Let me start out by saying that as a diehard DC fan, I have not been too satisfied with the beginning steps of the DC Extended Universe. Man of Steel was a stumble out of the gate, but not a fall. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was just…yikes (although, in all fairness, the Ultimate Edition cut of the movie is a far superior version. Better movie objectively, but still bad in spirit). So, needless to say I was very excited for what looked like a fun, wicked time in Suicide Squad. And it was mostly fun, the Squad was very wicked, and yet…it wasn’t that good. Before I go on as to why, it’s important to look at why Suicide Squad was such an important movie in the DCEU, and why it shouldn’t have been. Man of Steel and BvS weren’t critical darlings, and although BvS made a lot of money, it didn’t scrape past the $1 billion mark, which it quite honestly should have, had it been done right. Warner Bros soon announced a series of reshoots for Suicide Squad following the disappointing box office and the divisive response to BvS, seemingly to add more levity and humor to the movie (which they have denied). The marketing team did a fantastic job of hyping up Squad; the trailers were fun, the neon colors and pop-art infused ads made the movie seem interesting, new, and exciting. But the movie now had the pressure of reassuring fans that the DCEU was headed in the right direction; that’s right, a movie about mostly B-List villains (still great ones, except for Slipknot) now had the pressure that BvS had before it, to prove to fans and wider audiences as a whole that despite the poor critical reception the first two movies made, this was a franchise worth seeing. And Suicide Squad should not have been that movie. A movie featuring Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman should have been. It isn’t for me to say whether studio interference was the downfall of Suicide Squad, but it sure looks damning.
Anyway, back to the review. Let’s start with the good. Boy, what a cast. The DCEU has been nailing their castings lately (for the most part). I’ll start with my favorite – Viola Davis. She is awesome in How to Get Away With Murder; after watching the first episode, I knew she would be perfect as the tough-as-nails, all around general evil badass that is Amanda Waller. And she was. She dominates every scene she’s in, and I laughed out loud when she purposefully shoulder checks Killer Croc as she’s leaving a room (Croc responds, “I like her.” Me too, dude.) Margot Robbie is also excellent as Harley Quinn. She is crazy, and she looks like she’s having a blast. Will Smith gives a standout performance here. The clear lead as Deadshot, he is funny, he is a badass, and his emotional story arc is played with clear sincerity. Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaie, and Karen Fukuhara also give great performances as Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, and Katana, respectively (though the last two are criminally underused). Jay Hernandez as El Diablo was also one of my favorite parts of the movie. His story arc is, while somewhat predictable, still very strong, and I walked away wishing that we saw more of him as well. The movie itself was much more fun than BvS, but not nearly as fun as Guardians of the Galaxy, which is the closest counterpart Marvel has in its illustrious film franchise. The action scenes, while again, generic, were still fun to watch, especially seeing the Squad utilize all of their special abilities. I also liked the connections to the larger universe; this movie more than any of the other two made me feel like I was watching a movie set in a fully developed universe. The cameos made by Batman and Flash were a welcome treat (and Batman didn’t kill anyone, which is something I shouldn’t need to feel especially happy about). And while the mid-credits scene really didn’t do much to add new elements to the movie universe, it still helped me feel like I was watching a movie with a universe somewhat comparable to Marvel’s movie universe. I also have to give praise to the costumes; they were all awesome. Killer Croc looked fantastic. Enchantress really looked like a scary, feral, primeval force of nature. Harley Quinn was a bit too revealing, but what did anyone expect? Overall, the characters all looked awesome.
Now, onto the bad. The plot jumps all over the place, and while the beginning of the movie was really a lot of fun (Amanda Waller rattles off the backstories of each Squad member), once the mission starts, the movie becomes very predictable, which is something people assumed Suicide Squad wouldn’t be. The villains were also weak, which is unusual for DC and is usually a staple of the Marvel movies (I love them as much as the next guy, but except for Loki, Ultron, and Red Skull, the villains are forgettable at best). Cara Delevingne had a fine performance, but her gyrating feral witch form as Enchantress was laughable at times, and her evil plan was barely explained and she was given hardly any motivation. I can think of several easy ways to have made her a better villain. The movie’s biggest sin was probably that it just wasn’t put together that well; had the Squad been going up against international super terrorists, and their exposure would risk serious global consequences, the movie would have been far more compelling. Instead, we are left with the Squad taking on the bad guys from Ghostbusters. Sadly, the movie could have been so much better.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about Jared Leto’s Joker. With all of his behind the scenes antics, from remaining in character to sending dead rats, dead pigs, and a host of other gross things to his cast members, all eyes were on whether or not he would rank alongside Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger as the great movie Jokers. Comparisons to Ledger were bound to be made, and that’s part of the reason why Leto seems so inferior in comparison. I’ll cut to the chase – he’s not. But also, I really didn’t dig it. Yes, I dug his look; he was very, very creepy. And the tattoos honestly were kind of cool. This is a Joker with style, although there’s nothing wrong with a simple purple suit. However I HATED his grill and the way he talked. HATED. IT. He just didn’t sound like the Joker; the Joker is articulate, witty, and terrifying all at the same time. Leto didn’t scare me. Did he creep me out? Yes. But he was all crazy, and not at all terrifying. To be fair, he was only in the movie for maybe 5 minutes, so perhaps if I saw more of him, I’d change my mind. But I didn’t, so I’m calling a spade a spade – I did not like Jared Leto as the Joker.
Finally, it’s worth noting that I also thought Harley Quinn was way too sexualized in this movie. Now before the fanboys pounce and say, “Look at her in the comics, they’re just following the comics!”, I’ll respond with yes, I have read the comics where she is sexualized, and I didn’t like it there either. Harley is supposed to be sexy in a way that is subtle and kind of funny. In this movie, she is practically pole dancing. Harley’s sex appeal is not what is supposed to make her stand out; her psychotic, obsessive love with the Joker is what makes her so interesting. In trying to make Harley a confident, independent woman who openly flaunts her sexuality to appeal to modern audiences, the filmmakers forgot something very important – Harley Quinn was not created to be a confident, independent woman. She can be, yes, especially when she is away from the Joker and paired with Gotham City’s other femme fatales. Harley Quinn is supposed to be uproariously funny and zany, but her love for the abusive Joker is supposed to be tragic. And I just didn’t feel that this movie recognized that – it would have added so much to the movie, especially if the story arc saw her rise above the abusive relationship and choose the Squad over Mistah J.
Overview: Suicide Squad has fun action, humor, and an amazing cast who give standout performances as the worst of the worst, but they can’t save a movie so utterly predictable. 5/10
The Good: The cast, the costumes, more humor, better sense of a shared universe, cameos from Batman and Flash, and the first 20 minutes.
The Bad: Predictable plot, underused characters, weak villains, jumbled story, disappointing Joker.
The Ugly: Jared Leto’s grill, Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress voice, no one’s mom is named Martha 🙁