REVIEW: Suicide Squad
– By Stephen ‘Folklore’ Harper
Can DC catch a break when it comes to their movie adaptions nowadays? Apparently not. After the scathing backlash of Batman V Superman that was quite frankly worse than the EU voting fiasco, David Ayer’s Suicide Squad looked like the movie that was gonna save their reputation and summer altogether!
Early reviews are not proving that way unfortunately and once again DC must be secretly shitting their pants. There’s a two way scenario at play here. On one hand films such as Man of Steel, Dawn of Justice and now Suicide Squad do have many faults, but on the other hand critics seem to have a hard on and going out of they’re way to slam the interpretations at every opportunity.
In a nutshell these are comic book superhero movies. These characters are larger than life and these stories were destined to be summer popcorn flicks, so everyone just chill the fuck-out! This ain’t Schindler’s List! If a director gets the tiniest element wrong with the story or a character then the pitchforks are out. It’s not life or death. I get it that these characters are much loved and important to fans. I’m a fan, I’ve been reading and collecting comics since a young child. I was one of the people who cheered to the heavens when Christopher Nolan resurrected the Batman franchise with the amazing Batman Begins & The Dark Knight, but then I hammered a nail in his coffin when he destroyed his trilogy with the atrocious The Dark Knight Rises, so I know how important this all is.
When the trailers starting dropping for Suicide Squad the whole world sat up in their seats as it seemed what we were getting was something completely different and just what we needed at just the right time. Made up of a host of DC comics bad guys and there’s nothing better rooting for the villains is there? They get sent on a suicide mission against their will for corrupt government officials to battle an horrific evil. It sounded like movie-heaven to me, but this is where the movie failed for me mostly as these baddies are not really that bad!
There’s too many morals knocking about here which dilutes the whole premise of the story with the majority seeming to be focused on two characters – Deadshot and Harley Quinn. There were times it felt like a Will Smith solo movie, but with Margot Robbie as his sidekick stealing the show. Smith desperately needs a big summer hit as time seems to be running out after years of commanding the box office.
Deadshot’s (Smith) back-story is just too contradictory for him to be classed as bad? The other Squad members of Captain Boomerang, Diablo, Killer Croc, Katana and Rick Flag are just add-ons. Each actor doing a decent job and slipping into their characters well, but they are just a support to Smith and Robbie. Smith gets the majority of the screen time with a back-story of feared assassin with empathy. His story has been done to death and is extremely weak and is more or less a superhero origin story which is poor considering he’s supposed to be one of the baddest guys on the planet.
The rest of the cast get snippets of their histories, but even then they’re all tragic and sympathetic and more good guys gone off the rails other than out and out badass or feared.
That brings us to Harley Quinn (Robbie). She owns every single scene she’s in. Her vulnerability, her quirky Brooklyn accent, her seductiveness and of course her look which is a visual treat. Ayer has created a new pop-culture icon with her appearance and Robbie will now no doubt become probably the hottest female on the planet. There’s never been another female comic book character as sexy as Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Her back-story is reminiscent of a case study for Stockholm Syndrome. The psychological relationship she has with her patient The Joker becomes one of power, dominance, control and obsession. It may be tied in a fancy bow and called “Love”, but The Joker’s brief appearances in Suicide Squad plays no part in the main story only feeding a side plot in which he will go at great lengths to reclaim his prize.
One of the main pulling powers of Suicide Squad was not just seeing Harley Quinn finally grace her big screen debut, but the return of Batman’s greatest foe The Joker. It’s always an event when he makes his way onto film and after the tragic death of Heath Ledger who will always be the definitive Joker, Jared Leto kind of had the toughest task imaginable following Ledger, and with his stunning portrayal still fresh in people’s minds, it took a lot of balls to follow his Oscar winning performance in The Dallas Byers Club to take on such a task.
