(Caution: this review contains spoilers. It will spoil things. Much like this movie spoiled a perfectly good Sunday afternoon for me.)
Let me first start this review by clarifying a couple points: First, I am not a comic book connoisseur or super hero mega fan. I am aware of their popularity, enjoy their stories, movies or video games, but I usually don’t go too far down the rabbit hole in that general direction. Second, I have a very high tolerance when it comes to movie quality. While I enjoy many of the accepted classics, The Godfather, Pulp Fiction, Annie Hall, Psycho to name a few, I am also happy to point out that Mr. Mom easily ranks within my personal all-time top 5 movies. My point is, I am neither a super hero purist or terribly hard to please when it comes to watching a movie. Heck, I once took a date to see Fatal Instinct. (It’s not the one you’re thinking of right now, trust me.) Please bear these two facts in mind as you continue through my review.
I first saw trailers for Suicide Squad in early 2016 and thought that it looked surprisingly interesting to me especially given the fact that I had no previous awareness of the franchise at all. I do remember Harley Quinn, with her “puddin” and “Mistah J,” from Batman the Animated Series in my younger days. Other than that I really had no idea who the rest of these characters were. The combining of several ne’er do wells into a fighting squad seemed like a good concept for a movie and I’ve always been a sucker for the anti-hero premise as well. In retrospect, I can now see that trailers truly are a marketing tool and can be very misleading when it comes to the actual quality of the movie itself. When the movie came out in August of 2016 I did not actually see it in theaters. Instead I only recently watched it on a streaming service at home. I cannot imagine, however, that seeing it on a theater screen would’ve remedied any of the issues I found within the film itself. Here now are my pros and cons in bullet point, stream of consciousness form.
Margot Robbie was very good as Harley Quinn. Her faux-Brooklyn accent kind of came and went, but overall she was probably the most fleshed-out character in the movie. Her flashbacks to the developing relationship with the Joker provided some needed depth in a movie full of thin, cardboard characters. It was nothing surprising, but it did cover the story arc of their relationship and played into the main story pretty well. I’ll stop short of saying Robbie was “born to play this part” but she did fit the role pretty well. She’s nice to look at, exudes a certain toughness, does crazy very, very well and still lets you know that down deep Ms. Quinn is an irreparably broken individual.
Jared Leto was good as The Joker. I’ll admit I’ve always been fascinated by the Joker character in the Batman movies. I think they’ve always been portrayed very well by a very good set of actors. Jack Nicholson was superb in the 1989 film. Heath Ledger was off the charts in the Dark Knight. Even Cesar Romero was full tilt as the more cartoon-y Clown Prince of Crime way back when. The character itself has always been interesting to me. Most villains are either crazy or brilliant, but what do you do with a villain who is both. His plans are intricate and well thought out and yet he’s willing to do absolutely anything, and I mean anything in his quest for victory over Batman. It’s a very enduring character and one that can be taken in many directions. Fortunately for this film, Leto brings the same crazy/genius energy to the character. His shock of green hair and silver teeth. Tattoos and trademark psychotic laugh. I wouldn’t say it outshines Ledger or Nicholson, but it can easily be talked about in that conversation. In fact, I think the only reason it may not be quite up to that level is that he spends a relatively small amount of time on screen in Suicide Squad. Going forward, I think Leto would be a solid choice to continue “this Joker” if the filmmakers were so inclined.
The CGI, music, and other “movie” stuff were fine. Each of the super villain’s power was portrayed in a believable and effective way. They all looked pretty good on screen. Killer Croc was particularly cool to look at.
And that’s about it for the good…
Where to begin, where to begin…I guess we’ll start with the biggest for me which was the imbalance in backstory detail between the characters. You get a sort of run down from the very beginning from Amanda Waller, the government bureaucrat who wants to put the team together and some scenes at the high security prison where most of the squad has been incarcerated. It’s all very boilerplate “team assembly” montage stuff with some DC heroes sprinkled in for effect, but it really doesn’t do much more than give you a name for most of the folks involved. While we get to see some thorough backstory on Deadshot, his daughter and his apprehension by Batman, we only get a second or two on Captain Boomerang (not that I’d want much anyway, but more on that later).
