Warning: Spoilers for Batman v Superman!
A movie that’s been in the works since 2009 and probably the most hyped movie of the summer, Suicide Squad is DC’s newest instalment in their developing cinematic universe.
The movie takes us to a world post-Batman Vs Superman, a world left in fear following the death of Superman and the potential risk of another ‘superman’ with less noble intentions. With these fears in mind, intelligence operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) launches a group of dangerously murderous criminals to protect the compromised streets of Midway. Led by Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and kept in check by deadly bombs planted into their necks, lethal hit-man Deadshot (Will Smith), The Joker’s (Jared Leto) psychologist turned psychopath girlfriend Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), pyrokinetic gangbanger El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), seemingly harmless thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and cannibal human/crocodile hybrid Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), all take to the streets armed with the governments weapons and the possibility of freedom, to defeat Enchantress, the witch who has taken control of Dr June Moon’s body with a demonstrative plan to take over the city and the world. All this takes place whilst The Joker plans to get his love, Harley Quinn, back from the grasps of the government by any means possible.
With an all star cast, a historically great director, and one of the biggest hype-trains in cinematic history, Suicide Squad had a lot to live up to and fell flat at the first hurdle and pretty much every hurdle after that, rendering itself more miss than hit. In fact, rendering itself a complete misfire.
Starting with the story, it’s been reported that writer/director David Ayer only had 6 weeks to write the script. If the film isn’t one huge example of why that isn’t enough time, I don’t know what is. The story feels incomplete and rushed; huge plot points that should’ve taken up a lot more screen time were completely brushed over with lazy flashbacks and simplistic voice-overs that just didn’t do the moments justice. The story isn’t aided at all by the editing; it was reported that there were several re-shoots and re-edits because of the success of Marvel’s hilarious Deadpool to make the film more comical, and then following the negative criticism of the dark Batman Vs Superman, to make the movie more light in tone and delivery. It is painstakingly obvious that these re-shoots and edits took place, and the movie thus ended up seeming incoherent and completely chopped up to the point where some scenes feel more like montages than a complete contextual piece of narrative.
Then there’s the problem of the characters. With no clear protagonist, sometimes it felt like we were being led by Will Smith’s Deadshot but then we were taken astray by Margot Robbie’s destructive Harley Quinn. It felt as though Ayer had tried his best to do all the characters justice by giving them each as much screen time as possible, but this just ended with a messy entanglement of characters with flatlining character arcs and very little backstory to explain their actions. The antagonist dealt with the same fate; it felt like Ayer really wanted The Joker to be the main villain which really would’ve made a bit more sense than the loosely explained Enchantress and her confusing plans to take over the world with a swirling vortex of street trash.
It can’t be said the characters don’t have potential because they sure do, it’s just that they are explored very little, if not at all. The band of villains all have very weak character arcs, even Deadshot who has the strongest character arc and deepest exploration into his motive, coming across as weak and predictable. Possibly the biggest missed opportunity of the whole story, yet, is The Joker and Harley Quinn’s relationship; an iconic relationship that fans of the comics and previous adaptations were undoubtedly excited to see was left to fall into the abyss of lazy storytelling with the rest of the plot. The origin of their relationship should have been given more screen time, or at least should’ve taken more advantage of the screen time it was awarded. The explanation we get of their villainous romance is that ‘she fell in love’ but we don’t get any context or explanation as to why, which is ridiculous considering that Harley Quinn, before she met Mr J himself, was a sane psychologist who was assigned to treat him in Arkham Asylum. Seeing as he isn’t exactly the typical handsome gentleman, an explanation to her fascination and eventual love for the villain would’ve been helpful (you can’t just rely on people reading the comics).
As said, Suicide Squad had a huge hype surrounding it which was caused mostly by its fantastic trailers which used popular music as the background to action-filled screens, and these served brilliantly as trailers but another mistake the movie makes is that it tries to use this same tactic within the film. Within the first three scenes, there’s three separate songs in the background, none of which really have any context in the scene and are all non-diegetic. Music is really overused throughout the film, to the point that you do feel like you’re watching MTV rather than a movie. This was probably a tactic to make the audience feel like they’re having fun watching the film when it really wasn’t needed; there were some fun scenes that were ruined by the use of popular music and would’ve really served their purpose alone.
To end on a high note, however, there is some good points to Suicide Squad. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is fabulously quirky and harks back to the comics with the cutesy use of her personal epithet (puddin’) for her love Mr J, who is another highlight. Jared Leto’s Joker has been the subject of controversy since the first stills of him in his costume were published online. Yet, he really brings a different side to the Joker we haven’t really seen yet. He’s a mafia-style gagster who walks with a cane, sports a grill, and owns a strip club; a million miles from Heath Ledger’s sociopath anarchist we saw in The Dark Knight. Though this new incarnation didn’t get much screen time, he does hold potential for future films within DC’s cinematic universe, and I for one am excited to see his future antics and debauchery.
Written by Heather Thornton