“The Worst Heroes Get the Best Reviews: Suicide Squad”
Sometimes studios have the tendency to burn a franchise to the ground. At least for me, the DCEU has all but sizzled out of redeemable qualities. I have been burned-out by the darkest films to ever see red and blue tights, and burned by a director who let his vision sacrifice the meaning behind the characters I love. Because of this tone, the next installment of the DCEU has worried me for a while. Would it be too over the top? Would it have too much responsibility on it to ameliorate the franchise and correct the mistakes of it’s predecessors? Would it suffer from trying way too hard to be Guardians or Deadpool-esque? Sitting in the theatre, finally seeing Suicide Squad, it is relieving to be able to say that it’s becoming a bit easier to breath in the DC universe.
Suicide Squad is by no means a perfect film. Some might go as far as to say it’s not even a good film. While I disagree, it does seem that the film rushes itself along at the expense of a fully fleshed out story. This didn’t bother me as much as it seems to bother a majority of the reviews and critiques I have read. While I can see that there are issues with the story, I think this film’s intention was to bank on the characters and their interactions rather than focusing on a particularly intriguing issue for them to solve. Honestly, I loved most of these performances so much that I would have sat through two hours of them protecting the country by playing a riveting game of field hockey. Most of the performances, origins and motivations were straight out of the comics. As a comic fan, you tend to get used to wacky and, at times undeveloped, backstories for some of our favorite characters. I can excuse changes in continuity or storylines, as long as the spirit and essence of the character remains intact. For the most part I felt everybody did their best to keep me happy, although there were a couple that I was surprisingly not thrilled with.
Margot Robbie plays Harley Quinn…you know what? Let me rephrase that…Margot Robbie BECAME Harley Quinn. I honestly cannot think of anybody else that would have made a better fit for the character. She is fun, sassy, sexy and isn’t afraid to go over the top in small doses. I did have some trepidation when it came to her voice, but after spending an hour or so with her, I love her performance. I think she had a great voice only over doing it a couple of times, and when she did it reminded me of the classic BTAS Harley that I love so much. She played the character to perfection, capturing all of the best attributes from all versions of Harley. I will still say that her aesthetic is not the Harley I love as it is a bit too gratuitous and over sexualized for my tastes, but knowing that she once donned her original outfit is tremendously comforting. I think the biggest leap-out-of-my-seat-giddy-fanboy moment was the recreation of the Alex Ross cover which was amazingly accurate and exciting to see. As much as I enjoyed Harley’s end of her relationship with Joker, the dynamic was not quite what I expected. I felt that Joker had a bit too much affection for Harley which kind of flubbed the relationship, but I guess I can’t blame him…she’s so darned loveable!
Jared Leto’s Joker was…well, it was just disappointing. I was not impressed with his performance at all. Joker was probably my most anticipated character because anyone who knows me will tell you that I am an even bigger Joker fan than I am a Batman fan. I absolutely adore the Joker, and a large part of the reason I have enjoyed so many of his portrayals is because the actors have done so well balancing his many different faces. Leto’s Clown Prince was scary as hell and crazy to boot, but that’s about it. Every other incarnation of the Joker has been so unstable that it is hard to pinpoint when you can allow yourself to be seduced by his charismatic charm enough to enjoy a laugh, and when that knife will be sticking out of your neck. I didn’t feel that he had any range, which is surprising because I am a huge Jared Leto fan BECAUSE of his usual acting range. I guess I wanted Joker to have some different attributes and emotions and I walked away feeling that I only got to see one side of him. While everybody will compare his performance to Heath Ledger’s, I think Ledger did a much better job giving Joker some multiplicity. That being said, I loved some of the outfits and really enjoyed seeing him laugh while shooting guns out of the back of a helicopter. The aesthetic had worried me since we saw the first picture of his tattoos, but they were not as bad or distracting as I thought they would be. The smile on his hand was a nice touch, but I will never be on board with the face tats.
Overall, his costume changes were fun to see ranging from Alex Ross’ dapper dancer and Greg Capullos’ Endgame classiness, to Jim Lee’s All-Star inked and rough around the edges style. I mentioned it before, but his adoration for Harley was particularly uncharacteristic, so his motivations for trying to get her back were a bit nobler than what I expected from the worst boyfriend in history. As for the laugh…I enjoyed the mixture of Leto’s Mr. Nobody and Caesar Romero’s Joker in most cases. I would have preferred some variations in the laughs to keep it from getting a tad annoying, but for the most part it seems like he really took his time narrowing down what he wanted the laugh to be. In the end, there were moments that were very Joker-esque but still fell a bit short in the grand scheme of things.
The biggest shocker to me was how much I didn’t hate Will Smith’s Deadshot. The origin, motivations, and characterization of Deadshot were right on target, however Will Smith did what he usually does...and that’s be Will Smith. He didn’t play the character of Floyd Lawton, even if it was right on the page; he simply acted as typical Smith. Honestly, it wasn’t the worst Smith performance and while he was in his costume he was pretty awesome. The action scenes were intense, and every time he pulled the trigger I felt like I was watching Deadshot, and that’s as much as we can ask for here. The introductory scene for his character, where we see him mid-hit asking for more money to complete the job, was very much in character and written perfectly. The scenes with his daughter, and his overall dynamic and motivations regarding her were also straight off of the comic page and went a long way to make me hop on board with this Fresh Hitman of Gotham. The costume was on point and probably the most faithful visual recreation of all of the characters.