Also, the background on the Enchantress character and her relationship with Rick Flag is woefully underserved in relation to her importance in the overall story. (Hint: She eventually becomes the main bad guy and is the whole reason the team is called into action. We really need a little more information on her if we’re going to give a crap! How about a little less snark from dopey Ike Barinholtz at the beginning and a little more info on how the Enchantress ended up in that cave and why she wants to take over the world.)
The best example I can give you of the imbalance is poor old Slipknot. Those of you who’ve seen the movie know exactly where I’m going with this. This poor mamma jamma shows up just as the team is embarking on its mission a
nd all we know about him is that he doesn’t like mouthy law enforcement agents and that, according to Flag, “He can climb anything.” That’s it. Ten minutes later he’s dead. And he’s on most of the promotional marketing for this movie. It’s insane.
Rick Flag. The actor who plays Rick Flag is either the worst actor I’ve ever seen or his character was the most poorly written character ever, I’m not sure. Maybe both. Had I been hired to play this role, I would’ve just stopped mid-production and demanded a rewrite. Flag is supposed to be a highly decorated Army specialist that chews shrapnel and pees excellence, but in this movie he is either a mouthy little punk or a whiny complainer. He spends almost the entire movie either questioning the “villains” of the Suicide Squad about their dedication to the mission or begging them for their help. What? For a decorated Army specialist, he is maybe the single least physically imposing specimen I’ve ever seen. I’m not saying we had to have Dave Batista playing the role, but this guy looks like me during my junior year of high school. His little in and out “southern” accent is annoying as well. The sad thing is, by the end of the movie, you want him to assume command of the squad. This is because you’d rather see anyone in charge besides Amanda Waller.
Amanda Waller. I love it when you have a know it all, pushy, faux tough, bossy, smart mouthed team leader who is eventually shown to be evil and gets his or her comeuppance. What’s that? There’s no comeuppance? No turning tables? No repercussions? Are we sure? Oh. Well, that sucks. There you have it. Amanda Waller. The smartest thing Deadshot said the entire movie was when she appeared after the final battle and he remarked “How are you not dead?” How indeed, Will Smith. How indeed.
Deadshot. The character is actually not that bad. He’s a master at any and all firearms and is said to have never missed a shot. Will Smith, however, is just doing typical Will Smith in this movie. It’s the scowling anti-hero with the heart of gold. Sound familiar for the not-so-Fresh Prince? Smith hasn’t done anything this bad since he helped make Jaden and Willow.
Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang & Diablo. I grouped these three together because none of the three are really worthy of a bullet point of their own. They are all very shallow, two-dimensional characters that play into stereotypes in the worst way. Captain Boomerang seems to always have a cold one in his hand, a thick Aussie accent and he throws boomerangs for crying out loud! I can forgive the last one, but in this movie there’s nothing else about him to grab onto. The character never really advances past being a drunken lout from down under. Diablo is a latino gang-banger with over the top flame abilities. His backstory is a little deeper than Captain Boomerang, but is still along the tried and true lines of “I hurt someone I love. I’ll never use my powers again. Oh wait, you really need my help, I guess I’ll go ahead and break my vow.” Even his attempt at a heart to heart with Deadshot and the other members of the squad near the end doesn’t really add much to our interest in him. Killer Croc, for my money, is the most underused member of the team. They offer a few little nuggets of information on him, but we’re mostly just supposed to be in awe of his appearance and ferocity. He’s tasked with a side mission near the end that calls for him to use his special abilities, but it’s pretty predictable on the whole. When told he has to return to prison at the end of the movie, he says he will but only if they get him BET in his cell. Stereotypes, stereotypes everywhere.
