It is not an exaggeration when I say Suicide Squad left me feeling drained. While I did not have to battle hordes of faceless creatures, the pupil covered beings known as the Eyes of the Adversary, like Will Smith and his ragtag team did, I endured my own two-hour fight trying to make sense of the latest cinematic addition to the DC Extended Universe. Watching the newest superhero, or in this case supervillains-turned-hero, team up film did not make me excited to see a Justice League film or the next Avengers films. Instead it made me dread the onslaught of superhero inspired films coming down the pipe over the next six years.
Look, I love movies and I love comics. There are even times when I enjoy seeing the two merged together. Those moments though seem to be fleeting of late. If Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice pushed my love, or better yet tolerance, for these films closer to the brink, then Suicide Squad not only knocked me off the ledge, but proceeded to kick my corpse after it hit the ground. Now before defenders pulls out the trusty “it was made for the fans” card from the well-worn deck of excuses, I will simply say that, regardless of whether one is a fan or newcomer, audiences deserve better from these superhero films. If I merely wanted to see live action versions of icon comic book images, take Alex Ross’ wonderful cover featuring the Joker in a tux and Harley Quinn in her classic jester costume, which is reconstructed in this film, I would simply buy a comic-con pass and observe all the dedicated cosplayers.
Much like its main characters, Suicide Squad is a film that walks with a reckless swagger, but ultimately proves to be more bark than bite. It wants to be hip and edgy, but does not have the stones to fully commit to any one thing. It is not bold enough to earn an R-rating, which the film really should have been, and it is not broad enough to warrant its PG-13 rating either. The film cannot even figure out how to balance its overly large cast of characters.
If you want to understand everything that is wrong with the film, one needs to look no further than the characters of Slipknot (Adam Beach) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara). A picture of Slipknot is shown early on in the film, when tough as nails Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, one of the film’s few bright spots) is selling the government on her concept of using super-powered villains to fight other evil metahumans, yet he does not get a flashback sequence like the other team members do. Furthermore, when he final does show up in the film, he is introduced in a blink and you’ll miss it throw away line regarding how well he can climb things. The sword wielding Katana fairs slightly better in regards to getting more screen time, but she serves no real significance to the overall plot. We learn a bit about her and her husband, but I could not help but think that the film would be exactly same without her. You could throw in Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Boomerang (Jai Courtney) into that list as well.
Most of the characters in Suicide Squad are simply there to justify one or two particular scenes. The team’s overall interaction is wooden, and their motives for wanting to save the day feel false. The film is really about Deadshot (Will Smith), who rarely uses his high-tech mask despite the countless times it would be logical and beneficial to do so, and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the deliciously twisted psychopath who, for some inexplicable reason, is constantly reminded about her “hotness” by other characters every fifteen minutes or so. However, we never really get past the surface level with these characters either. Robbie nails the creepy playfulness and the high-pitched voice of the character, and Smith has some amusing moments, which ultimately get suffocated by the stifling seriousness of the world David Ayer creates, but overall there is very little character development for the actors to work with.
To be fair, there is a good film buried within Suicide Squad, four or five of them in fact, unfortunately no one can seem to agree which story they want to tell. The arc between Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) could have been a really cool DC gothic action-horror film had that script took more time to let that piece flourish. The same could be said for The Joker’s (Jared Leto) and Harley Quinn subplot. Their love story was ripe for the plucking, and would have potentially taken the film in a bold new direction, had the Joker been the central villain, instead of a guy who randomly pops up like Wile E. Coyote attempting to catch a pigtailed Road Runner.
Instead of fleshing out any of the numerous plot strands, Suicide Squad wastes time shoehorning in multiple Batman appearances and other Justice League nods, proving once again that the creators of the DC Extended Universe do not have any faith that their characters can stand on their own two feet without daddy Batman chaperoning.
Suicide Squad may not be the worst superhero movie ever made, but it was a chore to get through. By the time the film reached its climatic battle scene, where an all-powerful witch inexplicably decides to uses a pair of swords rather than magic when fighting the squad, I had already thrown in the towel. I merely sat there, observing the misguided spectacle onscreen, reflecting on words uttered by an angry Deadshot midway through the film: “when does this end, Flag?”