This was the one I was least looking forward to. I have reservations regarding some of what became known as ‘Snyderverse’ but a lot of that were questions about plot direction and overall feel. The actual film making wasn’t real problem. I had problems with what the film did, not how they did it. With this film, it was quite honestly both, but we’ll get to that.
Suicide Squad was a 2016 film written and directed by David Ayer and had something of a stellar cast playing villains and bad guys from DC’s stable of characters. The cast included Will Smith as Floyd ‘Deadshot’ Lawton, Margot Robbie as Dr. Harleen ‘Harley Quinn’ Quinzel, Jai Courtney as Digger ‘Captain Boomerang’ Harker and Viola Davis as Amanda ‘The Wall’ Waller. We also have Jared Leto playing the ‘Joker’ and cameos from Ben Afleck’s Batman and Ezra Miller’s Flash.
The plot involves Amanda Waller recruiting members for Task Force X as she manoeuvres and manipulates events to have this team in place for when it’s needed. From maximum security prisons she recruits Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Slipknot, Harley Quinn, El Diablo, Killer Croc and the Enchantress and has Rick Flagg, the one ‘good’ guy riding herd on them, with Katana having his back. The team is then set out to rescue someone from Midway City after Enchantress frees her brother and the two powerful magical beings work to do ….. something and the task force is sent along with two teams of special forces operatives and chaos ensues. Whilst all this is going on the ‘Joker’ (I am using quotation marks for reasons that will be clear later) is trying to find and liberate Harley Quinn.
I will be honest internet people, I was dreading this particular section of this DCEU rewatch. I don’t have fond memories when I first watched the film and in particular it’s use of the ‘Joker.’ That said, there’s a lot to like about it.
Viola Davis inhabits the role of Amanda Waller, giving her a sense of power and of menace that previous portrayals have lacked. She plays the character as a person who fully commits to doing that job and as a result has no compunction with whatever needs to be done in it’s service. She lies, manipulates, blackmails and at one point cold-bloodedly murders and seems to not at all care about it. You can’t help but hate her, but know that what she’s done could save others. Some of the cast have a lot of fun with the role, Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomering is a lot of fun and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje breathes life into Killer Croc. We also get the revelation of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, who plays crazy with such wild abandon that it’s hard not to watch her flit between sharp psychologist and unhinged lunatic. The moments with her and the action scenes are true high points of the films. There are a few lines that stick with you long after the rest of the film fades away like the taste of popcorn. There’s also an interesting point in how people feel after metahumans become and thing and then Superman is killed. People in power are scared and the Suicide Squad is a reaction to that.
But sadly there’s only so much you can say that’s positive. Will Smith phones it in, Joel Kinnaman mustn’t have needed to eat during most of the shoot, since he feasts on the scenery. I’ve been to butchers where there was less ham and much of Jay Hernandez’s Diablo’s story seems to not land for me. But in such an ensemble cast, not everyone’s going to either deliver or be given the screen time to deliver and it’s hard to be too harsh, but we don’t stop there. From the video game menu style captions, to the disjointed tone and the weird balance of exposition where we get lots of lots for some things and almost none for the others. The editing and direction seem wrong in a way that I can’t describe as a lay person, but don’t like as a viewer. The final act with the ubiquitous blue sky beam is just not very good, despite the drama and characterisation that the film tries to deliver at the end of it.
There’s little in this film that seems well done, I can see several of the actors doing their best and the second unit people don’t come up short, but overall this film is something of a lukewarm mess. This wasn’t a failure of concept because some things work and it would lead into a sequel which proved that. This was a failure in execution on several levels. I’ve watched it now, so it can go back into the the DVD storage thing for a few more years now.
I know, I didn’t mention the ‘Joker’ in this, but I’ll be honest I didn’t want an additional 600 swear words in an already rambling mess of a post. I will say two things 1: I like Jared Leto as an actor, he was great in Requim for a Dream and other roles and I have enjoyed his musical efforts 30 Seconds to Mars, so I mean no slight to this actor. 2: We’ve had Mark Hamill, Cesar Romero, Tim Curry, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Joaquim Phoenix play the character, plus several others and each one doing something quite different from the rest. How far off the mark do you have to go to not be recognisable as that character. I use inverted commas because I honestly don’t see this guy as the clown prince of crime, I just don’t.
The positives I can see is that the some of the things in this film that worked survived into other, better films and they are ahead of me.