Suicide Squad Review
WORST. HEROES. EVER.
In an age of superhero films, Marvel and DC Comics are churning out their cinematic movies of heroes, villains, comic book frivolities, and big dollar feature films. While Marvel has already established has a powerhouse juggernaut in its MCU films (13 films released as of August 2016), DC has struggled a bit. While the franchise has created some memorable hits (i.e. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy), it has faltered a bit when cultivating its DCEU (DC Extended Universe). So far, underneath its DCEU banner, its two films, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, have had mixed reviews from its fans, critics, and moviegoers. With Dawn of Justice completed and done, the DCEU series is hoping to explode with several movies planned off for sequels, spin-offs, and superhero team ups (Justice League). However, before such an event occurs, Warner Bros, and director David Ayer bring a unique superhero (or rather a supervillain) assemblage with the film Suicide Squad. With so much hype being thrusted upon this movie, will the “worst superheroes ever” team save the day or is it a hodgepodge cacophony of superhero baddies?
Following the death of Superman and the rise of the “meta-humans”, fearing is being swell within the political echelon as government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) seizes an opportunity to sell her Task Force X program, utilizing supervillains to combat any significant meta-human uprising. Recruiting Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Slipknot (Adam Beach), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) into duty, the unit is unwillingly forced to follow orders from their Waller’s no-nonsense subordinate Rick Flag (Joel Kinnnaman) and his bodyguard sidekick, Katana (Karen Fukuhara). When the vile sorceress Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) breaks free of her control, overwhelming her human host, and Flag’s lover, June Moore (also played by Cara Delevingne), the mystical creature reconnects with her powerful brother, Incubus (Alain Chanonine), who plans to destroy the world with his sibling’s dark magic powers. Sent in to capture Enchantress, this Suicide Squad of villains encounters deadly supernatural forces and face their own fears in their trouble lives, while, in the background, the nefarious gangster “The Joker” (Jared Leto), plans to rescue Harley from her tasked mission.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I have said before in some of my other comic book movie reviews, I’m more of a fan of Marvel than am of DC (Sorry…. it’s just me). However, that’s not to say that I discredit anyone who is the opposite as everyone has their own opinions. I mean I love all the MCU movies, but I still appreciate what DC is doing with their DCEU films. Man of Steel, despite some problems, was still enjoyable as another iteration of the famous “son of Krypton” with plenty of summer blockbuster flair to the proceedings. As for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I thought it was okay. It had elements to that were great, but it wasn’t perfect. However, to be fair, it wasn’t the complete trainwreck that some were saying it to be (it was still entertaining). Now onward to my Suicide Squad review. I remember seeing the first trailer for the film and was kind of vaguely interested in it, but not entirely sold on the idea. It wasn’t until I saw the next trailer, showcasing DC villains spouting funny one-liners and wild comic book action to the music of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody. That’s alone sold me on seeing the movie and continue to build upon my expectations for this movie. Unfortunately, after seeing the movie, those same expectations of mine might have been too high as Suicide Squad, for all its visual style, its star-studded cast, and much anticipated pomp, feels like an uninspiring superhero romp that start off good, but gets lost soon after it establishes itself.
Suicide Squad is directed by David Ayer, who directorial catalogue includes End of Watch, Sabotage, and Fury. This film represents Ayer’s first attempt to foray of the superhero and, for what it’s worth, he does do a commendable job at bringing this “supervillain team” concept to the big screen. The film’s first act is actually very interesting and probably the best part of the movie, swiftly bring us (the viewers) up to speed on the various characters through mini-introductions and (ultimately) setting up the whole “Task Force X” premise with its team of super baddies. In terms of aesthetic, Ayers makes the film visual appealing with the its costume design and make-up on bring these comic-book characters to life with theatrically believability, while also retaining its comic book flairs. The film’s music song selection is also a highlight, playing various songs that are immediately recognizable and might have you humming or tapping your hand / foot when their being played.
Despite whatever a viewer’s overall likeability of this movie is, Suicide Squad does present something unique that no superhero movie has done before. In Marvel’s MCU movies, the character of the villain is (sometimes) a weak bad guy as more times is given to the protagonist hero or heroes of the feature. Since Suicide Squad is a film about a “supervillain team-up”, these characters can now jump right into any future DC movie with their character already established.
