The third movie in the DC Extended Universe, following the controversial and under-performing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is here but does it live up to the hype or does the Squad commit Hara-Kiri? Read on if you dare…
I write this review as someone who actually really likes 2013’s Man of Steel and mostly liked Batman v Superman. Keep that in mind as you read this review.
We almost pulled it off. The worst part is they’ll probably blame us for it…
I’m sorry to say that the critics are (mostly) right in their respective assessments of this film, it falls short of its mark in quite a few ways. I wanted to love this movie, I really did. However, even though I can forgive a neurotic mad scientist Lex and a neck-snapping Superman, I can’t get behind some of the choices in this movie.
The basic synopsis is that a high ranking Government official, Amanda Waller, has a plan in place now that Superman is gone. She prepares a team of crazies, criminals and metahumans to step up if and when they’re needed to fight the next planetary crisis or an evil Superman. Understandably, most of them actually don’t want to risk their lives for the Government on the off-chance they will actually die and so have to be cajoled and/or forced into joining Waller’s Suicide Squad to fight a threat that really will destroy the planet.
I’ll start with the good, almost every actor in this movie is strong with what they’re given; although some stand out more than others.
Viola Davis as Amanda Waller is pretty impressive, for a role that is overstated as DC’s Nick Fury. She’s used a lot to serve the same purpose repeatedly. However, this time Davis is given the chance to instill the character with a meanness that’s sorely lacking from other inclusions of the character. Waller is pragmatic and covers her tracks well. She knows how to survive in a world where Gods fall from the skies or billionaires dress up in Kevlar. Davis’ turn as Waller is sort of pivotal to the film working at its best and worst; but without Davis giving the character gravitas the movie doesn’t work at all.
Y’know, props to this film for two of its three best performances coming from both people of color and two females in a comic book film. It has woefully been lacking for the last 20 years at both Marvel and Fox. In what should surprise no one, Will Smith’s Deadshot hedges out Davis’ Amanda Waller as the best character in the film. Honestly, I know more about Boomerang than Deadshot so maybe I’m not the best judge but Smith really seemed to nail the character and his motivation. He’s an assassin with a death-wish, but who also has a more human reason for joining the Squad and this gives him an arc as well as empathy with the audience. Smith delivers some of the best action and comedy; but his character’s also the one who transforms the most over the course of the film without ever being entirely redeemed as a hero. He’s still a villain, but the movie gives him chances to show he’s not necessarily evil.
Coming in third is Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. I know someone that behaved like Harley, I felt pity for them. Like Harley, they had a troubled home life and often seemed to use their sensuality as a coping mechanism to fit in with others or deflect others getting too close. Robbie absolutely personifies this, although not 100% perfect her Harley makes it clear how talented she is an actress; but also how well she understood the character. Her “accent” disappears a few times and I actually did get tired of seeing her buttocks so much; but Harley Quinn as a character is funny, competently deadly; and a woman who owns her sexuality without ever letting someone take advantage of her (except for the Joker; more to come). Quinn becoming unhinged by her Puddin seems to have left her with few inhibitions, but Harley quickly gains the upper hand as those around her let down their guard from her ploys. It’s funny to think Robbie was once thought to be the Carrie Kelly Robin. Despite being 30 years old, no one considered what she would be like acting like the Harley Quinn. To her credit; I can’t see anyone else doing it after her role in this film. Robbie is great; even if at times she wasn’t able to fall into her character as well as Smith or Davis.
I’d read elsewhere that someone else considered El Diablo the team’s heart, although I think it’s more accurate to call him the conscience while Deadshot is the heart. Deadshot pushes the Squad into more of its logical and necessary actions; Diablo is hesitant to even use his powers at all much less to be part of the team. Nonetheless, he’s the one who urges Deadshot and the others to try and redeem themselves while not falling into the mentality that led them here. It’s a dark horse role, although given too little screen time to be among the top three. El Diablo was a character I always wanted to see more of and learn about while watching the film.
