Suicide Squad - Review: Fun but flawed
Wary of future superpowered threats, Amanda Waller (Voila Davies – How to Get Away With Murder) assembles Task Force X aka The Suicide Squad from a group of gifted but expendable criminals. When something real crazy lights up the skies of Midway City, special ops veteran Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman – Robocop) leads marksman Deadshot (Will Smith – “Oh hell no”), the crazy Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie – The Legend of Tarzan), Boomerang (Jai Courtney – films he sucks in) and others to save the city.
Now if you’re even mildly geeky, you may have been a little confused by the various verdict headlines hitting your Facebook feed (this article included). Some saying they loved it, others saying it sucks bat balls, and the thing to understand is that in a way they’re all correct because the DC-Verse has stayed consistent. For the second time this year, it’s produced a film with divisive results. Overall, this is a notably better film than Batman Vs Superman but just like the Sons of Marthas, it has elements that are great and some that our quite bad. This is still a step in the right direction for the franchise and that’s most evident in the 30 minutes revolving around the numerous introductions and Waller assembling her bad guy ranks. It has a near identical piecemeal narrative approach to BvS but everything flows for more naturally, with far greater direction.
The first act in which the characters get together is arguably the film’s strongest section before it starts needlessly stalling, retreading its steps before actually launching the gang on their trademark FUBAR mission. Then the story sadly takes titular cue and commits suicide. It’s like director David Ayer (Fury) is counting on his audience being too distracted by his mad bunch of central characters to notice the holes in the story. Hence divisive point number one: if you’re just in it for the causal ride, then this won’t bother you and you’ll have a great time with the film. But if you’re a Nolan trilogy cherisher expecting more substance, you’ll find your boomerang of enthusiasm making a hasty return loop. For too much of the film, things are far too vague over what the team are doing or why. Yes, by all means you can build to a twist reveal but you still need to bait us with a red herring before switching things up. Yet worst of all is the main “villain villain” aka non-good guy villain, and their almost non-existent plan.
They spent a fair amount of the film eagerly building their weapon of mass destruction.... that doesn’t even get a name! Not to mention any vague exposition over what it actually does or why we should be soiling our short shorts over it other than a lot of pretty lights and colours. This is partly due to being squeezed out of their screen time by the inclusion of The Joker. While Jared Leto’s Heath Ledger following performance is most definitely divisive point number 2 (but personally, I thought he was fantastic), the issue that whether you like what you’re seeing or not, you don’t need to be seeing it, or at least so much of it. The film would have fared by better using him more sparingly instead of forcing him more prominently into the main plot. Let him have little bursts of awesome in Harley’s flashbacks before delivering a meaningful Mark Hamill/Force Awakens style climatic present day entrance. It’s sadly another case of sacrificing content for the sake of rushed world-building, the real Kryptonite of the DC-Verse.
Now despite some expectations, this film is not quite the like laugh-a-minute fun action riot the trailers implied but it does have a lot of great humour in it, from its different character interactions. Will Smith gets to bring a lot of his charisma to his Deadshot; “The Fresh Floyd” if you will. It may go so far away as offending some comic purists (divisive point number 3) but it’s very easy to like those wise cracking charms, and the said purists will be more than a little happy with Robbie’s Harley Quinn who absolutely nails everyone’s favourite crazy b****, which comes with no shortage of full-on laughs with just the right hint of tragedy. An honourable mention also goes out to Jai Courtney (...not a typo, I am being positive about him) for making Boomerang a very fun Ozzy nutter. When it comes to deeper emotional cuts, the film really forgot to sharpen its Katana. While it finds a little success establishing Deadshot’s daughter as his motivation (although check out Michael Rowe in Arrow seasons 2 and 3 to see a much better version) it well and truly comes up a Croc’er over the Rick Flag and Dr June/Enchantress romantic connection.
It’s built up as a key point of invested significance in the film but we just don’t feel anything for the pair. Maybe it’s because the twisted love affair scenes of Joker and Harley are way more interesting or that the subs bench Joel Kinnaman sells his feelings at little more than daytime soap level but either way, it’s a bust. There is one exception on emotional front though. Sometimes if you can’t make a cut, you can still burn through as El Diablo’s (Jay Hernandez – Friday Night Lights), whose remorseful passivity angle is not only effective it’s by far the most believable character angle on screen. Diablo is actually an unexpected highlight of the film despite the bigger names and better known personas around him.
Then the action (you guessed it) produces mixed results. Some sequences are wonderfully frantic and chaotic in a way that feels in keeping with the anarchistic nature of the team. Every key character gets their fair share of cool moments. The different character dynamics and fighting styles are utilised nicely in contrast with each other but the emphasis is heavily on the characters as individuals. We really don’t see enough of them combining their skills and acting like a team. Think back to 2012's Avengers and the Battle of New York tracking shot; in this film, there’s no equivalent of Cap reflecting Iron Man’s repulsers off his shield or Hulk jamming a metal shard into a leviathans head before Thor hammers it down. It’s shame because there’s so much potential here. It must also be said that some of the action, especially in the climax, gets repetitive and even unoriginal as each character is knocked down or sent flying in pretty much the same way during a boss fight.
So Suicide Squad is basically what BvS would have been like if was given more laughs, significantly improved but still with plenty of problems and again, way too much of the film was shown in the numerous trailers. Despite overloading itself, it achieves a lot of really good world-building for the DC-Verse with more ties to past and future films than expected. Even more so it makes magic a very real and prominent commodity within it. It’s driven by a great core cast with only Joel Kinnaman getting a red flag and Viola Davis really showing us the ruthless and manipulative side of Amanda Waller. It’s a comic book film that gets caught on those ever treacherous origin stories hurdles but it clears them and now, with the whole team and setup on the books, could form the groundwork of a much better sequel. Marvel has now unquestionably won 2016's cinema showdown but Suicide Squad shows that DC is still improving, and that just like its characters, having bad qualities doesn’t mean it can’t be good when it wants to.