Since this is my first crack at reviewing a DC movie, I think it’s only fair for me to tell you, my reader, that I am a diehard Marvel fan. However, I have made it my sworn duty as the proprietor of this blog to be as objective as I can in reviewing pop culture media. Having said that, I’d like to cut to the chase and say that I genuinely enjoyed this movie. I’m not saying that it’s great, but there are definitely noteworthy moments in this mess of a film, and yes you read that right, this movie is a mess.
As with any superhero team-up film, character development is the fine line between a popcorn flick and a timeless classic. With ten characters included in the actual squad and the gruelling task of reintroducing the Joker after Heath Ledger’s amazing performance, it’s safe to say that character development IS the main challenge of Suicide Squad. Thankfully, director David Ayer was able to create story arcs and flesh out character traits of at least half of the roster, shining the spotlight on its biggest stars: Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), and The Joker (Jared Leto). Although not necessarily in the same league with the aforementioned actors, I would like to give credit to Diablo (Jay Hernandez) who turned out to be my favorite character in the film. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the rest of the cast are turned into plot fodder, comic reliefs or worse, cheesy archetypal villains.
Here’s where it gets messy. The first part of the movie is devoted to establishing characters via a flashback montage of how the squad ended up in the custody of puppet master, Amanda Waller. Without going into spoiler territory, let me just say that this is the most enjoyable part of the film. We get to see a glimpse of each major character’s past, making viewers aware of their motivations, flaws, and of course, their abilities. Ignoring some questionable choices on music and transitionary visual effects, the intro perfectly builds momentum for a call-to-action that will bring this unlikely group of villains together. The main antagonist then arrives and signals the second act of the film that feels so rushed and crammed after twenty or so minutes of exposition. One minute your enjoying character backstories and the next you’re taking a nosedive into the main villain’s stereotypical world domination ploy.
The mess snowballs further with sporadic and anti-climactic flashbacks into more characters that were missed in the introduction – again, a clear sign of too much going on in a single film. Instead of becoming an effective plot device for character development, some of the flashbacks are distracting and ruin the momentum of the action. I will, however, commend the bar scene in the latter part of the film (as seen in the trailers) for doing what the flashbacks attempt, but fail to do – humanize the villains. This one scene is able to ground the audience by creating a strong dialogue between the characters. It’s one of those moments when you truly realize how different each character is from one another. For example, Diablo’s pacifist views and Harley’s cynicism play so well on screen that you perfectly see how messed up these characters are and that they are made up of different types of evil. With only their shared experience of pain and suffering, the squad manages to bond and work together as a team. It’s a good concept and on paper, it should have worked, but the execution, more specifically the pacing and editing of the film, fails to give justice to a solid premise except for a few moments.
The film ends in comic book movie fashion, with a climactic CGI-heavy fight. As the campy villain struts around proclaiming a new world order, Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) a.k.a “Generic Soldier in Every Action Movie” strategizes the most absurd plan to defeat not one, but two villains with god-like powers. I’m nitpicking at this point, but the inconsistent power levels and abilities of all the characters in this movie make for some head scratching moments. I’m looking at you, Harly Quinn’s wooden baseball bat that never seems to break. You too, Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) with your unexplained power set. I digress. This is after all, a film adaptation of a comic book. The fight ends in an unbelievable manner with a few out-of-nowhere moments that you just have to deal with.
As much of mess as this film is, I managed to leave the cinema feeling that my money was well spent. I mean, I wouldn’t watch it again, but it was worth the ticket price. It is all over the place, but the parts that are good actually sticks. Margot Robbie and Viola Davis’ performances are an example. Margot’s Harley Quinn is a perfect blend of craziness and charm while Viola’s Amanda Waller is just a total badass, which is expected from a top tier actress such as herself. Jared Leto’s Joker is also memorable in a way that you want to see more of him in the future. His appearance in the film is just not enough to make a judgment on whether or not he’s a good portrayal or not. One thing is for sure, you won’t be making a comparison with Heath Ledger because the characters are completely different from one another (an intentional direction, perhaps?). The greatest test will be seeing his chemistry and interactions with Ben Affleck’s Batman, which we will hopefully see in the next Batman standalone film.
Despite the onslaught Suicide Squad received from critics, there is some good to be taken from the movie. It’s actually ok. The problem is that this film needed to be great. With the poor critical reception of the past two DC films, Suicide Squad was supposed to redeem the DC Extended Universe and improve its brand image, which is why the stakes were too high. I could understand where the critics are coming from because the movie is definitely flawed, but I truly believe it deserves more than what it got. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed Suicide Squad more than BvS, but honestly, that’s not saying a lot. All eyes are now on Wonder Woman. Will she rise above the rest and save the DCEU from those evil critics? I guess we’ll have to wait until June 2, 2017.