In a surprising twist, the third DC film in the DCEU was not to be a Flash film or even an Aquaman flick, instead, it was to be the Suicide Squad. An interesting prospect and the first film in the DCEU that was not to be directed by Zack Snyder. Stepping in to helm the project was Fury and End of Watch director David Ayer. The Squad is made up of (mostly) unknown comic book characters such Deadshot, Harley Quinn, El Diablo, Killer Croc, Rick Flagg, Katana, Slipknot, and Captain Boomerang.
The story of this Squad begins after the events of Man of Steel and Batman V Superman. Superman’s arrival to Earth worries many. 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 the planet, dubbed Task Force X. When Midway City comes under attack from one such meta-human that proves too powerful for any normal army the United States Government sends in their new “Suicide Squad” to combat the growing evil.
The premise is sound and solid. Although if this group was meant to fight beings like Superman why would the group consist of an individual whose one skill is being able to throw a boomerang?
Regardless Suicide Squad has the job of introducing several new colorful characters. Unlike Batman V Superman this doesn’t have the burden of setting up for the Justice League and could exist on its own terms. Sadly, Suicide Squad not only isn’t an improvement over Batman V Superman but it is far worst. This is thus far the low point of the already improving DCEU with absurdly poor editing, mostly uninteresting characters, and muddled storytelling. The film does boast some fun action and a lightweight two-hour runtime but upon repeated viewings, my enjoyment of this film decreases.
Much has come out about the behind the scenes drama of the film. Ayer had a mere six weeks to write the script and after the release of Batman V Superman, Warner Brothers started to get worried about the darker tone of the production. Weeks’ worth of reshoots and different editing companies certainly soared the film’s tone and direction. The result of this is one of the worst edited blockbuster films in recent years. Each cut doesn’t take into account the jarring tone shift and each cut feels like it is coming with little to no direction behind the scenes. Why try to build characters when you can just flash their stats on the screen like you’re choosing a Mortal Kombat character?
Light or dark tone Suicide Squad has issues that go beyond that. The first issue is the villain, Enchantress. An ancient spirit that wants to do something? What is her ultimate plan? Your guess is as good as mine. Enchantress builds a massive sky beam in the middle of Central City and starts wreaking havoc and that is just about as much as we really know about her. Not every villain has to be Heath Ledger’s Joker but when the basic motivation of your villain is so unclear then how do you expect to get invested in the story of stopping her?
Besides Enchantress there is also the Joker lurking in the background with his own nefarious agenda. This time the Joker is played by Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto. His character is underused and would serve as the better main villain rather than the Enchantress. That being said Leto’s Joker is a hard performance to gauge. Due to the sloppy editing, much of the performance feels chopped up. There is no sense of breathing room with Leto’s acting. There is some potential with Leto’s Joker but he fails to make a lasting impact partly through poor editing and bad writing.
The Suicide Squad themselves are a bit of a mixed bag. Will Smith as Deadshot plays Will Smith as Deadshot (which isn’t always a bad thing). Smith has had a bit of a cold track record as of late but Smith really shines at bringing his classic bravado to the role.
Margot Robbie is excellent as Harley Quinn even though rushing through her origins feels like a wasted opportunity. The surprising standout was Jay Hernandez as El Diablo. Joel Kinnamon as Rick Flagg is also a really good choice to lead the team. The rest are relegated to the background. The majority of the squad has good chemistry and the ground has a good rapport with one another. But, the other characters are uninteresting and don’t add a whole lot to the movie as a whole.
Ayer and his casting director put together a team worth watching but unfortunately, most of what is around them fail to come together. There are a handful of action sequences that are undeniably fun to watch and some of the humor works really well. The story, however, is not well told, the squad’s goals are constantly shifting and so too is the plot. In what should have been a straightforward action film over complicates itself with subplots into Amanda Waller, the Joker and then, of course, the main threat Enchantress. The sloppy editing is Suicide Squad‘s most obvious set of problems which could be overlooked if the characters and story worked better. The few characters that do work can’t carry the movie on their shoulders. Suicide Squad should have been a memorable outing of comic book outsiders instead of what it became. But hey, at least it won the Best Makeup, Oscar, right?