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Movie Review: Suicide Squad

If the motivation is to hurry the death of the comic book movie genre, they're doing a great job

Suicide Squad

Directed by David Ayer

In Theatres

First, the good news about Suicide Squad. Will Smith is fine. Margot Robbie and Jared Leto have great chemistry. If you like classic rock, the soundtrack is like your dream jukebox. There are some interesting graphics that are probably on loan from a Hot Topic catalogue, but they're used a few times near the beginning and are never seen again. And unlike last year's Fantastic Four, this movie can actually qualify as a movie; there is a beginning, a middle and an end. Barely, but they are there. There is a semblance to a structure to the story. 

Now, let's not get in line to spend our allowance taking Suicide Squad out for a soda or anything here. Most of the rest of this page will be the bad news about Suicide Squad. 

Suicide Squad is a mess. A disjointed, jumbled, muddled poorly lit mess. 

Tonally, it's a disaster. There are about five or six films mashed together in Suicide Squad: a Dark Knight-ish look at the human soul, a cartoonish action-comedy, a straight action film, a buddy comedy, a dark romance, and an attempt at a Deadpool-ish self-referential comedy. And it drops the ball completely at all of them. It fails as a sombre, self-serious look into the dark side of the human psyche, it fails as an action film, and it fails as a comedy. There are a couple of jokes thrown in and Jai Courtney and Will Smith sell them and get some laughs, but some of the humour is so obviously a reaction to Deadpool that it feels obvious and tired and is plainly the product of reshoots. 

There are glimpses of some good films amongst the mess. The flashbacks to Will Smith as Deadshot going about his business of being a villain and a dad are really quite good. They are shot in a naturalistic style, with little tinkering and very little flash. And some of the Joker/Harley Quinn scenes hint at a new, experimental way of creating a comic book movie, all flash and bright colours and darkness and insanity and chaos. The way some of those scenes are edited convey the way these two characters disassociate from our reality and create a new one just for themselves. But putting these two styles of film language into one film, and only for a few moments each… all it does is impress on the audience that Suicide Squad is the natural progression from films that were never made and will probably never be made. Instead of a Will Smith starring Deadshot movie and a Jared Leto, Margot Robbie starring Joker/Harley Quinn movie, the makers of Suicide Squad have jumped the queue and created something that makes little sense without the early stories being told in any way that allows the audience to be emotionally invested. Instead of being the third film in the expanding cinematic universe, Suicide Squad should have been the fifth or sixth film. 

Suicide Squad is also criminally under lit and 3-D only serves to make that worse. The darkness of the film doesn't understate the incompetence of the action, it actually highlights it, circles it in red and points giant arrows at the incompetence. According to Wikipedia this thing had a budget of $175,000,000. One hundred and seventy five million dollars. The mystery of Suicide Squad will be "where did the money go? 'cause it ain't on the screen". What few action scenes there are in Suicide Squad are a confusing mess with no sense of action or drama or geography. There is an underwater scene that is so incompetently choreographed, shot and edited that it will be used in film classes of the future as an example of what not to do when shooting an action scene. 

But Suicide Squad's worst sin is that it is boring. Mind numbingly boring. Insultingly boring. We're not talking a drag in the middle or the pacing was off at times. The pacing in this film can only be described as tedious, as glacial. It is so boring that people walked out during the climatic showdown. How boring is it? It is so boring that Suicide Squad will be prescribed to insomniacs instead of Ambien. Twice as effective with half the side effects. Suicide Squad is a comic book movie, it is a movie about comic book characters doing comic book character things. At least, that was probably the intention. Instead, this is a comic book movie that introduces it's central characters in an exposition dump over a meal in a restaurant. Seriously. Someone somewhere thought the best way to introduce these characters is a dinner conversation. A darkly lit, boringly paced, horribly written dinner scene. With flashbacks and classic rock songs and Hot Topic graphics, the central cast is introduced during one of the movie's more tedious scenes. The mighty and great Viola Davis does what she can with what she's been handed, but what's she been handed is a binder and some dinnerware and seriously clunky dialogue. 

The plot makes no sense, the motivations even less. At least the motivations don't change every two minutes. But, still, they make no sense. Amongst the film's gang of villains under the employee of a shady government organization is a guy who is really good with a gun, a woman who is insane, a guy who is really good with boomerangs (not kidding), and a guy that climbs well (again, not kidding). In the movie Suicide Squad, the motivation of bringing this group together, it seems, is to fight other super powered villains. That is what is explained by the shady government types putting this group together. "What if Superman had decided to fly down, rip the roof of the White House, and grab the president?" asks one of them. Except half the group have no superpowers, have no enhanced abilities. This, this right here makes no sense. I really don't want to be the guy pushing up his glasses and complaining about things being different between the comic world and the movie world, but - the reasoning for bringing this group together in the comics, as I understand it, is to perform off-book covert ops and that makes so much more sense, both as a motivating factor and as a really great movie plot. Instead, they are brought together for… reasons. That this isn't the biggest problem with Suicide Squad really says something about what a cynical disaster this movie is. 

