Suicide Squad: Screw the Critics
Yea, I know the title is ironic because I’m writing my own review and thus becoming a critic myself, but read it anyway. Also, this review will be as spoiler free as possible since the trailers left quite a bit of the plot out of them, so no worries. This is definitely of one my longer reviews, so if it’s too much for you to read, there is a TL:DR recap at the end.
So let’s get started. If you don’t know much about Suicide Squad, one of the easiest comparisons and ways to explain it is it is basically DC’s version of Guardians of the Galaxy. Bare bones, it’s a handful of bad guys brought together to team up to do some good. And yet, it’s so much more. Directed by David Ayer, Suicide Squad is DC’s third installment into their cinematic universe. In the film, Amanda Waller, played by the lovely Viola Davis, has assembled a team of the worst of the worst; “bad guys” with unique talents. These unique talents range from genetic/physical deformity to sharp precision to just plain insanity. And that’s pretty much all you know from the trailers besides a few glimpses of the new (and controversial) incarnation of The Joker now played by Jared Leto. You don’t learn who the villain is until half way through the film, nor do you know how much the Joker even has to do with the story. It’s all revealed during your viewing, which is something that is hard to find in today’s world of spoilers and over informative trailers (looking at your Batman V Superman).
If you have been paying any sort of attention the past few days, you might have seen that Suicide Squad hasn’t been met with the best reviews. Its initial quote on Rotten Tomatoes was at 20%, then popped up to 35%, and now it’s (coincidentally?) tied with Batman V Superman at 27%. Odd. Critics are absolutely panning this film for various reasons. One ridiculous reason I’ve read about is that the film is too ‘comic booky.’ Right, okay. It’s a comic book film. And then, there’re reports of drama behind the scenes and on set, as well as WB taking too much creative control over the film. It seems like we have BvS all over again and WB just can’t learn their lesson. Well, with the latter aside, I’ll say this here and now, screw the critics because even though the movie is far from perfect, it’s still a very fun movie and I would say a step in the right direction as far as successfully developing the DCCU (whether you like the character designs or not).
Time to dig in. First, the most obvious, and I’d say the biggest flaw of the film is its editing. It’s incredibly clear the film was largely edited down and probably for multiple reasons – run time, pacing, tone, etc. As reported by Leto himself, quite a few of his scenes had been cut from the final cut. The scenes which are left in are sort of just thrown in at will with most just feeling out of place or forced because ‘well, we have Harley, so we need Joker.’ It’s clear they wanted to touch on as many key moments of the Joker as possible, no matter how forced it felt.
The opening of the film, which is a quick intro for us to Dead Shot and Harley Quinn, played by Will Smith and Margot Robbie respectively, felt incredibly out of place. What’s awkward about it is we see only these two characters (most likely because they are the headliner actors) and then jump to the restaurant meeting with Amanda Weller which we know from the trailer. This scene felt like the true opening of the film. It’s here when we learn about the Squad members in detail, and honestly, it works well for the film. It’s way better than clicking some random video files on computer.
However, thanks to all of these editing problems, the pacing is all over the place. The movie feels rushed and about 30 minutes too short. At times, it’s almost as if we have the fast forward button on because we skip over periods of time in a blink of an eye just to move onto the next plot point instead of developing the story or characters further. Yes, we do learn the background of all of these characters, but they feel more like bullet points. Yes, we get the villain, but it felt like it was thrown in as a convenient reason to use the Suicide Squad.
Some characters also had much more background explained and their characters developed than others. So, if you know nothing about one of those who get shafted in that area, then it sort of leaves you wondering what happened to them that got them to where they are now. There’s actually a really terrific scene in a bar where we finally begin to get a real sense of these characters. I only wish they’d run with it for a few more minutes. But unfortunately, for most of the film, Deadshot and Harley Quinn end up overshadowing almost every other character, give or take one or two. With proper pacing and editing, the film would’ve been much stronger as a whole.
