I’m not sure when a big Friday movie release came to mean it’s in theaters a day early, but I saw Suicide Squad last night… despite the fact it was just released in theaters today.
To begin, I want to lay out my expectations of the movie going in, so you could see where my mind frame was. Firstly, I’m a comics fan, super heroes are a big part of my life, hell I’ve got an Iron Man and Batman tattoo (this was before the Iron Man movies FYI). I say this because I want to make it clear I want all comic based movies to be good because it can only help the comic book industry. Unfortunately what I want and what I get aren’t always one in the same.
As big of a fan of Batman that I am, I’m equally as big of a Superman detractor. I was never able to get passed the pre-pubescent fantasy that he was; the strongest hero, the most powers, an alien, but looks as American as can be. It just never appealed to me. With that said, I had high hopes for the Man of Steel movie, believing it was going to start the DC Cinematic Universe on a strong note. It did not. I was not a fan at all. The story telling was convoluted, they took everything away from what Superman was meant to be. Things only got worse with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. I know the movie was extremely divisive, and I just happen to fall on the negative side of the divide.
All of this is to say that the DCCU needed a big boost before it died without ever getting a chance to solidify. Enter the 3rd movie of the franchise; Suicide Squad. With lofty expectations on its shoulders the movie needed to succeed in one thing above all else, it had to garner interest in its characters. So what did they do? They brought in one of, if not the most, popular villains in all of comics, and introduced for the first time in a live action movie perhaps the biggest breakout star of recent memory. Of course I’m talking about Slipknot and Enchantress.
No, of course I’m talking about Joker and Harley Quinn. Everyone’s talking about these two, good or bad, everyone is talking about them.
As much pressure as the movie had with keeping the DCCU afloat, Jared Leto had even more pressure filling Heather Ledger’s shoes as the Joker. From the first announcement of his signing on for the roll I was more high-up on him than many fans. Leto is a good actor, sometimes even a damned good actor, and screwed up enough in the head that I had faith in his interpretation of the Clown Prince of Crime. And then… and then the photos surfaced, and all hope was crushed. I understand every actor has to make the character their own in certain ways, but no part of the look said ‘this is the Joker’. The longer I saw pictures, the more numb I had become to the look. I never liked it, but stopped caring in hopes that his acting would save the role. Unfortunately, it did not. Perhaps it was the massive reshoots, or maybe that Leto claims a lot of his scenes were removed, but the Joker we got wasn’t good. The look was even worse in action, and his entire role within the movie was unnecessary. When Harley was taken into custody he and a minion tracked her down and he spends the movie trying to save her from the Squad. (more on that later)
Speaking of Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie had a difficult task ahead of her, and the eyes of the comic book world watching her, and she delivered in spades. Easily the best part of the movie, Robbie surprised me, as I had never been impressed with her acting prior to this movie. Hers is a case where changing the look of the character worked. But best of all, there was a flashback of her wearing the classic red and black one piece jumper from the cartoon, the suit even resurfaced in one more scene very briefly, but the fan service was well received. It’s easy to tell Robbie had fun with the character, which is probably the most important feature of Harley. At times crazy, sympathetic, scary, but always interesting, Harley Quinn was a crucial central figure to the movie, and was served well in Robbie’s hands. The only lull in the character came when Joker saved her from the Squad (told you we’d be back to this). A long running side plot of the movie was Harley covertly planning with Joker to break free from the group. The payoff is when Joker intercepts the Squad’s escape route and helicopter, and delivers on his promise to save her. The copter is shot down by orders of Amanda Waller, and both Joker and Harley are presumed dead. We see that she survives, as the audience we’re left to believe Joker actually did perish. With nowhere else to turn, Harley returns to the team and resumes the mission. Joker’s plot within the movie did succeed in showing the quirks in their relationship, but otherwise felt out-of-place in the context of the movie and the bigger threat in play. The movie ends with the Joker breaking into the prison and freeing Harley, revealing what everyone knew that he wasn’t dead.
