Batman v Superman failed to set the box office alight, will DC and Warner Bros do any better with their follow up movie? Find out as I review Suicide Squad.
The set up is simple; people with amazing powers could be a major problem if they decide to go bad. The US needs a taskforce capable of responding to this kind of threat. So, lady with a heart of flint, Amanda Waller steps up and forms the Suicide Squad. A group of dangerously psychotic, super powered criminals who can be controlled via bombs in their necks and a promise of time off their prison sentence. Voila, a summing up of the premise! Unfortunately, as with many things in this film, its not that simple….
That idea sounds like the sort of thing that could lead to a story that is anarchic good fun about bad people being sent after worse people. It even suggests that themes of evil and redemption might be explored. At the very least it sounds like the set up for a supervillain remake of the Dirty Dozen. In a word; nope! This film decides to spend nearly the entire first third of its run-time telling you about the back stories of the Squad members via neon-titled flashback sequences that are grafted into a scene where Amanda Waller pitches her idea to form the Squad. Given that there are six of these you can imagine why I was somewhat tired of them by the end. Individually some of these vignettes have entertainment value, but they are completely unnecessary. We know that Harley Quinn is crazy the first time we meet her because the script tells us so. We don’t need another ten minute sequence showing her and the Joker hooking up to reinforce it. We know Deadshot is an amazing shooter, partly because of his name and partly because the film is constantly showing us his skills with firearms. We don’t need a ten minute sequence telling us this at the start. It feels very much like someone at the studio turned up, watched the film in the editing suite and said “Hmmm… I’m not sure the audience are clever enough to pick up on all these subtle clues about the character’s traits. Perhaps we should really spell it out for them and hold up the entire plot of the film for the best part of forty minutes?”. It’s clumsy, it’s patronising and most of all it’s generally not that much fun. There are also several scenes later in the film that feel oddly out of place and I would put good money on having been added in the reshoots, which does nothing for the cohesiveness of the film as a whole.
Finally the movie starts moving and we get and inkling of the plot, but once again this is so muddled and filled with holes that it doesn’t feel like a journey that the characters go on. It feels more like a bunch of “cool scenes” strapped together to show us once again how badass this group are. This episodic feeling isn’t helped by the wooden script, which regularly had me wincing at how staid the dialogue was. They even have Will Smith say “So, we’re some sort of Suicide Squad then, huh?”. I know it’s a suicide squad! It’s on the poster! It told me that on the title card when I started watching the film!!! When the actual villain of the piece is finally introduced, which I won’t give away in case you’re worried about spoilers, they once again have a clichéd scene where they decide that they don’t like humans so they’re going to destroy/take over the world. The actual end-game they’re going for is also never really explained, but suffice to say the Squad are going to have to stop it. But wait! Actually they’re not, they’re being sent into the city where this villain is operating to rescue a VIP! Once the film finally seems to realise that this really isn’t what people have come to see this group of bad guys do, it manufactures a reason for them to go and confront the big bad. This scene that not only makes no sense but slows the entire pace of the film to a crawl just before the climax. It’s a really odd choice.
Perhaps though a mess of a script and plot could be saved by interesting characters who are all different shades of grey? Not in this movie! When they are being described by people who are not in the Squad the film would have you believe that these are some of the most twisted and vicious folk on the face of the planet. When you’re watching them this really doesn’t come through at all. What we are given instead is the same “bad guy with a heart of gold” stuff, which doesn’t match up to any of the set up. How is the cannibalistic, sewer-dwelling, man-crocodile meant to be someone I’m supposed to warm to?! Because the script says so? Oh, ok! There is absolutely no subtlety to the way these characters are written. When that is combined with a weird focus on Deadshot and Harley Quinn, who both feel like they should be secondary antagonists and not main characters, it really puts the final nail in the coffin for this movie. I should say at this point that the cast are clearly doing their damndest to make these characters work. Will Smith is charismatic and great as Deadshot, Margot Robbie is fun, dangerous and cracked as Harley Quinn. Joel Kinnaman does his best to be a soldier with a serious conflict of interest as Rick Flag and Cara Delevingne shines as the creepy Enchantress. For me though Viola Davis stole the show as the impressively dead-eyed and resolute Amanda Waller. The rest of the supporting cast are also clearly putting their heart and soul into their performances and my hat goes off to all of them for the amount of effort they went to. The problem is that the characters and script that they are given to work with are just plain bad.
As a final note on the cast, many people, the advertisers included, have been making a big fuss about Jared Leto’s performance as the Joker. First things first; he’s only on screen for about fifteen minutes, so don’t get your hopes up. Secondly, whoever wrote him decided for some reason to make him oddly over-sexual. I say “oddly” because sex has never really been a part of the Joker’s character in any of the versions we’ve seen so far in the comics or on screen. Instead of being creepy it felt more like the writer had been desperate to find something “edgy” to do with him and decided that “possible sexual fiend” was the way to go. Leto’s performance is equally as heartfelt as the rest of the cast’s, but sadly that can’t save the character from the writing. That being said I’d love to see which poor person has to try and find a way to make this Joker and Affleck’s Batman work together… because they clearly don’t!
Then we come to the wonder that is the soundtrack. In the trailers we have been treated to Queen’s opus, Bohemian Rhapsody. I also suspect that sales of Ballroom Blitz by Sweet have gone up significantly in recent months. Both of those worked for a minute and a half of excitingly cut footage. Having a different, on the nose, song ever scene for the first half of the movie does not. It’s almost like someone decided that they were going to make the movie a mix-tape, or visa-versa. Eclectic would be the kind way of putting it. Unfortunately it not only doesn’t make you feel like the film has a solid score or audio theme running through it, it also enhances the choppy nature of the first third of the movie. I’m sure the album will do well as most of the songs that have been chosen are great, but they don’t work in the context of the movie as it currently stands.
Lastly, I want to say that this is a $175million film and you can tell that a lot of time, effort and money has been spent on getting it to the screen. It looks expensive, it feels Hollywood and the people who have managed that have done a great job. Lest you think that I’m down on him I will also say that David Ayer has done a great job as a director. There are a lot of great shots in this film and it generally looks very good, they have just been edited together poorly. Sadly Ayer and his team have been working on a product that was flawed from the beginning. There is an old adage about not being able to polish faeces that would fit well in here.
To sum up this movie is a confused mess that doesn’t know what it wants to be. It bodes ill for the future of the DCEU and I recommend that you don’t go and see it.
One Moon out of Five.