Unfortunately, after the initial setup and introducing to most of the players, Suicide Squad slowly declines with numerous problems that keep it from being thrilling superhero (or rather a supervillain) extravaganza that it wants to be. While Dawn of Justice’s narrative plot was heavy criticized for being overstuffed with too much story, Suicide Squad is the polar opposite, presenting a rather skimpy narrative for the feature’s main plot thread, which is strange because Ayer wrote the film’s screenplay. Without going into details, it’s vague story that sort of reminds me of something from an old arcade video game (i.e. a villain with a big “world-ending” scheme as the player navigates through an area and fending off against waves of nameless minions). That’s basically the entire plot behind Suicide Squad, punctured with scenes of comedy and small snippets of action. It’s a real shell of a story, one that doesn’t go anywhere beyond its standardized setup. Those looking for Suicide Squad’s main conflict to be something grandiose and complex like from Man of Steel or Dawn of Justice are going to be disappointed as the movie does what it can with very little story meat on its narrative bone.
In conjunction with that, the movie’s pacing is bit off, creating various points throughout the film that drag and slow-down its overall momentum. These are usually character development / building scenes, but even these scenes are problematic (I’ll go into more detail on that below). Adding to its problems, Suicide Squad doesn’t bring that much “new” to the table. Beyond the whole concept of comic book villain team up together to save the world, the movie feels somewhat generic for a superhero flick, checking off all the standardize necessity for this genre. The actions scenes are good, but nothing spectacular, the visual are slick, but are the industry standard, the editing is adequate, but nothing great, the story is serviceable, but nothing incredible, and the even the final’s third act is nothing to rave about (filled with a common confrontation of CG visuals). All of this contributes to the film being formulaic and being (a little bit on the nose) predictable in a familiar three act movie structure of setup, problems, and resolution. While many talked about the “trinity” scene from Dawn of Justice or the “airport scene” from Captain America: Civil War, there’s no really great “wow” moments that in Suicide Squad that will have people geeking out over after watching the movie (whether on social media or by the watercooler).
Despite the sort of rivalry between the two comic book franchise of Marvel and DC, Suicide Squad sort of feels like it’s taking a page from MCU’s handbook. While Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice established the DCEU as being serious and darker in comparison to Marvel’s MCU, Ayer and his team seems to emulate a Marvel style influence into the feature. This can be both good or bad (depending on the viewer), but, to me, it was somewhere in the middle. It had its moments were it elevated the movie (especially in its comedy and soundtrack), but it didn’t feel like a DCEU movie in comparison to the two prior films of the franchise. They even add the MCU’s style of continuity of its cinematic universe with certain characters and events being mentioned or making cameo-like appearances throughout. They say that “imitation is the ultimate form of flattery” and Suicide Squad, despite being a DC Comic movie, feels more like a MCU film, but to a lesser degree.
Perhaps the greatest strength that Suicide Squad has to offer is in its cast, which consists of a star-studded cast. Unfortunately, as a whole, this sprawling cast overstuff the film, pushing certain characters to the wayside. Leading the charge (and who shines the most in the movie) are Will Smith, Viola Davis, and Margot Robbie. Smith’s Deadshot is probably the most well-rounded character in the feature and, for all tense and purposes, acts as the true central character of Suicide Squad. While the character’s backstory isn’t nothing new, Smith, with his acting ability, gives Deadshot an overall smugness and snarky attitude; makes him quite endearing in the role (if a villain could be endearing). Viola Davis complete crushes the role of Amanda Waller, the government official that masterminds the whole Task Force X project. Uncompromising, determined, and downright ruthless, Davis’s Waller is truly a force to reckoned with in the feature, dominating every scene she is in. Thus, she shines immensely in the film’s first act. Unfortunately, her presence diminishes when the Squad embarks on their mission. If anything, I hope that expand on her character in future DCEU movies and I hope that Davis returns to reprise her role.
Actress Margot Robbie is quite the scene stealer as the nefarious and perky Harley Quinn. Since the Batman: The Animated Series, the character has become popular and a fan favorite, so it’s great to see the character make her big-screen debut in the movie. Robbie, who damn beautiful in real life, certainly looks the part and walks the fine line of being mentally crazy and sincerely cheerful quite well. Robbie may not be yet skilled on her comedic timing, but her comedic energy is a welcomed one and say something of the film’s funniest bits. The only thing I didn’t like is that they never fully explain her attraction to The Joker.
