Suicide Squad, director David Ayer’s ill-fated supervillain team-up movie, is a $175 million public service announcement explaining why we should all just stop going to the movies for a good long while and instead devote our entertainment hours to TV show marathons.
Suicide Squad is what happens when a film studio decides to rip off Guardians of the Galaxy without ever actually taking the time to even watch Guardians of the Galaxy.
Suicide Squad is what happens when someone’s first draft of a script, the vomit draft where they spew out all of their ideas just to get them on the page with the intent to fine-tune in subsequent drafts, ends up being filmed without any changes, and no one -not the cast, director or producers – realized how screwed they were until it was too late.
Suicide Squad is what happens when the trailer is a better movie than the actual movie. Watch and imagine how easy this should have been:
Suicide Squad is a two-hour 90s music video hosted by Will Smith and Jared Leto, and some of their co-hosts talk like the ethnic friend in a dated teen comedy.
Going to a sold out midnight screening of Suicide Squad is like going to a Donald Trump rally with your crazy racist, misogynist uncle and cringing every time he shouts out something awful and is then applauded by all of the other Trump supporters around him.
Suicide Squad is proof that things can always get worse, and the bar can always be lowered, even if that bar had previously been set by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Suicide Squad is why we should all pitch in to send a fruit basket to Kevin Feige and his team of producers at Marvel Studios, and include a note apologizing for all the bad things we said about their movies, especially Iron Man 2. All of those old complaints seems so quaint after Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman.
Suicide Squad is…actually watchable.
Hold on. I’m calling bullshit on myself here. I can’t say all of those mean things about Suicide Squad, and then call it “watchable.” But, but, but….
- Even though there’s no significant real plot to speak of, the script both overexplains AND underexplains everything. Quite an achievement, really, one which makes the film astonishingly incoherent.
- The excessive studio meddling is so obvious you half-expect Poochy from The Simpsons to show up as per the request of the clueless executive who kept throwing around words like “edgy,” “in your face” and “attitude.”
- David Ayer appears to have no real sense of shot composition, and it torpedoes any hope of establishing a team dynamic or organically building momentum.
- His reported team of competing editors make very basic and thus completely inexcusable continuity and editing errors.
- The film has so many openings and prologues you could have arguably dropped the title card in three different spots thus giving you the odd feeling that the movie never actually officially starts.
- It’s also the first movie I’ve ever seen which seems to open with what feels like a trailer for itself.
- The endless barrage of pop songs quickly wears out its welcome, and are so repeatedly on-the-nose they feel as if David Ayer watched BoJack Horseman‘s flashback episodes featuring comically generic popsongs with hyper-specific lyrics commenting directly on the storyline and didn’t realize it was satire
- Very little of the drama feels earned in any way, and the wildly shifting tones leave you with whiplash
- Half of the characters might as well not even be in this movie, and that includes Jared Leto’s intriguing (in a “what the heck is he doing?” kind of way), but completely superfluous Joker and Ben Affleck’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Batman
- Even the post-credits scene is cool, but pointless, a redundant re-establishment of something BvS already went to great lengths to establish
And, as I joked last night, during a pretty crucial moment in the finale Cara Delevigne’s The Enchantress – an ancient, evil witch – hilariously and pointlessly dances like a cross between the plastic crazy arms guy outside a bank and Phoebe when she tried to fake seduce Chandler on Friends:
Yet you’re not supposed to laugh or notice the resemblance.
How could any of that add up to a watchable movie?
There are several obvious, surface-level aspects which make it watchable, such as the cinematography which at least initially makes the film fun to look at. Plus, the special effects presenting the Enchantress as a horror movie version of X-Men‘s Nightcrawler are often quite clever and visually arresting.
However, the highest praise should be reserved for Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu. As Suicide Squad‘s casting directors, they oversaw the assembly of Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerbang, Jay Hernandez as El Diablo, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag, Karen Fukuhara as Katana and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc. Almost all of these actors deliver performances worthy of a better movie, particularly Davis, Smith, Robbie and Hernandez.
Davis’ Waller is a scary, uncompromising force to be reckoned with. A simple stern glare from her is more threatening than anything Superman and Batman have fought (including each other) in the DC Extended Universe.
Smith’s considerable charisma as Floyd “Deadshot” Lawton reminds us why he was once and technically still is one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Playing an assassin with a pesky moral code he’s been denying for too long, Smith ably provides the story its heart, but he also somehow turns several poorly written jokes into genuine crowd-pleasers.
Robbie’s Harley, she of the extreme short-shorts and oddly impermanent Jersey accent, is stuck playing a pre-breakup version of the Joker’s girlfriend. As such, this is the Joker-obsessed, lovesick version of Harley who’s immense popularity is troubling in the same way Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey is troubling. Fans of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s current version of the character in the comics should look away. However, Robbie still manages to capture Harley’s unique blend of crazy, and she doesn’t completely let down all those girls who’ve already been cosplaying as her Harley for two years now. Robbie is good enough here to warrant her own movie, but please God let it be written and directed by someone who won’t so thoroughly fetishize her crazy while constantly staring at her ass.
Most surprising, though, is Hernandez’s El Diablo, a gangbanger with a fiery touch (literally) who was not on my radar prior to this movie. However, as the sole quasi-reformed member of the group he’s actually granted a compelling backstory and internal conflict, a rare luxury in this movie. Hernandez completely owns the moment in a pre-final fight bar room scene when we finally learn his full backstory.
In fact, that bar scene is a window into what Suicide Squad could have been. By that point in the story, everyone’s secrets are on the table, and they have to decide if they actually want to save the world. It’s this movie’s version of Guardians of the Galaxy‘s “Well now I’m standing. Happy? We’re all standing now. Bunch of jackasses, standing in a circle” moment. It’s when these worst heroes ever decide to do something genuinely heroic, and that in a world which has repeatedly abused them they at least have each other.
And, on its own, it almost works. Harley, Diablo and Deadshot debating morals together almost works. You want to believe in their sudden friendships. You want to cheer when Harley walks out, bat in hand, facing certain death, and calls back to the boys, “What? Ya got summin’ better to do?” You want to feel all those same things you felt when Guardians did the same exact thing, right down to following up this scene up with a hero shot of the team coming together from all angles and then walking toward the camera like total badasses.
But then you remember Katana said one line during the entire scene, and we have no real idea what she’s thinking or why she’s suddenly joined their team. You remember Killer Croc sat in a corner the whole time after delivering one punchline, and even though he has a wider vocabulary than Guardian‘s Groot he’s somehow even more wooden. You notice the terrible editing which sees Captain Boomerang rejoining the team during the hero shot without explanation after leaving moments before. You dread the big finale because the villains and their world-ending plot feels as half-assed and derivative as anything in any summer movie this year. You lament what could have been for this talented cast with a better, probably completely different script, and you sink into your chair, waiting for it all to end.
But, hey, at least there are some actors delivering solid performances, and the opening and closing credits are nice to look at.
Full Disclosure: One of the first comic books I ever bought was the New 52 Suicide Squad, and soon after that I discovered Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Harley Quinn solo series, which I still follow. Prior to that, like so many other kids from my generation, I grew up on Batman: The Animated Series. As such, I’m not some Marvel fanboy nor am I a superhero movie hater. The Avengers films have converted me to a lot of the Marvel comics, but I am still a DC fan at heart. As such, I really, really wanted to like Suicide Squad. Instead, I just really, really liked some of the performances.