Suicide Squad has been a long time coming, with rumours, teasers and a ridiculously star spangled cast. Then the first trickle of reviews began to come out in the past week leading up to its release, and things weren’t looking great. There was even a petition (granted largely by teenaged Comic Book fans who hadn’t yet seen the film) to close down Rotten Tomatoes in response to the poor reviews from some critics.
Well, We Make Movies On Weekends went to check out what was becoming an increasingly intriguing film and – after a visit from the cast (yes, we geeked out at that a LOT) during which writer and director David Ayer appeared to try and qualify the film for us critics before it had even begun, almost appealing to us not to slam it (never a promising start) – the time had come and up the credits rolled. This review is spoiler free, but has some mild nods at specific parts of the film – if you’re intending to go in fully blind, here be dragons. (But if you’re intending on going in blind, what are you doing reading a review? Get out of here, you!)
Now to say that the film is just an outright flop wouldn’t be fair. And this is what makes the whole thing so frustrating.
Let’s start with the character acting. Jared Leto obviously had some enormous shoes to fill when it came to his Joker, and reports of his borderline menacing method acting have found their way into public consciousness, possibly fuelled by his wish to do Heath Ledger no disservice (though in this critic’s opinion it may be more due to the fact that the previous portrayal won an Oscar, and there’s definitely a lustful glint of gold in Leto’s eyes). It’ll be pretty hard to ever match up to Ledger standards of Joker, one of the best performances certainly in superhero film history, if not film history in general. But Leto gave it a decent crack, and it is entertaining, but there is a slight something missing. It’s hard to put your finger on what went wrong but there seems to be a layer of substance absent from the vindictive villain’s menace, almost a Disney Joker.
Deadshot, portrayed by Will Smith, is a confusing one to settle on. If you’re looking for stunningly accurate Comic Book portrayals you may be disappointed, but if you’re willing to give him some leeway, he is a thoroughly enjoyable character. Tangible and smarter than he’s letting on, Will Smith brings his patented wise-ass humour to the role, certainly making him one of the favourites.
As for Margot Robbie – Comic Book fans will not be disappointed, and neither will anyone else. She simply is Harley Quinn. Damaged and violent, strong and cocky, and ultimately unashamed – but willing to throw it all away in a second and harm herself for her psychotic obsession with her “Puddin’”.
Let’s take a second here, because there is a lot floating around about Harley Quinn’s role being sexist and a poor role model. I have two problems with this. Firstly, she is a psychotic mass murderer that has been released from prison and continues to behave criminally thereafter, she is not meant as a role model. As with the rest of them, she is an antihero, and if you’re going in expecting anything more then you probably shouldn’t bother. Secondly, yes we’ve all seen how important representation is with the release of Ghostbusters and the like – but these sorts of relationships do exist. Dominating and submissive relationships exist across the globe, and there are women so damaged by their obsession that they lose a piece of their mind (hello unsubtle electro-shock metaphor). This is acknowledged in Suicide Squad, as it is the nature of this character. It is gruellingly real, and is in no way glamourised. So no, in this instance, I see no problem with this inclusion. The Joker certainly is abusive – but that is the nature of the relationship and to ignore that would be doing disfavour to the story.
As well as some really great acting (minus Margot Robbie’s accent – I’m not sure she’s ever actually met an American based on that attempt) the film is, visually, stunning. The teasers and posters really did capture the playful, damaged and impactful aesthetic of the film, with its ebbing colour and Watchmen-like effects. It is just a beautiful film, and very encompassing of the DC universe.
However, despite this enormous amount of potential, it just doesn’t hold up. The viewer is led down a winding path only to end up back where they started, not really sure how they got there, if anything really changed along the way, and slightly more confused than before.
I’ve always said, if you want heroes, you go Marvel, but for the best villains it’s DC every time. I will now be rethinking this motto. It feels like Suicide Squad had an awesome villain in The Joker, and benched him for Cara Delevigne’s Enchantress – possibly the most pointless superhero movie villain yet. Essentially, her job is to stand in a splash of CGI swirls, dancing weirdly and putting on a funny accent. Apparently she has some big evil plan, but the details of this never materialise.
Alongside this we see the reason that Delevigne should, perhaps, stick to modelling. If she was putting any effort or emotion in to her performance, the camera certainly didn’t pick it up.
In the same vein, the reason for the squad’s assembly in the first place is never really fully articulated. We did promise not to spoiler you, and we won’t – mostly because that would be very hard to do, as the plot itself is minimal to non-existent.
Whatever semblance of a storyline there is seems disjointed to the point of nonsensicality. The villain never really feels like a true threat, or particularly….well, villainous. And it’s pretty clear from the off how to overcome the situation (which in itself is never really explained). For this film and these anti-heroes, we could have done with a more earthly threat as an antagonist.
The script is also a bit of a wild card, with some really nice witticisms and quips, eliciting a lot of laughs from the crowd juxtaposed with some of the more serious speech falling flat and feeling fragmented and awkward.
Ultimately, it’s a really fun aesthetic, with very enjoyable, cartoonish characters, but it just couldn’t quite pull all the pieces together. There was a smorgasbord of rare and complimentary ingredients for something really out-of-this-world special to work with, but Ayer needed another chef in the writing kitchen so that he could focus on the presentation and garnish at which he excels (this metaphor has gone too far).
I hesitate to use the word shambolic, but really I cannot oversell how…well, shambolic, the plot is. We spend the whole film waiting for some clever reveal to come along and align the stars before us to explain what had been missing, but when the time comes we are thoroughly disappointed.
A really entertaining couple of hours, with some spectacular performances (and some less so) but in the end, Suicide Squad leaves us feeling out of sorts and unsatisfied.