*Suicide Squad was seen Tuesday during a special press screening provided by Warner Bros
Suicide Squad had an odd step to follow after the disaster that was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Not only did the film have to hopefully bring back some sort of success for DC’s cinematic universe, it also had to start a new franchise with mostly unknown characters. So, in a lot of ways, writer and director David Ayer’s took a bold leap with Suicide Squad.
Suicide Squad takes off after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The world, particularly government head honcho Amanda Waller, fears another Superman like being. The world had survived a good Superman, could it survive with a bad one? Her response? To create Task Force X, a group of the worst villains, black mailed to do the government (primarily her) bidding. Of course, fancy technogadgetry is in play here with each villain being implanted with a grain size bomb in their neck. So, disobeying her, and her lackey, Rick Flagg isn’t an option. The events play out, and in little time, Task Force X (“We’re just some kind of Suicide Squad.”) is sent out to stop the film’s villain.
It should go without saying that Batman v Superman was a monumental disappointment. The film failed to captivate a wide group of audiences, as well as demonstrate the fundamental understanding of its characters. Sure, the ultimate cut helped make sense of the messy editing, but really it isn’t want Warner Bros/DC had in mind (Under a billion worldwide and 27% on RT). Suicide Squad was to be, in a lot of ways, another savior for Warner Bros, desperate for a critically acclaimed money maker (one that Marvel so readily finds). Unfortunately, for all intents and purposes, Suicide Squad is as messy, muddled and baffling as Batman v Superman.
Suicide Squad’s initial set up is unorthodox, with Amanda Waller describing each villain through a back story. Unfortunately, the flaw here is rather than Ayer’s script develop these characters, we are just told about these characters. Deadshot? He is the most accurate assassin ever. Okay? Great. Next character set up! Sure, we are told some of these through some wonky edited flashback scenes with some amped up music. For the most part, the beginning works, even passed some of its initial flaws. This is because Suicide Squad thrives on its characters interacting, developing and being apart of this world WB struggles to develop. For all the things it does wrong, it isn’t apologetic about its weirdness.
Things start to fall apart in the film’s second act, primarily when the film’s villain is set up. No, I won’t ruin it for you (although it isn’t much of a spoiler). The set up is a bit lazy, and quickly, the film builds up this end of the world structure we’ve seen a million times before. This quickly derails the film’s momentum, taking away from precious character moments the film thrives on. It builds into an action fest of characters beheading mindless autonomous creatures (think Avengers). At first, the action works, thanks to some witty dialogue, and decent set pieces…until it stops. Eventually, the film just continues into the action onslaught, becoming a dull mess of action clichés. Thankfully, these sloppy action scenes are saved by some occasional character moments that the film should have RELIED on.
So, how about the characters? Will Smith works as Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot. He is really the face of Suicide Squad, and the most to lose with a precious daughter he so eagerly listens to. The film relies on this cliché more often than not, and while it does work, it does feel, dare I say, cheap. Margot Robbie is perfectly fine as Harley Quinn. Her characterization of Quinn is pretty spot on, but unfortunately, her banter doesn’t always work. This is because most of it relies on the same two joke subjects, her attractiveness and her being insane. My biggest worry and complaint in the trailers came from Jared Leto as The Joker. For what you get of The Joker he is…serviceable. Perhaps it is because I grew up in a time where The Jokers (Nicholson and Ledger) stole the scene every time they appeared, Leto…just doesn’t. Does that mean he is bad? No. He nails the voice. His laugh is well, a decent laugh. His look still bothers me and the characterization feels off. All of this is only magnified because of his lack of screen time. So, if you’re expecting him to be in the movie, think less, and then think even less than that (screen time might be 10 minutes).
The real game changer is Viola Davis. Davis has done fantastic work over the years, but she really has something special with Amanda Waller. Waller is as ugly, as monstrous as the team she oversees. Sure, she doesn’t have any powers or do anything evil, but she is a rotten woman. Of course her end goal is to save humanity, and that often means justifying impossible means. Davis is so snappy, cunning and threatening. Her presence felt intimidating, more so than even Leto. This is as perfect as a casting as Affleck is to Batman. Oh, and expect to see the caped crusader in a few flashback scenes. Again, Affleck steals the show. Why Warner Bros isn’t leaning on him to drive this universe is beyond me.
The film apparently went through an extensive reshoot (millions upon millions of dollars spent) and Ayers apparently wrote the script in as little as six weeks (scripts take usually 2-4 times that). While these are clearly ‘rumors’, evidence is unfortunately on the tape. Scenes feel copy and pasted, as if they were just placed in after reshoots. At first it was one scene, you shrug it off, and then quickly notice several (most are flashbacks). It hinders, derails and muddles the plot. The music, which feels lively, and gives the music a sort of edge, quickly dominates the movie. Almost every action scene is filled with some sort of tempo music. Does this necessarily mean it is bad? No, but it adds to that divisiveness that Warner Bros/DC can’t seem to avoid.
Despite all of its problems, Suicide Squad has moments where it works. Perhaps the driving stake of the film is that it isn’t a bad one, it just isn’t much of a good one either. When the film is funny, it is actually funny. Believe it or not, the film also has an emotional core that works. However, like Batman v Superman, a film that is set up to succeed, just can’t make the sum of its parts cohesive.
Warner Bros was looking for Suicide Squad to stop the bleeding. Unfortunately, this won’t be the film to do that for them and will be another divisive film in a series of them. Sure, there are plenty of things to like here (Deadshot, limited time from Killer Croc, Diablo’s characterization, Viola Davis is perfect as Amanda Waller) but so much just doesn’t work here (villain, pacing, The Joker, action sequences) A film of this magnitude should never run into a string of 20 dull minutes, but it did. It, like Batman v Superman, circumvents itself at telling a cohesive narrative. Warner Bros must now rely on Justice League to save the DC film franchises, or else it is doomed.
3 out of 5