Beyond those three leads, Suicide Squad’s spends time establishing the infamous character “The Joker” played by actor Jared Leto. This, of course, prompts the immediate comparison of apples to apples between Leto’s Joker and Heath Ledger’s Joker from the movie The Dark Knight, a role that has become iconic and a fan-favorite in personal cinematic history. So which one is better? Well, while Ledger’s Joker was deep and menacing and acted more like sadistic terrorist, Leto’s Joker is more for a classic rendition of the comic book villain, with odd zaniness, abrupt tantrums, and a very theatrical bold vision of the clowned kingpin. Even Leto’s outward appearances seems more in-tune the comic book counterpart character of the Joker (much louder-looking) versus Ledger’s subtler costume attire and make-up. What makes Leto’s Joker a tad bit more interesting is the inclusion of Harley Quinn. Both Leto and Robbie’s performances are fun and twisted and their on-screen chemistry works in harmony. All in all, both are good in their own rights and fit perfectly in their corresponding feature films. Still, if I did have to pick one, I would choose Ledger over Leto as the Joker. Nothing can beat that.
Suicide Squad’s central antagonist is the supernatural witch “The Enchantress” played by Paper Town’s actress Cara Delevingne. While Delevingne is indeed beautiful and, while her character set-up is interesting, the Enchantress is a bland villain that doesn’t evolve beyond the standard “powerful” entity” seeking world-ending destruction. The same goes for Enchantress’s brother, Incubus, played by Alain Chanonine, who is more of CG “cog” in the plot device machine than a titular threat. Even the machinations behind Enchantress and Incubus are somewhat vague with many unanswered questions and unclear motivations. Actor Joel Kinnaman plays Col. Rick Flag, the drill sergeant-like character that’s the Suicide Squad’s “handler”. While Kinnanman’s acting is overall good, the character doesn’t strike enough of an intimidation presence to keep this rogue-ish group of murders, villains, psychopaths in-line and in-check. In addition, his romantic connection with June Moore, the Enchantress’s human host, feels very vague and doesn’t really feel very believable.
The rest of the Suicide Squad team members are more one-dimensional footnote characters. Yes, they have their moments in the spotlight (whether in character development or on-screen presence), but are not as strong Smith’s Deadshot or Robbie’s Quinn. Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang has some funny comedic bits, but doesn’t make standout as much when the action gets going. However, it’s the opposite for the character Katana, who slices and dices her enemies, but fails as a strong supporting character. Jay Hernandez’s El Diablo has an interesting backstory on his powers, but doesn’t do much until almost the halfway point of the movie and, by that time, it’s hard to care about his character. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc is more of a physical presence in the film, saying very little in terms of dialogue. Adam Beach’s Slipknot is hardly in the movie and really doesn’t bring much to the movie in general. Finally, it’s worth noting that Scott Eastwood, Clint Eastwood’s son, is in the movie as Lt. GQ Edwards as well as Ike Barinholtz, who plays Griggs, a security officer at Belle Reve prison.
Before I forget, Ayer seems to take another page from Marvel’s MCU movies as Suicide Squad has a mid-credit Easter Egg scene. While I won’t go into detail what it is, the scene doesn’t really surprise you with anything new, but just reconfirms of what is to come.
Task Force X assembles itself to save the world (hopefully) in the comic book film Suicide Squad. Director David Ayer villain team-up feature has an interesting and fun premise with some good villain characters and the actors that played them (especially Davis, Smith, Robbie) as well as a slick selection of musical songs to the film’s soundtrack. Unfortunately, Suicide Squad is not all it’s cracked up to be as it fails to deliver an exhilarating ride with a thinly layered narrative, a weak antagonist, and lacking various bits of character development from its overstuffed cast. Personally, I thought it was just a mediocre movie. Sure, it had its moments of fun, but I was expecting more from this film (maybe I set my expectations way too high from all its inherit hype). Thus, my recommendations for Suicide Squad is definitely a solid “iffy choice” as some might hate it, while others might sing its praise. At the end of the day, Suicide Squad, the much celebrated Task Force X assemblage, is more like a theatrical Task Force “Meh”. With three films now complete and under its belt, the road ahead for the DCEU is still a rocky one, desperately in need of universal smash hit if it wants to keep up with Marvel’s MCU. Let’s hope that Warner Bros. and DC get their “cinematic mojo” fixed with their future installments.
2.9 Out of 5 (Iffy Choice)
Released On: August 5th, 2016
Reviewed On: August 5th, 2016
Suicide Squad is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language