All that people want to know is does he pull it off? And the answer is “Yes”….just. The material doesn’t give him a lot to chew on and it’s plainly obvious they have bigger plans for Leto and his character. This was just an introduction I guess. Leto’s performance is a new take with traditional elements. They’ve taken the traditional gangster Joker from the early comics and transported him to a modern era. He’s an already established criminal, living in the outside world surrounded by heavies. Instead of trench-coats and trilby’s he’s blinged up, tattooed and grilled-teeth. A look that wouldn’t look out of place in a hip-hop music video. He slithers and purs and is a crossbreed of drug-fuelled and reptilian. It’s nice to see people’s different interpretations on an historical character. Ledger’s was an out and out anarchist, but was a true criminal genius. Leto’s reminded me of Gary Oldman’s fantastic character Drexl in True Romance. A pimped out gangster that has serious psychotic tendencies. I certainly look forward in seeing where Leto takes this character as it’s hard to fully evaluate him based on this movie. I’m guessing the Ben Affleck Batman stand alone movie is where he’ll pop up next?
So that’s the good guys established, sorry bad guys! The chemistry works between them well and so far so good. Although the pacing and how they were all assembled was done quicker than The Flash’s cameo.
Special mention goes to the (Viola Davis) as corrupt, government sleeze-ball Amanda Waller. It’s her character that puts the so-called motley crew together only to double cross them at every turn. She may not be as A-list as others on show here, but her acting chops are far superior at times and is not far off stealing the entire film with Robbie.
Now for the villain. Even though Waller is essentially the villain there needs to be an almighty bad guy to face off against. One of the gripes with the Marvel films is that they don’t seem to be fully nailing it with the villains and the same can be said for DC, with the abomination which was Doomsday in BVS. Unfortunately for me once again with this movie, nothing’s changed and director after director are just repeating the same mistakes. This time around it’s in the form of Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). I honestly didn’t think this was going to happen with Suicide Squad after hearing Ayer talk about the process of wanting to use practical FX instead of CGI on Killer Croc, (which is fucking awesome), but then he goes ahead and uses a shitload of abysmal CGI, creating horrendous, below par concepts. Seriously the FX are terrible and only a minor step up from episodes of TV shows such as Doctor Who. Enchantress creates an army of haemorrhoid looking creatures. They have no facial features and resemble giant grape heads? She then stands in the same spot for almost the entire film and attempts her best Sigourney Weaver impression from Ghostbusters. The only thing here though is Delevingne is painfully awful, I truly mean painfully. I question how she landed the role in the first place as her performance is that bad it’s laughable.
So we have bad guys that aren’t that bad fighting a villain that looks like it’s still functioning in 1985. A truly terrifying villain could have brought so more to this film and brought the audience so much closer to the characters. In fact if this film was made in 1985 you would have mistaken it for a kind of rip-off of Escape from New York with DC characters.
The overall film feels small in scope with the majority being sectioned into only a few parts of the city and very studio-based looking and nothing really organic. The chunk of the reported 175million budget has probably gone on Smith, Leto, Robbie, the huge amount of shoddy CGI and Affleck popping up in a few brief snippets.
Ayer is a very talented filmmaker who has brought some really good moments and interesting ideas to the DC Universe. Suicide Squad has some really nice scenes that are enjoyable and it’s linking up well with the next films in the series, but it’s very unfortunate that it never hits the heights the trailers promised. The frustrating part is there’s a great film hidden within and they’ve missed a huge opportunity to really flip the coin and let these characters off their leashes. Just by lowering the boundaries, toning down the silly CGI and creating a villain who is genuinely chilling, this gang of misfits could have really gotten their teeth into something very special indeed, especially with having a 15 certificate to play against.
The critics I believe are being way too unfair towards DC. Suicide Squad is an enjoyable summer movie and Ayer has attempted some decent things, but fails on a few key levels. Its generic narrative is way too safe to make any statement whatsoever.
Suicide Squad is an opportunity missed.
– By Stephen ‘Folklore’ Harper