Now onto the most controversial part of the film: Jared Leto’s Joker. He’s been a hot topic since he was cast and lit on fire when initial pictures of him with all of his tattoos were released. Of course, it should all comes down to his performance, regardless of how distracting the tattoos are. For me, I really wanted to go in with an open mind for Leto’s Joker. I wasn’t a fan of the new look, but his performance could’ve very much been one for the books. So you’re wondering, how was he? Well, unfortunately there’s no good answer for this. His performance is very much in the gray area and I’m on the fence. There are aspects I enjoyed, but there’s also details that are a bit cringe worthy. This Joker is very much a gangster/mob boss of this DCCU world. He’s serious almost the entire time and cracked one joke I think.
We were promised a darker, more insane Joker than ever before, but unfortunately, it seems as though most of those parts were edited out or trimmed down. In fact, all of his scenes were so heavily edited, they felt more like snippets or clips than actual scenes. It gave him no time to breath as a character; and quite honestly, they put so many different styles of the Joker in the film, much of it felt forced because ‘it was made for the fans.’ Instead of having a singular new version of the Joker, were given multiple entities which comes across as just trying too hard. Overall, his performace was lacking as The Joker we were hoping for. Whether it’s because of the direction they went in or due to the lack of actual screen time, we’ll never know. The silver lining to all of this is, if we get another Leto Joker in a full role of a Batman film, there is plenty of room for growth and development.
Now, with all that out of the way, we get to talk about what is good about the film, and I’d say the good outweighs the bad. The rest of the characters are very well done. Harley Quinn steals the screen in every scene she’s in for better and worse. Robbie pretty much nailed the character and her origin story was great, even if it suffered a bit from edits. Will Smith’s Deadshot is easily one of his best roles since The Pursuit of Happiness. As I suspected, his character is heavy on dialogue and screen time and I ate it all up. I wholeheartedly hope we see more of Deadshot. Davis’ Amanda Waller has so much screen presence, her character is a surprise stand out. And she barely does anything! Diablo is a character I wasn’t familiar with (well, most of these characters I wasn’t), but Ayer did a marvelous job telling Diablo’s story and Jay Hernandez executes his character to the T.
The rest of the characters were a bit shafted as far as the telling their histories go. As I already mentioned, their stories were given to us short hand, more or less. It left me wanting much more. Killer Croc looks amazing thanks to them deciding to use zero CGI. Enchantress was interesting and I would’ve really liked to learn more about her past. Rick Flag is the badass soldier who holds all of the characters together in his own way. Katana felt more like an afterthought for the film. The character has a lot of potential, but I feel was underutilized. And lastly, Boomerang. A jewel thief serving three life sentences? What’d he do? He provides some nice comedic output, but for the most part, you end up scratching your head as to why he’s even here.
So after looking back at all this film has to offer, here are my final thoughts. Suicide Squad is an all around fun summer blockbuster and kicks Batman V Superman’s ass as far as quality. Not that that is saying much. But really, I never once found myself bored or wanting the film to be over. Even though the film is heavily edited, it is not nearly as choppy as BvS was. And is shows it’s possible to have a dark DC film while successfully adding in humor at the same time.
The characters and acting are excellent, all say for Leto’s Joker. However, due to the major editing, it leaves much to be desired. Such a shame. The movie surprised us all with its villain. WB and Ayer did an excellent job at keeping that one a secret and for that I praise them. The plot is pretty standard: a rescue mission, but that should come as no surprise. And thankfully, none of the Justice League references felt shoehorned in. In fact, there is a superb reference to the death of Superman from BvS, which gives us a reason for needing the SS. Even the mid-credits scene felt natural and organic, even if it is taking a page out of Marvel. Plus, the use of Batman was perfect.
Suicide Squad is a perfect end of the summer action film. It’s full of some really good fight scenes and the soundtrack is outstanding. It’s far from perfect and DC still has ways to go in solidifying their DCCU, but this installment was a clear step in the right direction. So I’ll say it once again, screw the critics. Go see this film to judge it for yourself. You might just like it!