The comparisons to this film being like Ghostbusters are not unfounded. Rick Flagg’s relationship with June Monroe/Enchantress are evidence of that analogy. Joel Kinnaman does a decent job imitating a Southern accent and playing the character as a Government stooge. He’s more than willing to serve his Government but skeptical of the Squad’s chances of success. He’s relationship with June Monroe more or less follows Flagg’s origins in the comic but with a twist that gives the plot some emotional stakes. Enchantress starts out having some depth and tragedy before becoming a spooky Slave Leia clone. Once she started doing a Queen of the Damned shuffle while threatening the team; I pretty much lost interest.
I can more or less understand some of the Squad’s choices in it’s cast; Croc proves to be a valuable member in the climax as well as muscle that comes in handy. Even Katana joins Diablo as some much needed magic for the film’s antagonist. However; I don’t understand why Captain Boomerang needed to be here. He’s funny; and of course there’s that little cameo which I’m sure has already been spoiled for you. Still; Boomerang adds almost nothing to the plot except a few well-placed but subtle laughs.
By far; the weakest character in the entire film is Jared Leto’s Joker. I know what he was going for and how he fit into the plot, but his portrayal doesn’t do anything for me. He’s channeling Jack Nicholson; but Jack himself was a cartoon in a gothic setting while Leto’s Joker feels like a glaring blight on the set. It’s clear that Leto is talented and trying his damnedest to live up to the character’s film legacy while never approaching success. This Joker is a punkish mob boss, fine, whose various neuroses seem to cause him actual pain. Not a bad take but I think the thing that really doesn’t work is his relationship with Harley. It’s actually real; they’re crazy for each other which I always wanted to see until I did. Whether it’s Ayer wanting not to glorify domestic abuse or put a twist on the Joker/Harly dynamic; it ends up ruining both characters and their relationship by robbing it of any ambiguity or the tragedy that Harley loves a man incapable of loving her.
A mixed aspect of the film is it’s soundtrack. Like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy; this film also utilizes a number of songs to tell you about the characters but it gets played out very fast. The music overused and the songs don’t always match up with the scene in question. Granted the variety of genre is great but the pacing is quick to cut them short.
By the way, the horrendous pacing of Dawn of Justice returns. Watching the Ultimate Cut of that film; crucial information gets filled in and it doesn’t feel rushed but instead becomes something of a chore to deal with as it only adds to what’s there while enhancing some parts. I can’t imagine there’s a half hour of this film that’s needed to appreciate it; even if they’re focused on the Joker. There’s two or three false starts which exhaust the viewer waiting for the plot to begin. Switching a few scenes from the beginning to a half hour later would help with this but probably couldn’t fix everything.
The plot is the big elephant in the room; specifically the climax and reason the Squad comes together. For one thing, no one in the film seems to truly question what happens if Waller’s plans go sideways which they do almost immediately. If Waller hadn’t tried to assemble the Squad she would’ve saved lives and herself some trouble. This movie is like Ghostbusters meets Con Air (if Nic Cage was the true dick of the story) but then the film sidesteps to be the basic outline for Justice League Dark. Now David Ayer gave this movie his best; and that’s commendable. The dialogue and interactions between the cast are sublime and leagues ahead of Zack Snyder/David Goyer/Chris Terrio but he runs straight into the minefield of plot contrivances that’s plagued better films then this. Even the ending of the film gets ruined by the last two minutes. It’s hard to tell what the $10 million in reshoots went towards as nothing really seems like it was improved or able to be improved anyway.
The sad truth is, Man of Steel is the best of the DCEU films. It really is; although I’m sure many will disagree with me. What Man of Steel did, regardless of whether it was done well; was reintroduce a Superman for modern times with room to grow but also tell a easy to follow a Superman story about fighting Zod. It’s a movie about hope (it really is, if you pay attention) in that it’s about us accepting a being that’s an alien but wants to earn our trust and protect us. BvS scuttles that for an admittedly ambitious epic that doesn’t coalesce as much as it should and in quick succession; Suicide Squad squanders all the hope and goodwill brought on by it’s brilliant marketing campaign.
It’s not too dark or full of characters you can’t root for; it’s just not as good as it should be or could’ve been. If Bat versus’s Superman caused a top down restructuring of Warner Bros, this movie is likely to cause some firings.
At the end of the day, this movie is a slightly better Batman v Superman but doesn’t surpass or meet the expectations it probably needs to.
Also, there is a mid-credits sequence that sets up a future DC film, it’s fairly pointless but there’s nothing after that.