With a talented cast and a premise even more subversive of the superhero genre than “Deadpool,” “Suicide Squad” held promise. Quite a bit of promise. Add the massive buzz it generated — from the well-done trailer leaked at Comic-Con 2015 — to Jared Leto’s shocking appearance and preparation as the film’s Joker, to the fittingly moody soundtrack that was leaked to the guilty delight of Twitter, and it was fairly easy to buy into the hype.
All things considered, it was sadly undeserved, with lousy execution at every turn. Stationary shots that last too long introduce Amanda Waller’s (Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder”) plan to fight fire with fire by having villains take down evil in dangerous missions for the government in exchange for ten years off their respective prison sentences. Davis’s no-nonsense performance makes the stakes her character’s gamble has for the safety of the country feel palpable. Otherwise, her central figure would be lost among the many dark, drained-of-color shots that paint the bureaucracy she works for.
The bad guys Waller unites must successfully collaborate at the risk of being killed at a moment’s notice. The acting of the Squad itself is also solid. The talented Will Smith (“Concussion”) as hit man and conflicted father Deadshot and Margot Robbie (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) as the crazy psychiatrist-turned-right-hand-woman and lover to the Joker (Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”) are stand-out leads. The remorse of pyrokinetic gang member El Diablo (Jay Hernandez, “Hostel”) is brought to life by Hernandez’s down-to-earth performance and is refreshing and real in the midst of his chaotic associates, and Jai Courtney’s (“Divergent”) quiet but sure presence is reflective of the thief’s role in the original comic book.
The bad guys must fight the possessed but benevolent anthropologist Dr. June Moon, played by Cara Delevingne of “Paper Towns” the way I play recorder. The way she spends the better half of the movie in a two piece, after only being capable of one expression for the first (distress) makes clear why she was cast. Moon is eventually overcome by her alien possessor, called Enchantress, and threatens to destroy everything. She annoyingly pops in and out of the film whenever tension is needed or the script gets too close to the character development it begs for.
Not counting Delevigne and the odd Leto, the latter unable to marry his second-rate Heath Ledger’s Joker imitation with his curious El Chapo Guzman aesthetic, it would be unrealistic to expect the Suicide Squad alone to make up for how sloppy this movie is. Listing the surplus of protagonists in the film is as repetitive as the sequences director and writer David Ayer uses to explain the circumstances of each bad guy before they have to save the world together from being sucked into some giant vortex of doom (no context even necessary.)
It’s clear the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s precedent is partly to blame for “Suicide Squad” ’s stretched-thin plot. DC has relied on the integrity of their solitary protagonists since the conception of Superman. Marvel, on the other hand, has thrived on keeping its universe fluid as to allow for crossovers to maximize their appeal (just compare the box office sales of less popular heroes like “Thor” to “The Avengers” or “Age of Ultron”.) Warner Bros. tries to emulate the formula to no avail. So little time is spent with any of the characters, that “Suicide Squad” ’s intent to build brand recognition for the future installments we all know are coming overshadows the chemistry between the ensemble cast. A repeat of their earlier superhero failure this year.
However, in spite of my skeptic self, I do think DC has a chance to redeem itself as there are rumors of a Harley Quinn movie. Not only would it mean the gorgeous Robbie’s talent is taken seriously despite the many predictable fanservice shots of her butt bared in hot pants, but it would also give DC the opportunity to be bold and adapt her relationship with Poison Ivy, who helps her canon girlfriend overcome the effects of Harley’s abusive relationship with the Joker in a notably realistic way. This would be important representation on several levels. And after seeing Harley’s biggest dream in the film is to be married to Leto’s sleazy Joker in a vision straight out of the 1950’s, I never want to see Robbie or Leto embrace in a film ever, ever again.
After looking past the choppy editing, weak writing and nearly non-existant characterization, “Suicide Squad” has too many unique villains and could not find a way to showcase them all. No matter what DC’s die-hard fans say about the critical backlash the film has received, the fact of the matter is DC’s characters and moviegoers deserve better.