I’m getting exhausted. Constantly being burned by the DC Films marketing team’s exciting trailers is taxing. I had so much hope for Suicide Squad. Far more hope than I had for Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (short-hand: BvS), since I knew from Snyder’s Man of Steel that there was a possibility BvS might disappoint. Suicide Squad though had many things working in its favor prior to opening night. Strong casting choices, exhilarating trailers with fun music choices, and a promising director in David Ayer (see the thrilling End of Watch or war epic Fury by Ayer as evidence of this man’s work). Yet at the end of the day, we’re in the first week of August and another summer blockbuster has let me down. The production’s end result is a seemingly mismanaged, poorly edited popcorn flick with mostly passable action and interplay between the main Squad cast. Yet we receive another paper thin superhero movie plot and villain.
In the first 10 minutes alone, I let out a sigh of frustration. As the movie switches between introducing its primary characters every 30-60 seconds, the song changes between many recognizable classic rock hits. It’s as if the music department received instructions by the studio to strike the same audio tone as Guardians of the Galaxy but they were either indecisive in their song choices or wanted every song ever written in this movie and settled for slightly less than that. Needless to say, my ears were tired after the first 10 minutes, in which the music editing was at its worst. As the movie goes on, it starts migrating its focus to the orchestral score instead of popular tunes, which is appreciated, but there are still very questionable selections in the timing of certain songs. If you’ve read my reviews before, I tend not to venture into musical criticisms with movies too much, but this was simply jarring.
Other factors leading to my exasperation were the choppy edits in general. There are points where the movie gives you a subtitle explaining the location of scene and before you have time to read it, the subtitle disappears within 2 seconds. In other parts, you have 2 characters having a heated discussion, in which I’m actually invested, and the cuts are so violently abrupt with characters practically teleporting around a room, it detaches me from the scene. Another point of contention that’s actually making the rounds in the news lately is the Joker’s screen time. I actually was surprised to see him on screen as much as he was. Audiences and critics made it sound like he had roughly 10 minutes of screen time but that’s not the case. However, it’s pretty clear there was more depth to the character that we didn’t get to witness. He has a scene with Monster T, played by Common, that lasts roughly 1 minute and ultimately served zero purpose to the plot, Joker’s story, or Harley’s story. Something tells me there was more to that scene that could have given us more of an understanding into Joker’s psyche or his motivations, or Harley’s relationship with him (of which we didn’t get nearly enough), but we’ll never know. All these edits leave me doing is exaggeratedly shrugging and asking aloud, “what the hell was that supposed to be?”
I do have many positive things to acknowledge in the film though. I’m not paid enough by Marvel to only trash the movie (that was a joke; do not email/tweet me). First of all, Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn is everything I hoped it would be. I wanted her cast as Harley before this movie was even announced. She was the epitome of dream casting for me, and she hit a real home run here (pun definitely intended). Her accent, her mannerisms, her general characterizations; these were all aspects of her performance that fully delivered. As I alluded to previously, I do wish we saw more of her experiences with the Joker. We still don’t know why she fell for Joker, and if you claim the movie explained that, frankly you are assuming it based on what the movie “inferred” (even though it didn’t). Another very high point is Will Smith’s Deadshot, but that should also surprise no one. I mean, it’s Will Smith. He’s reliably funny and has one of the best action sequences in the movie that proves his worth to the titular Squad. We’re also given many scenes that allow us to empathize with Deadshot as a father, which is more than I can say for literally any scene with any character in BvS.
Other remarkably high points were surprisingly Jay Hernandez’s Diablo. Seriously, the guy who can create fire with his hands. The guy who comes off like a total “red shirt” in the trailers, to steal a Star Trek trope. Diablo’s character is humanized the most out of all of these characters in the Squad with a solidly acted monologue by Hernandez. Another stand-out was Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller. This is another example of perfect casting from DC, which isn’t a phrase I’ve said often with these DC Extended Universe films. Waller’s characterization here is 100% completely true to the source material. She is a wicked woman, who may not necessarily be one of the bad guys on paper, but she lives in the grey area and isn’t leaving anytime soon. Separately, Ike Barinholtz’s guard character, Griggs, also is a highlight reel of humorous quips here. I’d add more thoughts on Killer Croc, Slipknot, and Captain Boomerang, but frankly, these guys weren’t given enough to do in this movie. The most truthful criticism I can give is that I didn’t hate Jai Courtney in his role as Boomerang, but if he had 10 minutes more screen time, who knows if that opinion would have changed?
The last thing I want to mention, which deserves its own paragraph, is Jared Leto’s performance as the Joker. I think the appeal or lack thereof with this portrayal of the Joker will be strictly a matter of preference. For me, Leto’s Joker really annoyed me. I had a hard time understanding him with that prosthetic grill. Leto seemed more obsessive with his own performance than complimenting his fellow actor, which distorts the investment we’re supposed to have with his relationship to Harley. I know if you take one look at this Joker, you realize “this will not be a subtle performance,” but Heath Ledger’s Joker looked as theatrical and still had nuances in his performance that Leto lacked in every way. His hand tattoo of a smile that he puts over his mouth to create the illusion of a smile (even though he is friggin’ smiling) was an example of the corniness. To me, the Joker we got was basically a wannabe-bizarre fan fiction version of what we deserved to see, and wasn’t worth all the pretentious, immature “method acting” pranks Leto pulled on the cast. Simply put, it was not for me. But I suppose a compliment I can give is at least he wasn’t as wooden as Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag. Someone give that guy a class in charisma. Please!
While I laid out many of its faults here, Suicide Squad still delivered so many fun action sequences and made us empathize with the main Squad characters for the most part, which is more than I can say for previous DC Extended Universe movies so far, even though Squad is frankly not a well-made film. The dialogue had some funny moments and cringe-worthy moments. The reasoning for this team being assembled wasn’t strong enough and the villain’s motivations weren’t any different than the unmemorable Dark Elves from Thor: The Dark World. Yes, shots fired. Overall though, it’s not an experience I regret in theaters, but I’m not clamoring for a re-watch or for any Squad sequels, but I’d definitely see a Harley Quinn-led spin-off.
Need a really, really brief synopsis of this review? Check out my 10 Second Review of Suicide Squad below!
Those are my rather extensive thoughts on Suicide Squad. Did you catch the movie? What did you think? Can DC rebound from its 3rd round of critical derision? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll have a chat!