This is not going to be one of those Suicide Squad reviews that mercilessly compares DC to Marvel, simply because I don’t have anywhere near enough experience with either cinematic universe to be able to make any valid points. What I did know before I went in to see this latest release, however, was that the superhero/comic book movies that had given me most enjoyment in recent times have been the ones that take on the quirkier side of things, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Ant-Man, Deadpool etc. With the trailer for this anti-hero bandwagon catching my attention, I had high hopes that I could add to the short but satisfying list of films in the genre that I actually liked.
Oy vey, this is a bad, bad, bad movie, and the most frustrating thing is that amongst the mess, you can see the bones of something that long ago might have been promising. Briefly, the premise of Suicide Squad is that intelligence operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) scouts and creates a team of super-villains to band together to, against their will and injected with head exploding devices, use their special skill sets to defeat a world threatening enemy. This cast of super-villains includes Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adele Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Slipknot (Adam Beach), with, as advertised a special appearance from The Joker (Jared Leto). Did you notice how boring that last sentence was to read? Well that is just about as boring as it was being sequentially introduced to all of these characters at the beginning of the narrative. As the audience are introduced to each villain, the transparency and desperation for DC to emulate recent successful works in the genre is almost insulting. Much like Guardians Of The Galaxy, these vignettes are accompanied by a modern pop soundtrack. The songs are enjoyable but hold absolutely no message or meaning for their chosen characters, and feel rather like a band aid of nostalgia being applied to a film that has been schizophrenically edited to within an inch of its life.
Despairingly, this 30 minutes of character introduction proves, despite its many flaws, to be the most entertaining portion of the movie, as everything that follows is taken straight from the very weakest “super hero movie villain take over the world with no reason or plan” playbook that there is. Everything, and I mean everything, that is good about the film is included in the trailer, and that is three minutes out of two long hours. Rather than try to create an engaging story, the filmmakers have instead decided to rely on the charisma of their stars to carry the narrative, and although Will Smith and Margot Robbie make bold efforts, they cannot stop Suicide Squad from being a flimsy, in parts incoherent, completely style over substance flop, and there isn’t much style there to begin with. For a film with such quirky and vibrant advertising, it says something that the colour of Harley Quinn’s hair is the only non-grey, non-dark element I can recall.
As I mentioned above, the frustrating aspect is that some of the performances, namely Will Smith as Headshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, are genuinely good, but any positive work put in by the actors is immediately voided by the absolutely terrible dialogue that they are forced to bring to life. Much was made of Jared Leto’s new take on the Joker, but his hammy combination of old school Cesar Romero and contemporary Heath Ledger did nothing but make me cringe. I know they are ‘villains’ and that villains in general are are supposed to be singular and insular, but for a film with the word squad in the title, the lack of group chemistry that is displayed is really detrimental to the tone. Cara Delevingne as the squad’s target, the Enchantress, is given the impossible task of making a villain with absolutely no explained motivation an interesting foe for the protagonists. I have previously enjoyed her in Paper Towns, so I can only assume that her failure in this is down to poor direction and a complete lack of character design with which to work. Viola Davis is a great actress, and her performance as Amanda Waller is enjoyable in a kind of meta way. She consistently acted about as over it and pissed off with all of the squad’s nonsense as I was, and it brought a cynical delight to the proceedings that though I am not sure was intended, was fun to see nonetheless.
Overall, Suicide Squad is a prime example of a film that promised much and delivered very, very little. It does not surprise me to hear that the script was written in just six weeks, as the terrible dialogue is something that consistently belittles any small positives that things like individual performances and style choices offer. The plot is aimless and completely inconsequential with one of the most paper thin villains I have seen for a long time. In truth, Suicide Squad is not a film, it is a shoddily edited series of hurried vignettes spliced with a musical soundtrack that feels like a shameless copy cat element from a far greater picture. See it if you must, purely out of curiosity, but don’t go in with hopes of experiencing anything more than a red hot mess.