Things are so bad— how bad is it?
Things are so bad, it’s no longer enough to have superheroes fighting for you. Nowadays you need supervillains on your side.
That’s the premise behind SUICIDE SQUAD (2016), the latest superhero movie from DC comics. Unlike its rival Marvel comics, whose superhero films have been for the most part high quality flicks and box office hits, the DC movies have struggled. The previous film in the series, BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016) was a dud and struggled with believability, as its rift between Batman and Superman was forced and contrived.
Today’s movie, SUICIDE SQUAD, struggles with a similar problem.
SUICIDE SQUAD opens after the events of BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and finds government officials increasingly wary of the unchecked powers of superheroes, or as they are called in these movies, metahumans. Officials are worried that the next Superman might not be so friendly.
Enter government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) whose solution to this problem is to assemble a group of supervillains— a suicide squad— who she claims she will control by injecting each of them with a chip containing a miniaturized bomb. They cross her in any way, and she’ll blow them up.
They will do the nasty work of the government– defeating super bad guys— because they will have no choice in the matter, and if they fail no one will know because the entire operation will be kept under wraps, nor will anyone care since these guys are all villains. For Waller, it’s a win-win situation.
For me, it’s a head-scratcher. Wouldn’t you rather just hire Batman and some of his friends? It seems like a lot less trouble.
The SUICIDE SQUAD consists of Deadshot (Will Smith), an assassin who never misses; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who happens to be the Joker’s girlfriend, and she’s just as crazy as he is; Boomerang (Jai Courtney), an Australian who uses razor sharp boomerangs as weapons; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a monstrous creature with crocodilian abilities; Diablo (Jay Hernandez) a guy who uses fire as a weapon and makes the Human Torch seem like a puny match; and a few others.
Among these others is Waller’s trump card, the Enchantress, an all-powerful witch who Waller controls by keeping her heart in a brief case. In human form, the Enchantress is scientist June Moone (Cara Delevingne).
But Waller’s plan falls apart when she loses control of the Enchantress, who then summons her all-powerful brother to join her in conquering the human race. Waller is forced to use her Suicide Squad to take down the Enchantress and her brother. In effect, their first mission is to attack one of their own. So much for taking on outside threats.
SUICIDE SQUAD is full of cool characters, but it’s not a cool movie. Far from it, it’s silly and contrived, and it has one of the more ridiculous superhero plots I’ve ever seen. A wicked witch who wants to take over the world? Puh-lease! Still, it’s not all bad, and there were some things that I liked.
It’s two strongest characters are Harley Quinn and Deadshot. Of the two, Deadshot is far less interesting, but Will Smith delivers a strong performance nonetheless. I’m not much of a Will Smith fan, but this is one of the better characters I’ve seen him play. When he’s on screen, the movie is that much better. He also has some of the best lines in the movie, which is a rarity, because surprisingly, there aren’t many memorable lines in this film.
Even better than Smith is Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. By far, she’s the best part of SUICIDE SQUAD. Quinn is the most interesting character in the film, and she also has the best story, a love story between her and the Joker (Jared Leto). It’s the one story in the entire movie that works.
Margot Robbie is phenomenal as Harley Quinn. She makes her as zany and unpredictable as she’s supposed to be, and she also instills her with a wild and potent sexuality that pulsates off the screen. Robbie played Jane Clayton earlier this year in the tepid Tarzan tale THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016). She was also in WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT (2016) with Tina Fey, and she also starred in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013). Her work here in SUICIDE SQUAD is better than anything I’ve seen her do before.
Remove Will Smith and Margot Robbie from this movie, and it’s a complete mess. They pretty much carry the film, but since it’s entitled SUICIDE SQUAD, and not HARLEY QUINN MEETS DEADSHOT, they don’t entirely save it.
The other members of the squad are simply not as developed as Deadshot and Harley Quinn, and as a result, are not as interesting.
The villains here are the worst part. Enchantress? A witch as the villain? Seriously? I half expected to see Chris Hemsworth show up as the Huntsman! Things were so bad I was almost pining for Loki. Almost. Her dialogue is also laughable. Seriously, I challenge you to listen to her lines in her final scenes and not laugh out loud. She also does this bizarre hip movement thing which looks like Elvis animated by Ray Harryhausen.
Government Agent Amanda Waller as played by Viola Davis is a ruthless despicable character. It’s clear she hates the Suicide Squad. It’s also clear she’s out of place in a superhero movie. She’d be more at home as the heavy in a Jason Bourne film.
Jared Leto plays the Joker, and he has enormous shoes to fill. The last time we saw the Joker in a movie, he was played by Heath Ledger in THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), and his performance as the Joker is arguably the greatest performance by any actor in a superhero movie. I thought Leto was okay, and given more to do, he may have been even better than okay, but sadly, the Joker remains a secondary character throughout this movie, and as such, Leto never really grew on me, nor did he have a chance to make this role his own.
SUICIDE SQUAD was directed by David Ayer, and I can’t say that I was impressed.There aren’t really many memorable action scenes, which is not a good thing in a superhero movie. I also wasn’t that impressed with the look of the film. Most of it is shot on dark rainy streets, and visually it didn’t do much for me. Even the 3D effects weren’t that impressive.
The weakest part of SUICIDE SQUAD, as was the case with BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, is the script, here written by director David Ayer. First off, I didn’t like the way it told its story. The backrgound stories to the Suicide Squad are revealed in staccato flashbacks which play out like a series of YouTube videos. There’s no sense of pacing or drama. They’re just played to us as if we’re clicking on a computer screen. The result is a rather disjointed and slow opening third to this movie.
When things finally do pick up, the Suicide Squad immediately is thrust into the ridiculous storyline of defending the city against an all powerful witch and her brother. It’s a story that just doesn’t work.
I also didn’t like the way the members of the Suicide Squad were forced into working for Waller. They obey her or they die. The result here is they are not allowed to exhibit much of their personalities.
The only story that works is the love story between Harley Quinn and the Joker. It’s the only part of the film that resonates and that doesn’t come off as forced. I really hoped the Joker would become more involved in the main plot of the movie, but alas, this film is not that ambitious and he remains largely in the background.
Likewise, an uncredited Ben Affleck plays Batman here, but again, he’s only in the background, as he only appears in the flashbacks. It’s kind of a waste. I wanted to see Batman involved in the action, seen from the perspective of the Suicide Squad. That would have been interesting.
But a film that contains two powerful performances like the ones that Will Smith and Margot Robbie deliver cannot be all bad, and SUICIDE SQUAD is not a complete clunker by any means. It has its moments, most of them when Smith and Robbie are on screen, and while the other members of the suicide squad are chock full of potential, sadly, they’re all stuck in a story that is about as compelling as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The difference being that Harley Quinn is no Snow White.