The DC Extended Universe is not in a good state at present. After the fan-hated but thoroughly decent Man of Steel and the critically lambasted mess that was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, DC and Warner Bros. are in desperate need of a film to right an apparently sinking ship. They’re doing very well at the box office but still being disappointments, and word of mouth is sinking these films at a record rate. Suicide Squad was the latest film to be released in the cinematic universe, making use of Batman’s rogues gallery in what had the potential to be a fun twist on the typical superhero formula. It too has been met by generally negative reviews, but is it really as bad as everyone is making it out to be? The answer is a complicated one, but Suicide Squad is certainly a more enjoyable film that Batman v Superman even if it is messier in its execution.
Amanda Waller going through her plans for Task Force X during a business meal. (Source)
After the events of Batman v Superman, the world is scared about the future. Intelligence Operative, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) decides to assemble a team of some of the most dangerous criminals to take on high-risk missions for the government so as to act as disposable but highly useful assets. The team she chooses includes the crazy partner of the Joker (Jared Leto), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), expert sharpshooter Deadshot (Will Smith), the pyrokinetic El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a lunatic thief called Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), the cannibalistic Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and a few others. After a plan involving the witch-goddess Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) goes wrong, Waller deploys the squad to Midway City in order to extract a high-profile target.
It’s a relatively simple plot which for the first forty minutes of the film seems non-existent as Waller goes through her dossier and introduces the audience to the team. Once the action begins to take place, Suicide Squad enters very tried and test waters shifting from an unusual superhero film to a very standard one. That said, the primary focus of the film is on its characters and that is where it thrives. While certain members of the squad like Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Killer Croc, and Captain Boomerang are sorely under-developed; Harley Quinn, Dead, and El Diablo along with Waller herself really shine. As with Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad finds itself struggling with having too much to do and too little time to cover it all. However, what the film does manage to achieve is spending enough time on its characters to develop some sort of bond with the audience meaning you’re more likely to care about them than ever happened in Batman v Superman. This doesn’t stop the plot holes (‘How is this team meant to be capable of taking on the next Superman?’ and ‘If they’re meant to be covert, why are they getting ready in a refugee camp?’ being major ones) from being all too apparent, or certain character motivations seeming odd since quite a bit has clearly been cut from the film.
The film’s colour pallet is great during the beginning, but all of the cutting means a lot has been lost from the film. (Source)
It’s this cutting and editing that is probably the most detrimental part of the film as there are noticeable continuity errors, goofs, and moment which don’t make any sense under any form of intense scrutiny. There has been a noticeable attempt in the editing of the film to bring a stylised levity to it and the vivid but really twisted nature of everything works for the opening of the film but quickly vanishes once the squad enters the city. It’s a shame because the neon greens and pinks and purples is such a unique colour pallet in films and really made Suicide Squad seem special until it devolves into the dark blacks for Midway City. It’s still brighter than early DCEU films and appreciably so, but it does mean the film lacks a bit of consistency in its tone. Thankfully, the costume designs are consistently excellent (apart from the very questionable decisions made surrounding the Joker), and every character stands out because of it. In the end, the film is aesthetically pleasing but a technical mess as those tonal issues and moments of poor messy editing create bigger problems for the film.
After the fantastic Ballroom Blitz/Bohemian Rhapsody trailers, it was clear that Suicide Squad was going to have a fun and eclectic soundtrack in the same vein as Guardians of the Galaxy. During Waller’s dossier opening, there is basically wall-to-wall music which is perhaps a little on-the-nose but still very fitting and gives the film that sense of unique style to separate it from the other DCEU films. The likes of ‘You Don’t Own Me’, ‘The House of the Rising Sun’, and various others just work so well. The only unfortunate thing is that the film’s score doesn’t quite live up to the licensed tracks and some of the licensed tracks are not used to the best of their abilities, almost disappearing for the second half of the film. What it really needed was a fight/action sequence to one of these songs as suggested by the trailers (Ballroom Blitz or Bohemian Rhapsody would’ve been perfect) to take the style all the way through to the end of the film. As it stands, it’s a quirky soundtrack but one which is not as perfectly utilised as the one in Guardians of the Galaxy.
And here we have the shining beacon of Suicide Squad: the cast. Every single member of the cast puts in a stellar performance and as such, had the editing and possibly the script been better they are what would have elevated the film from being decent to being exceptional. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is perfect. She’s deranged, sexual, caring, intelligent, manipulative, and just everything you could want from a film adaptation of the character. Robbie’s accent does slip a few times, but hearing her say ‘Mister J’ and ‘Puddin’ and seeing her amazing facial expressions just proves how right she got Harley Quinn. Will Smith is also an excellent Deadshot and really brings a lot of heart to the film that it would have otherwise been missing. Viola Davis is phenomenal as Amanda Waller, bringing a fierce steeliness that makes her one of the most terrifying characters in the film. Davis’ performance during Waller’s dossier explanation at a business meal is just electrifying. A lot of praise also needs to be given to Jai Courtney who is hilarious as Captain Boomerang and Jay Hernandez as El Diablo who also brings a lot of heart to the film. Cara Delevingne’s performance is decent as Dr June Moone/Enchantress, but excepting the introduction of her powers, the Enchantress never comes across as threatening in spite of her immense power. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is also decent but nothing special and the same is true of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc and Karen Fukuhara as Katana. Ben Affleck gets a few cameo appearances as Batman throughout the film and he really is just killing it in the role and should make people excited for his solo film. All that really leaves us with is Jared Leto’s Joker. For all the hyped up craziness purported to be taking place on set, Leto’s Joker never quite manages to capture the majesty of Heath Ledger’s. It is its own beast, merging the grim and violent terror of Ledger’s Joker with the sillier aspects of earlier Jokers; but he appears so little throughout the film that he’s just unimportant. Also, the cut of the film presented officially removed a lot of Joker scenes, and really this is the key problem with Leto’s Joker. There’s potential there, and Leto is clearly giving the role everything he has, but there’s so little Joker that he’s ineffectual and ends up being one of the weaker parts of the film.
Worst. Heroes. Ever. But. Not. The. Worst. Film. Ever. (Source)
Suicide Squad is far from perfect. The editing of the film has left it in quite a bit of a mess from a critical perspective, and as a result it never quite manages to achieve its full potential. There are certain elements of the film which could have led to something really special but none of them were taken to their logical conclusions. It was wonderfully twisted, but the dark humour could have gone so much further; it was visually unique, but the style wasn’t sustained; it was musically interesting, but this too was not sustained; and the plot has a really intriguing premise, but the narrative itself is as standard as they come without the irreverence to back it up. Even with all those major issues accounted for, Suicide Squad is still a fun and enjoyable film with some truly standout performances and moments. When it’s good, Suicide Squad is spectacular. And on the whole, it’s a better film than Batman v Superman so it’s definitely a step in the right direction for DC and Warner Bros. in their cinematic universe. It’s just not the big step they needed, and Suicide Squad’s technical deficiencies mean it’s likely to become another very divisive film in the universe when DC and Warner Bros. need an outstanding gem. It’s still a really good, enjoyable film; but it is only good and nothing more.
Rating: 7/10 – Good
Critical: 2/5 Personal: 5/5