I had a hard time pinpointing whether or not I liked Digger Harkness, or, Captain Boomerang. Jai Courtney portrayed a very interesting and fun character, but that character was not faithful to Captain Boomerang. There were a lot of flaws in his characterization, but that is no fault of Courtney’s. There’s a scene straight from the Suicide Squad comics, where Boomerang convinces Slipknot to escape with him by assuring that the threat of an implanted bomb in their necks was just a ruse to keep them in line. When Slipknot tries to make his escape (and is subsequently relieved of his thoughts), Boomerang seems to legitimately try to escape with him and seems surprised that the bombs were real. The entire point of the scene in the comics, and the testament to his character, is that he just wanted to see if he was right and uses Slipknot as a test dummy. This moment was absent from the scene and actually made him out to be a better person than Digger should be. Another wonderful moment that flirted with his true character came towards the end when he immediately grabbed his things and ran out of the bar after Flagg said they could leave. This was sullied by him immediately joining the crew outside to help with the final fight. As much as I loved his portrayal, a lot of his intentions and drives did not sit well with me.
The rest of the cast seemed to fall into their roles pretty well. One thing that is undeniable is the casting is amazing; they are all great actors even if some of the characterizations were not perfect. Killer Croc was imposing yet cool like you would expect him to be. His street level demeanor and savagery was perfect and his look actually reminded me of the BTAS Croc which had me very satisfied. I don’t know that I would like to see him as a main villain for Batman, but I certainly would like to see him come up against him at some point. The only issue I had with him is that he seemed to just be along for the ride, and only had a handful of moments to shine, while others seemed to get a lot more spotlight. Although to his credit… he is beautiful on the outside! El Diablo was probably the biggest breakout character for me. While I don’t have a particular love for that character, his arc in the film makes me want to dig out some comics that he is featured in to learn more. He was the one character whose progression through the film made sense and came naturally. The idea that he was this bad guy who finally got sick of hurting people was incredibly touching. The risk they took revealing that he killed his family was a big one, but it paid off in the end making his character feel well rounded and one of the most interesting in the film. I desperately hope that he returns and isn’t gone for good like the ending would suggest. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag didn’t have too many issues, other than he really didn’t fit the bill for me. He was fine in the role, but didn’t really look the part. He was less “bulky soldier” and more “dirty tweaker” than I would have liked to see. There’s not much to be said about the character of Amanda Waller. I feel like every incarnation of her in media has been pretty spot-on (with the exception of some of her body sizes), so it was no surprise that she was done perfectly. I think Viola Davis is my new favorite Waller and I am excited to see her continue to rear her ugly brand of national security more in the DC Universe. I really enjoyed both her extended dinner scene and her secret meeting with a particularly tired looking gentleman after the credits.
Can I talk about how awesome Batman was for a moment? Batman was infinitely more enjoyable than what we saw in BVS. He WAS The Batman, and he didn’t suffer from that lack of human compassion. Batz jumping out of the Batmobile, grappling over the bridge, popping on the rebreather and diving into the bay to save Joker and Harley was jaw dropping. It was exactly what I am dying to see from future Batman appearances. He refrained from killing any thugs and didn’t even brand Deadshot when he had the chance, so it seems we are seeing the rise of our quintessential Batman. I can’t get over how much fan service went into the scenes with Batman, almost as much as the amazing recreation of Arkham Asylum and the entrance gate during Harley’s origin, which literally had my girlishly squealing!
I feel that that the film sacrifices story for character interaction in several different ways. Enchantress and her brother were severely weak villains even if they look cool on screen. Enchantress, more so than the latter, is horrifyingly awesome. A scene where she shushes Flag sent a bit of a shiver down my spine, so I wish I liked her progression more. The story that led to the inciting incident felt very forced and ill-paced and the imagery seemed to be out of a completely different movie. While it was a spectacle, I found myself wanting their scenes to be over so I could get back to our team or ne’er-do-wells. This film is supposed to be about the team and their interactions, so I think they allowed the plot to become more of a necessity rather than embracing a cohesive story. As I stated before, I recognize the intention of this film, and it seemed to work, because I genuinely wanted to see more of the main cast. Some of the characters seemed a bit too quick to rise to the occasion by the end of the movie, and while that works for some of the characters, it actually damaged the perception of a few (particularly Boomerang and Croc). However, some issues I have seen taken with the film’s villains not being evil enough seem to be coming from a place of misunderstanding of these characters. There is a reason they didn’t choose Joker or Two Face to be part of the squad, these are the guys that can actually be reined in from time to time so I didn’t have too many issues with the lack of villainy.
So, all-in-all this movie is stunning in contrast to MOS and BVS. While it doesn’t save the entire DCU, it didn’t have to and shouldn’t have had to try. It was much more optimistic and so much more fun than what we have been subjected to so far. If this is the direction of DC films moving forward, I am on board for the welcomed change in tone. I definitely can see the glaring issues, but I think that the film in no way deserves the low scores it has been receiving after opening night. Having a score comparable to BVS is simply irresponsible and unwarranted, and I hope this is corrected because I am beginning to lose respect and starting to doubt the productiveness of film critique in general. The film makes much more sense than BVS, where I actually understood their motivations, even if they are not what they were supposed to be. It is also more visually appealing and has fluid action scenes that allow the viewer to actually see and appreciate what is happening in the moment, something that MOS and BVS have both suffered from. This is the kind of movie that we can just sit back and have a good time watching for the most part. While the Joker scenes had me cringing, the rest of the cast did a good job at making me forget what I hated about the movie while the credits rolled. As if that wasn’t enough, the soundtrack is incredible and fit perfectly with the tone of the film and the characters that songs introduced. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my heart, and I am finally starting to get excited about DC movies. Regardless of its flaws, Suicide Squad is nothing if not a breath of fresh air.
Final Score: Bad…by which I mean good…because they’re so bad...