I think it’s fair to say that the DC Cinematic Universe is having a bit of a critical issue. Sure the DC related TV shows have been pretty good overall, but Man of Steel was terrible and Batman v. Superman was somehow even worse. Yeah they both made money, but not as much money as they might and both incited long, annoyed and ongoing backlash, and I don’t think they made as much as they wanted them to, and certainly not as much as WB was hoping.
Still there was some hope for Suicide Squad. It has a solid enough concept, it had a (mostly) good cast, and what looked like a different, less grim, tone from the aforementioned previous films. But news coming in from the production was mixed, between Leto’s antics and hints of reshoots and edits coming in at the 11th hour that I didn’t know what to think going in. Which I suppose is the correct way to go in.
Our plot kicks off with government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) trying to figure out a way to prepare for the US lest the next Superman type person who shows up be a tiny bit less friendly. Her solution is Task Force X, a group of super villains, who are let out to perform tasks on the government’s behalf. Our team, at the outset, is Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a former psychiatrist and the Joker’s girlfriend, Deadshot (Will Smith) a brilliant assassin, Diablo (Jay Hernandez) a pyrokenetic gang member, Enchantress (Cara Delevigne), a thousands of years old sorceress inhabiting the body of an archaeologist and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a guy with a skin condition to make him look reptilian, who decided to run with it. Oh and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney). He’s got a boomerang.
But not all is well in the state of Denmark, as the first attempt to use Enchantress (who is only going along with it because they have her heart which can be damaged to control her) goes south when she decides “F that noise,” and resurrects her brother to…help her develop a machine to destroy humanity? I dunno, run with it. Despite it being kinda Waller’s fault, she gets to send the squad is, under the leadership of Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara).
I’m not sure what the original form of Suicide Squad was, but the movie released into theaters right now is not it. Something has happened to it in during the editing process to make it into an unholy mess. Huge chunks of the movie are poorly stitched together, incoherent or just plain missing, and the rest is barely functional as a movie. I don’t know what it was in aid of (possibly aiming for a lighter tone, basing off Deadpool‘s monster success) but the end result is almost certainly to the detriment of the movie as a whole.
Everyone and their dog has already taken this movie to the woodshed over its editing, so that is as good a place to start as any, because it’s some of the most incompetent story editing I’ve seen in a major movie. The movie moves in fits and jerks, jumping over incredibly important plot points and slamming other ones home as hard as it can. The movie features something like 4 introductions for the squad, but almost never shows them interacting or building rapport, so they just wind up doing things together in proximity, rather than as a team.
The character relationships all suffer as a result, as does everyone’s screen time. The Joker has a ton of buildup in both the character reactions and the advertising, but winds up with like 10 minutes of screen time and 0 impact on the plot. Captain Boomerang abandons the team at one point and returns without explanation 2 minutes later. Hell, a huge amount of the drama hinges on the fact that Rick Flagg and Enchantress are banging, but that’s a romance we essentially never get to see, so who gives a s**t?
And that’s when they even bother to remember to include the characters. Killer Croc barely says any lines but at least they invent a reason for him to be there, and he’s a decent screen presence. Katana is in it even less, and they can’t even pretend to care about her enough to give her an arc or a reason to be there (she’s not a prisoner, so she doesn’t need to be there, and while they make some noise about her protecting Flagg, she never seems to do that). But none of them can hold a candle to the unintentional hilarity of Slipknot’s entrance and exit. I won’t spoil it, but trust me, it’s bizarrely bad.
All of this seems to have been in aid of aiming for a lighter tone, but trying to push a very dark movie into a comedy in post is an incredibly bad decision, for a variety of reasons. Most of the comedic sequences are really isolated and really oddly placed in the narrative proper. As a result, they’re incredibly out of sync with the rest of the movie and jarring. All of the colorful transitions in the world can’t turn your drama into a comedy if it wasn’t intended to be a comedy in the first place.
Compared to the editing, the rest of the movie is significantly stronger, in that it’s mostly just bad. The action is generic and lifeless, and never seems to be making good use of its various character’s strengths. The script is weak and uninteresting, the character arcs non-existent and the plot badly held together with thudding exposition and prayer.
The acting is the only area with some unreserved good points, but even it has some negatives. Robbie and Smith are the clear standouts, taking weak characters and infusing them with a lot of charisma and screen presence almost entirely through their performances. Davis is also giving her all, and gets her character over wonky writing that has her changing motivation at the drop of a hat. Cara Delevigne is also pretty good when the movie lets her, and while he’s not in it much, I’m impressed by how much Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje manages to do with Killer Croc.
On the negative end, I can totally tell why Leto’s Joker got his screen time reduced down to nothing, because he f**king terrible. I get what he was going for (gangster style Joker, by way of the modern gangster) but Leto cannot sell it at all. He has no menace, no screen presence and zero charisma. First order of business for the upcoming Batman movie is to recast him. Joel Kinnaman is also incredibly boring as Rick Flagg and we all knew Jai Courtney was gonna suck in this. He’s Jai Courtney.
Suicide Squad is gonna be a major punching bag from film critics and audiences alike for the next few months, and while it was important to me that I get my licks in, I can’t really recommend you go see it for that reason. It’s an interesting kind of bad, but not really a group activity. If you want to rag on this movie, wait until it hits DVD. Until then, avoid it like the plague.
Elessar is a 26 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he has some suggestions for how to improve Suicide Squad: Remove everyone but Deadshot and Harley, add in Knockout, Scandal Savage, Catman and Ragdoll, call it Secret Six…
– I like Will Smith and Margot Robbie
– I guess Diablo was kinda cool
– the editing is across the board attrocious
– the plot and characterization are awful
– Jared Leto is shockingly miscast
– editing gets two points, it’s that bad