Review - Suicide Squad (JJ's Take)
I’m not sure what’s happening behind the scenes at Warner Brothers, what with the recent disaster that was Batman v Superman, but it’s apparent after watching Suicide Squad that there’s a problem.
Batman v Superman was supposed to jumpstart the DC Extended Universe, but it was such a mean-spirited, poorly written, and poorly edited film, it soured most fans’ taste for DC. However, there was hope. From the trailers, Suicide Squad seemed like it was going to be a complete change in direction for DC, fusing a little bit of light-hearted comedy and a tongue-in-cheek nature like that of Guardians of the Galaxy while providing something fans hadn’t seen before with a super-villain team-up movie. Yes! This is different, this is new, this is what DC could bring to theaters that Marvel can’t! Sadly, Suicide Squad committed suicide before the opening title card.
The film follows Amanda Waller, a government intelligence operative, using Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to assemble the baddest of the bad as expendable assets to assess situations deemed too dangerous for regular soldiers, such as fighting Superman. This team includes Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Enchantress (Cara Delevinge), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Slipknot (Adam Beach). By the time Amanda assembles the team however, they’re immediately called into action as a dangerous entity threatens the lives of Midway City and possibly the world.
Right from the opening sequence, there was a feeling that something wasn’t right with the film. It opens on Deadshot and Harley Quinn being held at Belle Reve Penitentiary, but it’s displayed in such a jarring fashion with so many quick edits and after effects uses that it felt more like a music video than a film, especially when each scene transition began with a new pop song. The rest of the film is displayed in the same manner with a lot of quick edits and no semblance of time passing without a character stating so. The sad part is that the opening sequence was completely pointless, it had no relevance to anything later in the film, and could have been placed during the second scene of introductions, and that’s the problem with the entire film really. Contrary to Batman v Superman, where that movie felt like it needed more scenes and more character development, this movie needed scenes taken out and more specifically, the entire inclusion of Jared Leto’s Joker. Costume aside, I was excited for Jared Leto’s take on Joker but he added nothing to the film and felt like a complete waste. Joker was there simply to show how lovestruck and slavish Harley was to him, really romanticizing their demented relationship but added no tension or conflict to Harley’s story.
Harley Quinn herself was fantastic. Margot Robbie really nailed emulating Alreen Sorkin from the Animated Series and she projected enough crazy without it being overbearing or forced. Will Smith is also fantastic as Deadshot, adding a lot of that classic humor he’s known for and enough emotional weight to keep the film grounded while being surrounded by psychotics. Joel Kinnaman was good as Rick Flag, Jai Courtney was good as Captain Boomerang. Guys, Jai Courtney was good in this movie, that is really saying something. Nearly everyone was good in this movie but aside from Harley and Deadshot, whose origins make up the bulk of the first thirty minutes, everyone else is really underutilized. Adewale’s Killer Croc has some pretty bad lines of dialogue and does next to nothing throughout the film, but the practical makeup looks really good. Slipknot has little to no role. Katana’s thrown into the film an hour in and serves no purpose. The chemistry among the cast is excellent but feels wasted with how little story or depth there is.
David Ayer reportedly wrote the movie in six weeks due to the studio and it really shows. What begins as an A-Team or Losers slowly turns into a generic action movie with yet another third act where a portal opens up in the sky to destroy the world, and moments that should feel emotional are very vapid. Also, the placement of characters throughout the movie make little to no sense. Some characters’ whereabouts are unknown but then the story reveals they’ve been in Midway City the entire time? The best part of the film by far is a bar scene closer to the third act where the pacing slows down and there’s actual character development. We learn more about the Squad and the hardships they've carried. With this sudden shift in tone, the movie regained my attention because up until that point, I was ready to fall asleep.
Story aside, what should have been the fun factor were the characters’ distinct fighting styles. Deadshot’s impressive weapon count and gauntlet guns, Boomerang’s well, boomerags, Harley’s gymnastics and baseball bat, Croc’s superhuman strength, and Katana’s...katana should make for some incredible action sequences,especially with David Ayer behind the camera as evidenced by his outstanding work with End of Watch and Fury, but all of the action felt sub-par and by-the-numbers. They used some of the same speed ramping that Zack Snyder utilizes, to a lesser extent, and when a punch is thrown, the camera never really follows through to the connection and quickly jumps to another character, another example of the bad editing. Also, a lot of the time the action is muddied by particle effects or clouded by smoke; it doesn’t look very good and the movie suffers from it.
There’s no unique camera work like there is End of Watch either. What Ayer did with cops, he should have done exponentially better with super-powered beings. Attach a gopro to Deadshot’s gauntlets, Captain Boomerang’s boomerang, or even Harley’s baseball bat; it would have been awesome to follow a boomerang slice through multiples enemies’ heads but Captain Boomerang only throws a total of three boomerangs throughout the movie. The filmmakers could have displayed some crazy bullet trick-shots like Deadshot pulls off in the beginning but instead they recycle his audition scene into an action sequence. Harley gets her own sequence in an elevator with the intention of it being thrilling and fun, but it felt boring and out of place.
The effects shots I liked the most involved Enchantress's abilities. An ancient witch inhabiting the body of archaeologist June Moon, the Enchantress possesses power that is very unique to superhero movies. In certain scenes, Enchantress projects a very Japanese Horror-vibe with her character where she's doused in shadows, crouching, then is inexplicably right in front of the camera lens, very much like Samara or Sadako in The Ring films. There's a great shot where June places her hands on a table and Enchantress's hands reach out from the table, transforming her. Sadly however, those effects are overused throughout the movie and what was wondrous became dull very quickly.
There are bad guys in the movies (besides the Squad, which they love broadcasting to remind the audience that they're villains) but they aren’t really anything to speak of. They’re CGI manifestations of the main villain’s powers, who isn't really that interesting of a villain to begin with, and more like zombies than anything else so when the Squad is fighting them, there are no stakes. They are in a lot of ways similar to Ultron’s army in Avengers: Age of Ultron, which was just the Chitari army with a different coat of paint; however, Joss Whedon was able to keep the audience emotionally invested in the heroes overcoming overwhelming odds but in Suicide Squad, there’s no character development until the third act so there’s no investment to be had until that point while in Ultron, Marvel’s spent years building those characters and relationships.
Suicide Squad is a disappointment, through and through. There is a lot of untapped potential with these characters and they deserve a better movie than this. I know David Ayer is capable of great things so maybe with how poorly this film’s being received critically and how well it’s doing financially, Warner Brothers will take a step back and let him do something truly unique with the second film. It saddens me that I’m more interested in seeing a Director’s Cut more than ever watching the Theatrical Cut again.