So, as well as being under lit to the point of distraction, a plot that makes no sense, the editing is a disaster. It's been reported that the final cut of Suicide Squad was edited by a company that makes trailers, a decision that makes no sense. Look, I may really like a Volkswagen ad. Doesn't mean I'm going to trust the advertising company to make me a car. There is very little cohesion to this film. The group of anti-heroes goes into action accompanied by Navy Seals, a group that varies in size from two to twenty-five at any given moment. Scenes take place at night, during the day and back to night with no sense of time passing. Characters vanish from scenes and then reappear with no explanation. Essentially, the film feels like a Michael Bay film without the swooping camera work and cool explosions. Suicide Squad is a cynical enterprise, created and shaped into form by a committee with little concern of making a good film. The audience will pay their monies, hundreds of millions will be made so why should the filmmakers be concerned with making a good film? Why should they concern themselves with making something that will have legs, that will be evergreen and can be enjoyed for years to come? Just because other studios are concerned with these things it seems that D.C. and the folks at Warners are not going to let that get in the way of record breaking opening weekends and then record breaking drops in attendance. If their motivation is to hurry the death of the comic book movie genre, they're doing a great job. 

And this is where we discuss the casting of Cara Delevingne. She's probably a wonderful human, with many great attributes and qualities but actress is not one of them. Her performances as June Moore and as Enchantress never rises above amateurish. She is completely and utterly out of her depth in this film. With a complete inability to convey any emotion convincingly, seeing her struggle in a giant franchise box office busting film made me feel sad and embarrassed for her.

All the hype leading up to this release, the stories of Jared Leto remaining in character for weeks at a time, of therapists being hired to keep the cast level-headed due to the psychological trauma of the shoot, of the story presenting Batman as an object of horror for our main characters - none of this on the screen. Jared Leto does bring a couple of interesting new wrinkles to the character. His Joker is more sensual, more animalistic than ever before. But really, it's just a skinny white guy with green hair, a grill and some bad tattoos growling and overall is not that interesting. It is especially not interesting when he imitates Heath Ledger. When it starts to get interesting is when he brings a unique unpredictability, a sense of chaos to the table. But those moments are so rare and his character is so underused, it's more like a glimpse of what could have been, what may be lying on the cutting room floor. Will Smith brings a paternalistic tone to his role, especially in his moments with Margot Robbie. And damn, if he doesn't look cool standing on top of a police cruiser gunning down the baddies. Again, a glimpse of what could have been, what may be lying on the cutting room floor. Jai Courtney, like Viola Davis, does what he can with so little to do. He just doesn't have the experience and gravitas of Ms Davis, so he's a bundle of twitches and beer cans. And, seriously, that's it. He looks and sounds like some kind of low rent Tom Hardy. 

Margot Robbie deserves so much better than this film, she really is a fine actress. At first it seems like her accent is slipping and sliding like a dog walking across an ice rink, but as the film goes on it seems that her voice is where some of Harley Quinn's insanity manifests itself. Cutsie pie girl from Queens, hard edged girl from Detroit, midwest scholar, these are all pieces of her Harley Quinn and it really works. What doesn't work is the film's sexism. Anyone that is familiar with the Harley Quinn knows that she is a hyper sexualized caricature. That is part of who this fictional character is. What is uncomfortable, however, is the lingering shots of Margot Robbie in the shortest shorts and the wettest and tightest baby-tee. The hyper sexualization is a part of the character, it's not the whole story. 

By the end of Suicide Squad I was really wishing for a Deadshot stand alone film. And a Joker/Harley Quinn film. Suicide Squad isn't the worst comic book movie ever released. I see Howard the Duck and some of the Fantastic Four movies wrestling for that honour. Hell, thanks to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Diminishing Expectations, it isn't even the worst movie released yet in 2016. Look, there is a perfectly good and fun and enjoyable Suicide Squad movie. It's called Batman: Assault on Arkham. It is an animated film that came out in 2014 and if this is your first time reading about it and you've never seen it before, I envy you my friend. It is so, so, so, so much fun. Avoid Suicide Squad, find Batman: Assault on Arkham, kick back and have some fun. See, today is a good day if you're still reading this - I just saved you twelve bucks.