Movie Review: Suicide Squad
After a ton of build-up and a roller coaster of production, Suicide Squad, the latest film from the DC Cinematic Universe, hits theaters this week. Seeking to introduce an ensemble of some of DC’s more obscure characters while also providing a broader tonal shift for the DCU as a whole, this movie certainly has a lot on its plate. This is especially true since the studio seems to be banking on this being a huge success to push their movie-verse to the next level after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice caught a lot of flack and under-performed earlier this year. Fortunately, this movie has assembled a killer cast and has turned out a pretty effective ad campaign to drive up hype. So after all is said and done, how did the movie turn out?
It isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible. It’s just alright.
This is because alongside the movies numerous and considerable strengths, there are a number of critical flaws that hold the film back.
Starting off with the positive, the movie is undeniably a whole lot of fun. The action scenes are well done and highly entertaining, but what really sells the fun factor is the strong acting. The cast delivers great performances across the board, with special shout outs to Will Smith and Viola Davis as Deadshot and Amanda Waller, respectively. Smith gives his assassin character a great blend of deadpan humor, badass swagger, and some surprising heart underneath the surface. Viola Davis, predictably, knocks it out of the park as Waller, bringing to the character a resolve and ruthlessness that the character needs to work. In a movie filled with psychopaths and demigods, Davis makes you feel like Waller is still the most dangerous person on the screen. Margot Robbie also does good work as Harley Quinn, giving the character a deceptively ditsy and hyper-sexualized demeanor that belies an unhinged monster ready to jump out at a moment’s notice. The rest of the main cast delivers strong performances as well, with snappy dialogue and great chemistry holding the movie together throughout.
And it’s a good thing it did. Because while a strong ensemble and a fun ride keep the movie entertaining, the core story underneath it is very weak indeed. The crew gets thrown together to take on a pair of ancient, god-like beings whose evil plan involves making a machine made out of Don’t-Worry-About-It to blow stuff up because EVIL. Everything driving the plot forward in this movie, especially the villains, feels like a total afterthought. When I left the theater, I couldn’t even remember what one of the main antagonist’s name had been (Incubus, apparently). And the only reason the bad guys are free to attempt their plan in the first place is because the Enchantress was put in the field by Waller. Speaking of Waller, it’s a good thing that Davis does such a phenomenal job with the character, because the writers did not. All she does in the movie is have things blow up in her face, and all the problems Task Force X has to deal with in their first and only mission only exist because of her putting this team together. It’s hard feel like there’s any accomplishment at the end when they’ve just solved a problem that wouldn’t exist if the team didn’t exist also. Amanda Waller is many things, but incompetent should not be one of them.
There’s also an issue with the Joker. Jared Leto did a solid job, I think (it was nothing so good as to justify all the transformation photos and the weird on-set shenanigans that apparently took place, but I digress). But the character really has nothing to do in this movie. While he does show good chemistry with Robbie’s Quinn, the Joker’s entire role in the story is to try to bust Harley out of prison, but nothing comes of this, so it all really feels like a waste of time, time that could have been spent strengthening the main plot. So in that sense, I guess it’s a good thing he only side tracks us for about 10 minutes of screen time. Consequently, this means that pretty much all of his scenes have already been featured in the trailers. The same is true of all of Harley Quinn’s best moments, by the way; chances are, you’ve already seen them in the trailers. One gets the feeling that the marketing team knew that the Joker and Harley are the only characters that most of the audience might actually know, so they perhaps overreached in featuring them so heavily in the marketing.
For me personally, though, the biggest shortcoming of the film is that it didn’t believably sell the camaraderie that was supposed to exist between these characters. As stated before, this is the teams first mission together; hell, it’s the first time they’ve ever met, in most cases. Predictably, they all start out disliking each other and even plotting against each other, but by the end of the movie, they’ve become close-knit and would die for each other. But they had only spent one night together. Is 5 to 8 hours really supposed to be enough time for people to become blood brothers? El Diablo even calls the team his new family by the end, but it felt totally unearned, having just watched team spending most of their time fighting mooks in a mostly individual fashion. The movie really needed to give the team more in-universe time to develop believable connections, maybe show them going on other missions or something, but instead we get a sudden declaration of unbreakable kinship that feels totally forced.
In spite of its faults, though, Suicide Squad still makes for a fun night at the movies. The dialogue is well-written, even if the plot is not, and strong acting injects life into the characters and makes the whole thing energetic and entertaining. While this may be damning it with faint praise, it is the best DCU film to date, and a solid popcorn movie all around. It was not everything Warner Bros needed it to be to right the ship moving forward, but you should have a good time regardless.
Verdict: 3 out of 5. Worth seeing in matinee.