It seems like DC’s superhero films have now become the battleground of internet critics and fans. Batman v Superman was almost a breaking point with many people and it seemed like a “You’re either with us or against us” mentality started to creep in with Suicide Squad becoming the next battleground. Some folks automatically dismissed the film as a piece of crap while others called for Rotten Tomatoes to be brought down due to the low score the film was “undeservedly” getting. I watched this happen on Facebook with people I usually find rational. Even separating these extreme views, I noticed that friends of mine, whose movie opinions I value, seemed to be on opposite sides. Some thought it was terrible and others thought it was great.
So which is it? Piece of crap or better than any Marvel film ever made?
For myself, the answer lies in the middle.
Now before we get into the full review, there are a few things you should know. As a comic fan, I’m neither a Marvel or DC. I buy books from both companies and truth be told, my comic buying dollar usually goes to Image or IDW as opposed to either of the big two. Secondly, yes I’ve been a fan of Marvel’s film output and yes, I HATED Batman v Superman but it should be noted for the record, I rather enjoyed Man of Steel. Thirdly, I love the original Suicide Squad comic. It’s a concept I’ve always liked but at the same time, I didn’t touch the New 52 relaunch.
Finally, in case you didn’t get it from the title of this column, there is going to be some spoilers in my review. Turn back now if you don’t want them.
EDITOR’S NOTE: SPOILERS from here on out, kids!
I really liked Suicide Squad. It is by far the best of the current DC film universe film. I love the look of it as there are some shots that are just beautiful. I love the feel of it. It has a sense of fun that has been sorely lacking in the DC films so far but still manages to keep the dark world that was set up in Man of Steel.
That being said, it’s not without its’ flaws and not just nitpicky ones either.
The movie on a whole is a little thin and that’s due to the story and how we’ve seen it before. You may have thought it felt a little familiar as you were watching it. That’s because it shares a very similar story to The Avengers. Generic alien/god-like bad guys attack the Earth and only this ragtag band of “heroes” can stop them. But the person who put them together has a secret that threatens to stop the team dead in it’s tracks. To be fair, The Avengers is not the first film to use this story (or reuse for that matter as it’s also the general plot to Guardians of the Galaxy). But what made those films work was the strong characters brought forth by each of the actors and the script. That’s where Suicide Squad kind of falters.
The main villain, The Enchantress, is Loki without the personality, at least when she starts making her world ending machine magic. Before that point, she’s kind of interesting (I love how they handled the switch between Enchantress and June Moone in the situation room) but as soon as she becomes the big bad, all of the interesting aspects kind of disappear. A lot of people have blamed model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne for that but honestly, I think she did the best with what she had. I think the villain of Suicide Squad was an afterthought and unfortunately, she got stuck with a pretty shallow character.
Will Smith’s Deadshot isn’t bad. Originally, I was annoyed at this casting because I thought he would have made a perfect Bronze Tiger (a mainstay of the original Squad comics) but there is some good stuff here. Unfortunately, some of Deadshot just turns into “Will Smith Action Character” as opposed to the actual character. By the end of the movie, I liked what he was doing but it’s just a variation on his action movie work from the past. Granted, Deadshot does get the absolute best shot of the entire film at the end where an image of his daughter is in front of him as the rain is pouring down and he’s just about to shoot the bomb. Absolutely awesome.
Viola Davis, if by some miracle, you are reading this, I owe you a very deep apology. When I heard Davis was cast as Amanda Waller, I thought it was okay but they had missed the mark. C.C.H. Pounder was my perfect casting. She looked the part and had done a fantastic job as the character in the Justice League animated series. I was apparently wrong as Davis nails “The Wall”. She was absolutely note perfect as Waller. If they don’t do another Suicide Squad film and she does not show up again in the DC film universe, it will be a shame.
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was a little weird for me. I have been pretty outspoken in the past that I love the original harlequin costume design from the animated series and have hated the “Suicide Girl” New 52 revamp look she’s been sporting the past few years. The only artist to make it work for me is Amanda Connor’s tweaking for the solo Harley Quinn series. I’m a bit resistant to the look they gave Margot Robbie for the film. As for her performance, at the start of the movie, I wasn’t sure but by the end of the film, she had sold me on her portrayal of Harley. I also like the idea of giving Harley more of a reason to go crazy then she had in the comics or cartoon. The idea of The Joker being able to talk her into crazy always seemed a little weak to me, now we’ve got a little bit more of a reason for her switch from shrink to psychopath.
Jay Hernandez’s performance made Diablo something. He brought great emotion to the character’s story arc and while some say that he wasn’t in the movie enough, I felt that they managed the right amount for the character’s story. He did a great job.
As for the rest of the Squad, they are kind of just there. They have some moments (particularly Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang) but there wasn’t that much for some of the characters which is what you are going to get in a big ensemble film like this. Katana was cool but it kind of felt like she was there because someone liked the look of the character and wanted to put her in a movie. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag was just starting to get kind of interesting as the movie was ending. Hopefully, these characters will have a little more screen time if there is a sequel.
You may have noticed, I’ve left someone out.
The only part of the movie I really didn’t like was Jared Leto as The Joker. I’ve never been a fan of Leto and honestly, I think the new character design is just stupid. But I tried to go in with an open mind. I think Leto’s performance is an unfortunate casualty of Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight. Regardless of what he’s been saying in public, whether it be consciously or unconsciously, Leto’s Joker was definitely informed by Ledger’s and as a result, kind of comes off as a poor man’s version of it in parts. In other parts, it’s as if he thought, “Well that’s what Ledger did so I’m going to do something really different”. I cringed when he would make those weird animal noises or the terrible laugh. I know there are more Joker scenes that we will see in the blu ray release but I don’t think those will help. In fact, it’d probably make things worse.
Finally, we come to David Ayer. I can honestly say I’m not a huge fan of his work as a writer or director. He hasn’t done anything that really grabbed me and made me say “I have to see his next film”. He’s done good work but nothing I’ve been blown away by. This film showed me a lot of what this guy could do but it feels as if he’s still holding something back. As much as a liked Suicide Squad (both in my first and second viewings of the film), it seemed like there was an even better movie trapped in there somewhere. Maybe it’s in the editing or the reshoots. It’s hard to say but it feels like there’s a great film to be viewed that we may never see.
Suicide Squad was a great and much-needed addition to the DC film universe but it is neither the shining light that many have made it out to be nor is it the stinking dog turd of a film that the other side has said it is. It’s a good movie with some flaws that I would love to see a sequel to.
But are we going to see that sequel?
Come back next week where I play backseat producer (… that was probably a bad turn of phrase… I’m sure if I google that, I’ll get porn) for Warner Brothers and take an overall look at the DC universe of films so far and take a look at what’s coming up.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!