Suicide Squad was supposed to be the film that put the DCEU back on track, did it?
No, but it’s an improvement, a mild partial improvement.
The film is a colossal mess, a lot of interesting ideas that don’t quite work as excellently as they could in execution, a lot of visuals that hint at brilliance but are only glimpsed for a second, a lot of stark shifts in tone and jarring music cues. You can see the potential for greatness in this film, but it’s weighed down by a lot of weird choices, awkward writing and disorientating, muddled editing, as well as fluctuating quality in performances and choreography.
Source material wise, the Suicide Squad is brilliant conceptually and at its best when they’re undertaking covert, extremely shady operations, which we only get a smidge of in the film. Ayer also pulls a lot of ‘comic booky’ stylings into the film, personalised name plates and visuals such as El Diablo creating a 2D fire crown above his head are great on paper but appear out of place and odd when realised, although I respect the team for embracing some out there concepts, they were good ideas but either to general or tonally out of place to be effective in their own right.
SPOILERS FOLLOW IN THE SECTION BELOW AS I REFERENCE CHARACTER PORTRAYALS AND SPECIFIC SCENES
Speaking of El Diablo, he’s supposed to be one of the more prominent sympathetic characters in the squad but comes across flat and undeveloped. Furthermore, his powers are never explained well, he mentions losing control every other line and not knowing what he did to his wife and kids. The big reveal is that El Diablo is possessed by a giant flaming skeleton – no, not Ghost Rider – this, much like the constant change in tone is jarring. He also makes a ‘grand sacrifice’ for the team, exclaiming that he’s not going to lose another ‘family’, he hasn’t even talked to all the team, he had an argument with Deadshot and a couple of lines with Harley Quinn but other than that he has no connection to the group so this noble deed is completely unearned and out of place, yet painfully predictable.
Speaking of flat, possessed characters that have no development or weight. Cara Delevingne plays June Moon, an archaeologist, who is possessed by a Succubus witch called: Enchantress. Early on Enchantress betrays the squad in it’s foetal stage and sets in motion her plan for world domination, resurrecting her equally bland brother – Incubus by finding a random train station in Midway city and smacking a dude. She then goes on to build a machine made of magic that’s sole purpose is to destroy the world. Delevingne struggles to bring any life or power to Enchantress, a witch thousands of years old but wears a bikini and makes balls jokes. Enchantress doles out the pain on the squad via her brother, and an army of bubble faced zombies that she converts to her side by giving them a snog, before being easily swatted by Harley after the brother and the band of bubbles are out of the picture. The sequence of events makes you question why she’s the villain at all. Delevingne also makes a lot of questionable choices in the role, for what feels like most of her screen time the Enchantress wiggles around, looking like she’s performing a variation of poorly practiced hula dancing. She also has a habit of flipping between talking rather slowly and spitting her words out so quickly you wonder if she was specifically instructed to monologue as quickly as possible. The Enchantress isn’t all bad though, there’s a transition near the start of the film where the Enchantress’s hand holds June’s and then twists, unfortunately the one cool visual is the highlight for the character.
Even more members of the squad had communication problems, due to his extensive prosthetics Adewale Akkinuoye-Abaje’s Killer Croc can be hard to understand at times, Jai Courtney’s surprisingly funny and source accurate Captain Boomerang is also hard to understand as Courtney’s thick Australian accent takes centre stage – however this is preferable to the Captain not being Australian, Adam Beach’s Slipknot also grumbles his handful of lines, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn seems to change accent a couple of times – admittedly this could be because her character is supposed to be crazy, but it’s never made clear – not even Jared Leto’s Joker escapes unscathed as his occasional deep tones come across as gargled. Overall these are small problems that add up to an unfortunate whole that feel like they could easily be fixed with some attention to the sound mixing and maybe even reshoots.
Harley Quinn’s live action debut, helmed by Robbie is underwhelming and lost in the messiness of the film. Robbie is naturally engrossing in the film as she fits the part to a t, but her character is riddled with jokes that don’t land and character beats that don’t resonate with the needed heart of the character. In a montage we glimpse an extremely creepy realisation of Alex Ross’s infamous interpretation of Harley and the Joker and it makes you wonder if the film would have benefited from a focus on the creepier side of Dr.Quinsel.
Leto’s Joker is also unfortunately underwhelming. His introduction is lack lustre and while the Joker embracing his mobster/gangster routes but with the emphasis on the modern criminal interests me, a lot of the time there was so much focus on this ‘new’ side of him, they forgot to include the Joker parts. Furthermore, he’s barely in the film, most of his actions involve texting and when he does show up it feels like he’s there to set up a nice shot. The epitome of this is when he’s hiding in an apartment and sets up an assortment of items like knives and baby clothes, as well as tagging the wall with his signature cackle. The imagery is clearly meant to demonstrate that he’s crazy but it feels like it’s trying too hard to make the Joker edgy and at no point does it feel like there’s a need; but maybe that’s the joke.
Will Smith’s Deadshot is easily the best character in the piece, his interaction with Batman is brilliant and his relationship with his daughter sets up the emotional core of the film. However, they’ve added some things to the character that don’t quite make sense. For example, he doesn’t kill women or children. A bit of an odd hang up for the world’s best assassin for hire. Like most of the characters, it feels like they needed to humanise him for the audience and couldn’t think of a better, more organic method.
Neither Rick Flagg or Katana get much mileage from the script. There’s an interesting relationship change when Flagg admits to Deadshot that he needs them in the bar scene but Katana never has her moment. She inexplicably switches allegiance between Argus and the squad whenever the plot requires it; her introduction is messy and feels like set up for a plotline that may reappear in future instalments.
SPOILERS ABOVE BUT NOT BELOW
The film wasn’t all bad, it was better than Batman v Superman in my opinion, it just felt extremely messy and inconsistent, with a lot of questionable decisions hampering the piece. I hope that Ayer returns for the sequel and focuses on fleshing out the characters out a bit more equally, instead of some characters having multiple introductions and some barely even one. As well as either ditching or fully embracing the sleazy pulp comic book aesthetic as the indecisiveness throughout the film did not benefit it. Overall, you should probably see it to assure yourself that the DCEU is taking baby steps in a better direction and for an interesting dissection of the ‘style over substance’ mentality but if you’re looking for much else, regretfully you won’t find it in Suicide Squad.