Joker would have been better utilized had they not shown him throughout the movie, simply having Harley continuously saying throughout the mission that her ‘puddin’ or ‘Mr. J’ would be showing up to save her. Initially have the others be worried about him showing up, but as the movie progresses and he doesn’t save her they just think it’s more of her being crazy. Then at the end when he saves her, still do that scene but never show his face. Instead the movie ends with his laugh, setting up either the Batman movie where he should have debuted, or the next Squad movie.
The other character worth a closer look at is Will Smith’s Deadshot. To be honest, I can’t think of a Will Smith movie I’ve liked since Independence Day, perhaps there’s another one in there, but the point remains, I’m not a fan. It always feels like I’m watching Will Smith on screen, as opposed to the character he’s meant to be acting as. He’s always Will Smith, and that’s not good acting. However in Suicide Squad, he’s only himself in one scene, otherwise he’s a likeable deadly assassin with cool wrist mounted guns. In other words he’s Deadshot, not Will Smith, and that’s a good thing. Despite the movie having Joker and Harley Quinn, most of the laughs come courtesy of Mr. Smith, which worked.
Jai Courtney, as Captain Boomerang, has received a lot of praise for finally finding a role that suits him. However, I wasn’t impressed, and still wonder how he lands big title roles.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, as Killer Croc, was largely forgotten throughout the movie. You can tell the exact moment when the writers remembered he was in it so they crafted one underwater scene for him to ‘shine’, which he doesn’t. His makeup was better onscreen than I was expecting, but the proportion of his head to body was jarring when you see him without a shirt.
Jay Hernandez, as Diablo, stole the heart of the movie and breathed a deeper soul to the character than there previously was.
Viola Davis, as Amanda Waller, was perfect casting, and I hope to see her in future movies. She commanded every scene she was in, and is exactly what Waller should be.
Everyone else in the film is forgettable, and that includes the main antagonists. Enchantress and her brother that she pulls out of her ass. They have virtually no back story, and zero explanation is given about their powers so they just do whatever they want. The two spend the entirety of the movie waiting in a big room to be found by the ‘heroes’ like a boss battle in a video game. They have a faceless horde of minions used as cannon fodder to kill some movie time, which gave ample opportunity for the Squad to show what their capable of, which is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the film.
The movie lacked a compelling story, but with a cast of characters as twisted as the Suicide Squad, a story isn’t needed to make the movie enjoyable. Not every movie is going to be a thinking piece, and this is one that sure as hell shouldn’t be. Mindless fun is what you’re promised, and despite some brutal flaws, the Squad delivered on their mission.
Two other spoiler notes, the movie lives up to its name by killing off two of the characters. The first was Slipknot, who was clearly meant to die simply by his introduction. Everyone else on the team has some background given about them, then when the team is getting ready for their first mission, he simply walks into the shot, like an extra that forgot his place. And he’s treated about the same way. He was killed off after Boomerang convinces him to try to escape. He learns the hard way that the bomb implanted in their necks, are in fact real. The other death comes at the end of the movie and sees Diablo sacrifice himself to help kill Enchantress’ brother. A villain so crucial they never actually give him a name. It was a touching sacrifice from the character that needed it the most.
The other big spoiler is the fact 2 Justice League members show up in the movie. The first we all know because they showed Batman in the trailers, and his role was extremely minimal, but it gave several of the Squad members a common link. Ben Affleck appears again, however this time as Bruce Wayne at the end of the movie in the mid credits scene, where he has a sit down with Waller, and asks/demands the files on her team. He then tell her to shut them down, or his friends will. I’m sure this is supposed to feel like a tease for a potential JL vs SS movie, but we all know that’ll never happen.
The other cameo is the Flash, who shows up briefly in a flashback to apprehend Captain Boomerang. The suit looks much better than it did in BvS:DoJ but the character feels more like Wally West than it does Barry Allen. While to non-comic fans that may sound like gibberish, I hope I’m not the only one that feels the distinction, and is bothered by it.
As for a rating, I’ll give the movie a 65% which is 15-20% better than BvS depending on the version. For a fun, nonsense movie, it serves the purpose, just don’t go into the movie expecting the comic on screen.