REVIEW: Suicide Squad (2016)

Theatrical Release Poster - Warner Bros. Pictures
Theatrical Release Poster – Warner Bros. Pictures

The following is a review of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad.

The DC Cinematic Universe needs a hit right now. Man of Steel was polarizing. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was critically panned and it needed an extended cut to fix some of its many problems. Now, Warner Bros. and DC have released a film about bad guys teaming up to do ‘good.’ It may be a bit of a risk, but they are going for a Guardians of the Galaxy-like surprise hit. Unfortunately, Suicide Squad doesn’t hold a candle to the aforementioned Marvel Studios hit. David Ayer’s film is an almost incoherent mess of a film.

Suicide Squad, the third film in DC’s cinematic universe, is very different from the first two films. First and foremost, it isn’t a solo film and, while it does feature cameos from certain superheroes, it isn’t a superhero movie, strictly speaking. Suicide Squad is a film about imprisoned villains that are forced to team-up to do something good on a covert mission.

It is a film about an incarcerated team of supervillains. The team consists of, first, Harley Quinn (played by Margot Robbie), the Joker’s girlfriend, and Deadshot (played by Will Smith), an amazing marksman, but also Captain Boomerang (played by Jai Courtney), who throws boomerangs; El Diablo (played by Jay Hernandez), a murderer who has the power to manipulate fire; Killer Croc (played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a human crocodile; Slipknot (played by Adam Beach), who can climb anything (that is literally the only description that the film gives), and, finally, Katana (played by Karen Fukuhara), who wields a ‘soul taking’ katana. This team, led by military-man Rick Flagg (played by Joel Kinnaman), is assigned to take down a ‘witch’ (played by Cara Delevingne) and save the world.

While I think this is a pretty poor comic book film, there are some pretty major elements of the film that do, admittedly, work well. Although it isn’t saying much, this is easily the most ‘fun’ film in the cinematic universe so far, as it actually has fun with some of the characters. Suicide Squad also starts to build a more complete universe with different cities and a large cast of wildly different characters. On top of this, there are some very cool cameos here and there.

Most of the performances are also fitting, and the main characters work well together. Though this is only half-hearted praise, I would probably say that this is the best performance I’ve seen from Jai Courtney. Margot Robbie, Will Smith, and Viola Davis (who plays the ruthless Amanda Waller) are all pretty good here. I thought that Smith stole every scene he was in, and I think Margot Robbie made the Harley Quinn-character her own thanks to a strong performance. Smith and Robbie’s performances are easily the best things about this film. But that is, sadly, where my positive notes end.

It really makes me sad to have to write this, but one of my favorite actors and musicians working today really doesn’t need to be in Suicide Squad. Jared Leto adds nothing of real weight to this film. Although his Joker-character has been a key character in the trailers, he really doesn’t do a lot in the film. His character’s odd design coupled with his underwhelming performance makes the Joker an irremovable stain on this film. Unfortunately, it is definitely not the only stain that taints this comic book film.

I don’t normally like to compare a film I am reviewing to films from ‘rival’ studios, but the marketing has made it pretty clear: Warner Bros. wanted Suicide Squad to work on the same level as Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy did. They wanted it to be a colorful, intense, and music-driven comic book film featuring odd characters that almost become a family by the end of the film. They failed to achieve that. Suicide Squad has a lot of popular music, but Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t just work because it had a great pop soundtrack. In Guardians of the Galaxy, the soundtrack is a part of the story of the film, and the musical choices add to every scene in one way or another. But while the list of songs in Suicide Squad is solid, they don’t come close to working as well as the music did in Guardians of the Galaxy. The immoderate use of music in the first half of Suicide Squad took me out of the movie. It never felt right. David Ayer’s Suicide Squad is an unpleasant and poor imitation of a much better film.

Suicide Squad is also, at times, a confusing and illogical mess. Somehow the filmmakers fail to properly introduce both Slipknot and Katana in the opening twenty minutes that repeatedly emphasize both who Quinn and Deadshot are, and what the squad is all about. It has moments with really underwhelming CGI (compared to other superhero films), as well as truly baffling editing issues, and the film even breaks its own rules.

It also has one of the absolute worst villains I’ve ever seen in a superhero movie. I don’t think it’s Delevingne’s fault, necessarily. Everything about the character and her goons is just so bland and ugly. The character design of the villain is unexciting, and the character designs of her goons are, frankly, hideous.

As a side-note, it also just makes no sense that these are the people that are recruited to defend the world. Why can’t other heroes stop the threat, and, really, what can a guy who throws boomerangs and an insane woman with a baseball bat be expected to do to stop this world-ending villain?

I saw this film with someone who ended up enjoying it quite a bit, and I get why you would like parts of the film. I guess, the characters are somewhat exciting. But even though I really want to see some of these characters again, I think it is a poor imitation of a much better film that is made awful by several puzzling editing choices. Suicide Squad is a mess of a film that reeks of studio interference.

4 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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