After the lukewarm reception to “Man of Steel” and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” it feels like DC figured, if we can’t make fans happy with the most famous comic book characters in history, we might as well go in a whole different direction and slap a group of bad guys together and see what happens. While in actuality “Suicide Squad” was years in the making, the final product can’t help but feel like a tonal shift toward what DC thinks the fans want, which comes off as a push to be more like Marvel.
This story of a band of villains forced together to save the world isn’t as grim as the previous two DC films and certainly has many moments of levity. But while the efforts to bring a little more fun to the DC universe are appreciated, the film overall suffers from very sloppy writing resulting in some really odd choices. Here’s just a sample:
The villains are first introduced via flashback, and then introduced again when they are gathered up by the authorities. We don’t need to go through the lineup one by one twice in the first twenty minutes.
A character will pop out of nowhere and the moment you start wondering who the hell they are and where they came from, it won’t matter ’cause they’re killed off in minutes.
The Enchantress puts on a pop and lock dance performance every time she reads a line.
An elevator ride sequence featuring Harley Quinn feels totally shoehorned in just to give the character more screen time and feels awkward and out of place.
Yet another film where the heroes fight faceless minions. And yet another film where there’s a big beam to the sky that will end the Earth.
Character motivations shift wherever the screenplay needs them to go resulting in unconvincing choices.
But “Suicide Squad” isn’t a total failure. There are bursts of greatness sprinkled throughout the film and the efforts to make the film lighter do add a much needed fun factor. Will Smith and Margot Robbie are excellent in their roles. Smith smartly draws back his megastar charisma when playing the sharpshooter Deadshot and allows himself to be a part of a team instead of standing out front and center. He also has the best action sequence in the film. I was actually afraid that Robbie would be overacting in the film after watching the trailers but she actually puts on a convincing performance that balances vulnerability with ferocity. However, Deadshot and Harley Quinn are the only characters who are given any kind of depth. We barely learn anything about the rest of the gang and therefore don’t really care what happens to them. But overall, the group is a fun bunch and I would love to see them in a better movie.
What about the Joker? After legendary performances by Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, Jared Leto had a lot to live up to in portraying the iconic villain. The verdict? Meh. Honestly, the Joker is not given much to do and serves as a peripheral character in “Suicide Squad,” with an impact so minimal that he could have been totally lifted out of the story with no negative effect. With his appearances not amounting to much, it’s difficult for Leto to really let loose with his version of the Joker. Maybe he’ll really get nuts in the next film.
DC is no doubt desperate for a film with which to build their film universe around but unfortunately “Suicide Squad” is not that film. Better luck next year with “Wonder Woman.”
Final Score: 5 / 10
–originally published in Frolic Hawaii