How did it go so wrong?
After the disaster that was DC’s Batman V Superman earlier this year, many thought August’s Suicide Squad would bring back some much needed cinematic quality to the comic behemoth. Instead, the DC Extended Universe has been plunged further into the darkness than ever before. Audiences thought Batman V Superman was terrible, well they haven’t seen anything yet.
Suicide Squad is a complete mess. The plot is much simpler than that of BVS and yet the film seems even more muddled than that particular comic-book movie failure. Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller convinces the government to put together a team of the worst of the worst, in order to protect the world from a potential, perhaps inevitable, evil metahuman. The way she proves this is by bringing Dr June Moon (Cara Delevingne) into the fold. Moon is an archaeologist who has been possessed by an ancient evil witch. Waller controls her by keeping her heart in a suitcase. Waller also has sway over Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), a military expert and the soon to be leader of the Suicide Squad, because of his love for Dr Moon. She plans to keep the Squad in check through the promise of reduced sentences, and a teeny-tiny bomb placed in their necks, allowing her to blow their heads off without a hesitation if they try and escape. Needless to say, something goes wrong, and the Squad are sent in to Midway City to save the day.
The plot is so basic that it lacks any twists or shocks or packs any real punch at all. It all feels very flat throughout. There appears to be very little stakes, despite the fact the world is supposedly in danger. This is because the villain has a weak motive and an underdeveloped plan. The so-called weapon that they are forging is never truly explained and we only see glimpses of what it means for humanity. It turns out its cliched comic-book villainy. The tone of the movie too is all over the place. It feels like two movies smashed together at times, and if recent reports coming out of DC are to be believed, that is indeed true. There is the lighter tone that prevails the majority of the time, but then every so often the dark underbelly rears its head in jarring ways. What is worse is that the lighter tone does not bring much fun at all. The fights are by-the-book and completely unspectacular and a large majority of the jokes and quips fall flat.
Like previous DC movies, pacing is also an issue. The first half an hour feels like an elongated trailer, jumping from present day to back story continuously throughout. This wouldn’t be such a problem is the backstories actually fleshed out the characters. Instead we get brief choppy glimpses of the main character’s tales and then it’s back to Waller and her boardroom. There’s such a great story to be told about Joker’s manipulation of Dr Harleen Quinzel that is completely passed by here. After the flashbacks, Suicide Squad ramps up the pace with back-to-back set pieces which ultimately all feel rather samey. Then suddenly when a burst to the finale is perhaps needed, the ‘bad guys’ take a time-out. It reeks of a muddled production, and conflicting views.
Whilst the plot leaves much to be desired, some actors do leave the crash-site with some credit. Not least is Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. She embodies the ruthless co-ordinator of the Squad and steals every scene she is in. Will Smith as arguably the main character, marksman Deadshot, is also an enjoyable presence. In a movie where few jokes land, Smith delivers the best of a tepid bunch. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flagg is also a passable addition, and his interactions with Deadshot are some of the best in the movie.
Arguably the two main attractions though going into the film were Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn (her first time on screen) and Jared Leto’s take on the Joker, a character some would say was perfected by the late great Heath Ledger. It’s hard to say who comes off worse, although neither actor can really be blamed. Robbie’s Quinn certainly isn’t dreadful, it’s just that she is given poor dialogue, and at times she appears to be present merely as a sexual object. I really want to praise Leto’s Joker, because there are flashes of brilliance. However, due to what seems like heavy editing, he is barely in the film, flitting in and out at various points and disappearing entirely in the second half. When he does appear he is a modern day gangster-type, which may be jarring at first but is an intriguing (if currently underdeveloped) take on the Clown Prince.
Leto’s Joker is much more sexual and much more in love with Harley than classic interpretations. It’s a lot to take in for long-time fans of the character, who are more used to a more aggressive and one-sided relationship. That aspect seems to have been left on the cutting room floor. That may not be a bad thing, because the love story between Quinn and Joker is one of the stronger aspects of the film. Once more, the issue is how little screen time they are given to build their characters and relationship. That being said, putting this Harley and Joker centre stage as adversaries in a Batman solo film, would allow them both to be fleshed out more and would likely be a thrill to witness. Seeing how they would mix with Ben Affleck’s excellent take on Batman in more than a thirty second snippet is arguably worth the price of admission alone.
The rest of the cast are given very little to do, which highlights one of the integral issues with the film. There are almost no character arcs. The most defined are that of Deadshot and supporting character El Diablo (Jay Hernandez). The likes of Killer Croc, Boomerang and Katana are left with little more than scraps. Even Enchantress, supposedly so important to the plot, is left wanting. Nobody goes upon any real journey and certainly nobody changes in any meaningful or believable way. The only time change happens is when members of the Squad act out of character in the third act, allowing the film to fall into comic-book movies cliches.
Suicide Squad doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. After the disaster that was BVS and the continuing success of Marvel movies, and now Deadpool, it appears the DC executives threw everything at the wall in the hope that something would stick. Bits and pieces intrigue but underdevelopment means they rarely excite. Instead Suicide Squad is left with a jumbled plot, weak characters and heaps of wasted potential. It’s an original premise, which in a 21st-century comic-book movie, is hard to come by, and yet an hour in, it has fallen into cliched territory, and by the third act, plastered with poor CGI in the inevitable boss fight finale, it is little more than run-of-the-mill.
Wonder Woman it’s down to you to the save what is left of the DCEU.