Katana. Katana just seems like she was thrown in at the last minute to fill a quota for overall team diversity. Even though Rick Flag has an app on his wrist that will pop an explosive capsule in the neck of each of the team members if they step out of line (Thank you Escape from New York!), for some reason he still brings in Katana “to watch his back.” Huh? You can literally blow the heads off these guys at any time and you still need back up. What for? Oh we need an Asian chick with a soul capturing sword? Okay. Whatever. There is also a laughable scene prior to the main showdown where Katana is tearfully talking to her dead Husband’s spirit in advance of the fight. Via subtitles we can see that she will be happy to die in battle because that means she will get to join him in the afterlife. One of the other members of the team asks Flag what she’s doing. He explains that she’s talking directly to her husbands soul as it has been captured by the very sword she uses in battle! However, Flag says this with the same enthusiasm and emphasis that you’d give to a request to go to the bathroom before the big fight. It’s just typical of this movie trying to cram too much plot in some areas while cramming too little in others.
Miscellaneous. If Enchantress can magically teleport to Tehran and get a book of secret plans then why the heck do they need anyone else on this team at all? Can we not just have her pretty much use her infinite powers and do whatever the heck we need?
Is a meta-human technically a mutant? If DC continues to toss that phrase around in all their movies, do you think Marvel will sue?
So what were the alien-like soldiers in this movie? We really didn’t get any details other than seeing one of the Army officers turned into one by Enchantress. Shouldn’t they have spent maybe a minute or two more on that since they spent a good chunk of the movie killing those things?
Didn’t it seem like it took them forever to walk through the city? I know it was intended to provide a backdrop to the witty banter between team members but for a good while there it was just them walking around.
How did Joker survive that helicopter crash?
Did the regular human Army Rangers that helped to set that bomb at the end of the movie really die? It seemed like the one Ranger was kinda right there when they set it off. Did he have time to escape? Why didn’t they let Killer Croc do all of that and then say that his super powers allowed him to escape harm?
Can we really trust anyone in charge of these movies if they let Ben Affleck play Batman? I mean really. Name one movie that is actually better because Ben Affleck was in it. I bet you can’t. Any movie you can name with Ben Affleck, I can tell you someone who would’ve done a better job in that role. Any movie. Go ahead. I’ll wait………………………………………………. Couldn’t do it could you?
Was SlipKnot a Native American or Latino? It doesn’t matter really, but if he was Native American it would make the team really, really diverse, huh? I mean, think about it. You’ve got an Aussie, a black guy, a white woman, an asian lady, a latino, a native american and a crocodile thing that likes BET. Really? That doesn’t seem odd to anyone else? It’s like the diversity all stars or something.
Is it just me or was Will Smith in this movie a straight up combination of his characters in pretty much all of his other movies? And what about Deadshot’s mask? Sometimes he wears it, sometimes he doesn’t? Does it do anything in particular or what? Seems kind of important don’t you think?
This movie was both written and directed by the same man. Do you think that gives too much power to one person? I mean in certain cases it can be great (Quentin Tarantino), but don’t you think those cases are the exception rather than the rule. I know everyone wants creative freedom and all, but what if you suck and no one is there to tell you that you suck?
Finally, does anyone else find it funny that Enchantress tries to destroy the world within seconds of Amanda Waller getting approval to put this dumb team together? It’s like the whole reason for the movie.
Waller: I need to put a team of villains together to help defend us from threats.
Everyone else: That seems wildly unsafe and poorly thought out.
Waller: But look, Enchantress can do tricks!
Everyone else: Oh well, what the heck. It’s fine. Get that team together.
**Enchantress tries to destroy the planet**
Everyone else: Good thing we have this team, huh?
Me: What the…?
At an rate, that’s my quick and dirty review of the film, Suicide Squad. When I heard the reviews last year for the film, I just assumed that the negativity was based on purists or fanboys made because the crease in Deadshot’s costume wasn’t just right or Diablo should’ve been taller. I figured it couldn’t have been too bad. I guess I was wrong. I hate to pile on, but I really do think this movie was a huge swing and miss. I’d like to say it could’ve been so much more, but given the logistics of a large squad of superheroes and limited time, maybe it couldn’t really be helped. Either way, I think you’d have to be a pretty dedicated super hero fan to really enjoy this one. Let me know what you think.