depict him as being a mutated black person. In this film we get a “black” character who calls Harley “shorty” and makes only one request from the prison guards, “BET”. Yeah, more pressing issues in the world but could not help notice.
Like X:Men Apocalypse, this film brings up the issue of how to introduce and handle multiple characters in a team film. Apocalypse struggled with developing The Four Horseman (with the exception of Magneto) and the younger versions of Jean, Jubilee and Nightcrawler. Suicide Squad struggles with Croc, Katana and its villain. Many people expected Enchantress to be the main villain. She is one of them, but there is another one introduced who is poorly developed and also sports the worst CGI in the film.
This ultimately makes the third act somewhat dull in comparison to what came before. The third act does have some highlights, mainly from El Diablo and The Joker. However, it left me underwhelmed the same way the third act in BatmanvSuperman did.
Suicide Squad also brings up the issue of forcing a film to be lighter or more “fun”. The company that edited the trailer was brought in to make the film less somber, and the film ends up bloated with songs, especially in the first hour. When I say songs I don’t just mean the score. A good chunk of the film ends up being a music video. There is a ten minute stretch where there are two different montages with two different songs. First, there is Eminem’s Without Me, and then The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. It honestly might have been less than ten minutes. This frequent song use continues for the most of the first half of the film, dying down to a reasonable level near the climax. It was entertaining at first, but became excessive pretty quick. My friend wondered if the film spent half its budget on song rights. I could not help but think that some scenes would have been better without music blaring over them.
The use of purple Lamborghini was perfect though, that song is fire.
Coming from someone who loves musical interludes in films, I have to say that this work of post-production editing damaged the final product. The same thing happened with BatmanvSuperman. It seems like the studio needs to have more faith in its directors.
There is a lot to love in Suicide Squad, but also a lot that needed to be improved. Maybe I am a fanboy but I am still excited for Justice League. I only hope that it doesn’t have the same issues with post-production that BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad had.