‘Suicide Squad’ Review
From contributing film critic Andrew Gaudion
The Warner Bros./DC cinematic universe (or the DC Extended Universe as they are branding it) has gotten off to something of a rough start. Three films in and the studio is yet to experience the same kind of critical warmth as Marvel so often receives. Even commercially, the first two films failed to meet expectations, even if they weren’t complete flops. Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013) set off the polarising effect with a sombre and entirely self-serious approach, which lacked any self-awareness or screenwriting smarts, in favour of loud, CG-driven action. His follow up, this year’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice represents a colossal critical failure for the studio, yet has remained something of a strange curiosity due to its incredibly convoluted nature and commitment to developing something a little weirder than the comic-book norm, though to say it is a good film in a traditional sense would be too much of a stretch.
With their third instalment, Warner & DC have chosen to focus on a little-known comic book line concerning a gallery of some of DC’s finest villains being assembled into a team to save the day for once. It is an interesting premise, and a brave move to make considering it is only the third outing for this cinematic universe. Yet, all that this premise seemed to offer is quickly tarnished as very early into Suicide Squad it becomes apparent that this is not the film that is going to change the negative opinions of the Warner/DC offerings. In fact, it is quite easily the ugliest, trashiest horse let out the fence so far.
In the midst of the arrival of Superman and the growing knowledge of more extraordinary individuals (labelled meta-humans) government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) puts together a proposal to assemble a task force comprised of some of the most notorious criminals ever apprehended. There’s assassin for hire Deadshot (Will Smith), crazed supervillain Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), eccentric thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), the fiery El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), the vicious reptile-skinned Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), samurai sword wielding Katana (Karen Fukuhara), grappling hook enthusiast Slipknot (Adam Beach) and the mysterious witch Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). Led by Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), the team are soon put to the test when an other-worldly entity wreaks havoc upon Midway City.
Suicide Squad is rumoured (these things are never fully confirmed) to have had a troubled post-production schedule following the sour reception of Batman v Superman. With re-shoots taking place, supposedly two cuts of the film were formed, one over-seen by the writer/director David Ayer, with the other being a studio supervised one, with this final result being something in-between the two. The product is as messy as that process sounds, with the thinly written plot being bloated out by an often tasteless smorgasbord of flash-backs of varying degrees of importance and an unimaginative ‘big light shooting towards the sky in a city’ plot device.
The main issue concerning this approach is that the attention to character is clearly dictated by the biggest name on the poster (and which characters are more of a fan favourite). That’s all well and good, but when you’re constructing an ensemble movie that at many points expects you to believe that these characters form a tight bond by merely spending what is only a few hours together, it robs the film of the very soul it thinks its obtained. There is no sense that the film is concerned with developing these characters as a unit, and too-often their backstories are just too thin, or awkwardly constructed.
The cast, for what it’s worth, are all present in their roles. Will Smith looks relaxed as part of an ensemble, even if he often does take over. Margot Robbie is spot-on casting for Harley Quinn, yet the way in which her character is used is often groan-inducing and offensive. Her backstory is mostly shared with Jared Leto’s Joker, who pops by from time to chew the scenery in an unrestrained, clearly unguided performance that is simply too scatter shot to resonate at all and is frankly pain-staking to watch as his trashy gang-boss approach begins to feel more like a fanboy approach than a worthy iteration of the character. Viola Davis has moments of menace but never extends beyond that. Everyone else seems to be having fun but are often left too much on the side-lines or given flat characterisation to truly resonate as worthy of our time (Killer Croc particularly doesn’t work on screen, and I will forever hate Jai Courtney for all his sins upon this Earth).
Ayer has proven himself to be a strong writer and visualist in the past with the likes of Fury (2014) and End of Watch (2012), but here his aesthetic remains inconsistent, jumping from neon-punk to gritty urban grime resulting in a film that veers from one brand of ugliness to another. It is clearly striving for the same level of irreverence as Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) using a pop rock soundtrack and ‘unconventional’ anti-heroes, but fails at nearly every hurdle. It has too many characters that it doesn’t care about, un-inspired action and a structure which is astoundingly messy.
Suicide Squad will hopefully be the last of the DC tent-pole movies to suffer such a hackneyed approach, what with there being moves to establish a stronger creative team, as well as there being a chance to gauge exactly what an audience wants from these movies. As it stands though, the final product is another point of disgrace for DC characters, which is a great disappointment considering the talent involved. A noisy, desperate, soulless attempt at trying to be something cool, like your creepy Uncle dancing along to Gangnam Style at your cousin’s wedding. File this one firmly under trash.(1 / 5)
(Photos copyright: Atlas Entertainment, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros)