I finally got around to reading Scott Snyder’s first Batman graphic novel “Batman: The Black Mirror” and it floored me. I couldn’t believe how intricate, complex and how many surprises the novel packed into itself. The characters were well rounded and drew me in as a reader. The last half of the book I couldn’t put it down. It has quickly become one of my favorite Batman stories of all time. Now, “Suicide Squad” is no comic book and is no Batman story (even though Batman makes a few short and well used appearances). I share this antidote to illustrate how great stories in the DC universe can be. Of course filmgoers that have seen Christopher Nolan masterpiece trilogy already know how great they can be. And I still fully contend in this DC cinematic universe “Man of Steel” is a very well done movie that gets better the more you watch it. However “Batman v Superman” was disappointing however purely from a storytelling point of view. There is plenty of good stuff in it but as a whole it doesn’t work (and it’s really messy).
David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad” (the third film in the DC cinematic universe) made me feel almost exactly the same way that I did walking away from “Batman V Superman”. “Suicide Squad” is incredibly messy and choppy but there is a lot to like in it. However I think there is a bit more fun and entertaining value to be had in this breezy two hour comic book romp than the previous nearly three hour epic in “Batman V Superman”. But as a whole the film doesn’t work to tell a cohesive story nor does it provide an interesting mission for our mismatched group of villains to go on.
The story of the movie is pretty simple (as it should be) after Superman’s arrival to Earth many worry that there are others powerful beings like him will begin to pop up. The United States Government is actively trying to find a way to fight against “meta humans” like Superman. One tough as nails government agent Amanda Waller has come up with such a plan. She’ll fight fire with fire and gathers together a team of the most dangerous criminals on the face of planet (dubbed Task Force X) to combat these threats. When Midway City comes under attack from one such meta-human that proves too powerful for any normal army (and the “Justice League” hasn’t been assembled yet) the United States Government sends in their new “Suicide Squad” to combat the growing evil.
The Squad is made up of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, El Diablo, Killer Croc, Rick Flagg, Katana, Slipknot, and Captain Boomerang. And each one gets developed at some point and time in the movie. Some are more important (such as Deadshot and Harley Quinn who are probably the two leads of the Squad) and others like Katana aren’t so important. To start this review positive though David Ayer and his talented casting director has assembled a team of actors that work well together and have great dynamic between one another. It is nice when all your characters have a chance to shine but some need to have more a spotlight than others (wisely Killer Croc’s role is kept more minimal and works as a supporting character).
The characters that get the most attention are Deadshot, Harley Quinn and El Diablo (but his development comes much later into the story). Deadshot is played to perfection by Will Smith (and Smith hasn’t been this good in a blockbuster since “I Am Legend” in 2007). He is the best rounded of the characters with giving Smith plenty of material to sink his teeth into. He has vices and is a bad guy but still has a sympathetic edge. Harley Quinn is wonderfully played by Margot Robbie. It’s a tough role to play and with legions of fans behind the character, Robbie has a tall order. She isn’t always given the greatest material to work with (and brushing over her origins feels like a huge missed opportunity) but Robbie always propels the writing above what it actually is. I can’t wait to see more from her. El Diablo was a big surprise in the movie for me and wasn’t expecting to get wrapped up in his storyline.
The rest of the crew works well. I really liked Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang and Katana is fine. Slipknot is….very forgettable (but for obvious reasons). I really liked Joel Kinnaman’s performance as Rick Flagg. There are some big missed opportunities to flesh out his character and relationship to the main villain but for there is nothing wrong with Kinnaman’s performance.
Of course one of the big performances people will be curious about is Jared Leto as the Joker. After all he has to follow up to Heath Ledger’s bone chilling performance (which is incredibly unfair also considering the role the character plays here is very different). But, quite honestly there isn’t enough for me to really gauge Leto’s Joker. I can say I really liked what I saw but frankly he doesn’t have the screen time to really make an impact. Apparently there was a lot of his scenes that were cut (some shown in the trailer) and that is a shame. His performance is far different than anything we’ve seen live action or animation wise. Leto’s Joker is almost as if Scarface went insane. I really want to see more of him (up against Affleck’s Batman).
So, most of the stuff I mentioned before mostly all works. The action has its entertaining moments and the movie doesn’t ever really drag. So where do the problems come in? Well, it’s the story, editing, villain and structure of the movie that totally hurts it. As far as world building is concerned I think “Suicide Squad” does really help round out the world in the DC universe by showing many different perspectives that even Marvel hasn’t gone into (such as a more down to Earth government and villains) but after the movie really struggles. The mission isn’t really all that interesting. Part of that is because the villain in this movie….sucks. This is one of the worst comic book movie villains of all time (only behind the laughably bad villains of early comic book movies). Completely forgettable, lacked menace and has a confusing set of powers and weaknesses. Its actions didn’t make any sense and once again missed big opportunities for dramatic and dynamic storytelling. The film just didn’t draw me into its story or into the ludicrous mayhem.
The editing is also completely all over the place. It’s like the filmmakers couldn’t find spots to stick sequences and segments and threw it in random spots interrupting the flow of the film. Some segments of the film are completely jarring in both tone and just jarring in terms of jumping its story around. David Ayer doesn’t take time to let the movie breathe until much too late in the running time. The beginning is rushed with some scenes feeling like they are out of order (almost as if the scenes belong later during the other flashbacks and introductions). So in that, the structure of the film is built on more unstable foundation a child played Jenga. While there are a few plot details that don’t feel well thought out or executed (especially Joker’s role).
There are some good moments of humor sprinkled in throughout the movie that are welcomed. And I do think there is some fun in the movie. The action doesn’t always works but when it does work it is fun. If “Deadpool” and its lunacy had a child with the “Guardians of the Galaxy” misfits the movie would probably be “Suicide Squad”. This will please some and quite honestly would please me…if the movie was better made. Much like “Batman v Superman” though the sum of its parts doesn’t add up to a strong whole. I am still waiting for the DC Cinematic Universe to take off and as a big DC fan this disappoints me. I suppose I can just go and pick up the “Death of the Family” comic again to experience another great DC story because the next chance the movies will get is next June when “Wonder Woman” comes out (and hopefully delivers). Until then “Suicide Squad” was a disappointment that I wanted to love.