The latest film from DC and Warner Bros is a very polarising film. Suicide Squad is sitting at a 7.2 user ranking on IMDB, 41% on Metacritic and 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. What’s wrong with the critics? Are they Marvel shills? Is the movie actually that bad? I’m not a Marvel shill or comic book fanboy of any stripe and I’m here to tell you that the movie is ok.
Suicide Squad had lots of potential. But for those of you who are somehow previously unaware of the basic premise of the film, the idea is that a rag tag crew of DC universe bad guys in a black ops type group in order to fight other metahumans (aka supervillains or heroes) causing trouble in order to get reduced prison sentences or other luxuries. They are injected with a device that if they try and escape, they get killed. This symbolises the creative leash on the necks of the film makers.
The plot from there gets quite generic: an ancient evil gets loose while assembling a weapon of mass destruction to cloak the world in darkness as revenge for humans not worshipping them any more. There is also a giant blue laser in the sky, but this is slightly subverted by there being no fighting in the sky, which is actually a relief in a movie like this. The main aspect of the plot that separates it from other similar movies is the low trust relationship between the squad and their handlers, which does add an effective layer of tension and some occasionally good banter between the squad. However, the nature of films like this is them being an ensemble cast but much (but not quite all) came from Deadshot (Will Smith) and Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) who emerged as the clear protagonists of the film. All the characters had their personalities and their moments, with Boomerang (Jai Courtney) being a good comic relief. Ayer’s direction for him must’ve been “be Australian.” But overall, most of the other characters, except for Harley Quinn as well, faded into the background.
The film was also front loaded with what was basically quick origin stories for our main ensemble, which were mostly good, although it felt a little rushed because DC are late to the cinematic universe party and want to get that set up in as few films as possible. But regardless, they had a fun little rock and roll sort of vibe that I wished carried throughout the film, rather than degenerating into something that was mostly well produced, but still fairly standard comic book film fare. I just had a good idea for a Harley Quinn origin film: a faithful adaptation of her origin story fleshed out in a film that is for the most part similar in tone to Silence of the Lambs. In terms of edginess, Suicide Squad had about two scenes that were edgy but in kind of a shitty Hot Topic kind of way instead of a fun or interesting way.
Performance wise, the absolute madman Jared Leto as the Joker does a pretty good job with the material he’s given even and the rather sparse screen time. Will Smith as Deadshot plays Will Smith and while I do not know too much about the comic book versions of the characters, but I have my suspicions that Will Smith was insistent on rewrites to get Deadshot to how he is in the final product. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn does an ok job. She gets the crazy and sexy look right and sometimes her voice sounds exactly like Harley does in Arkham games, but it’s inconsistent and slips, which I will assume is unintentional.
The biggest problem with Suicide Squad is that it has a concept that suggests, or rather demands an unconventional approach, but it was instead played safe. It’s not a badly made film, just disappointingly safe and because of that, doesn’t quite carve out it’s own unique identity.