Review by Bronzethumb

Movie Review: Suicide Squad

Movie Review: Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad had a lot to do in the wake of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice's "failure." The studio had a minor freakout in terms of the overall reception of that film, which was designed to be the first cinematic chapter of the DC Expanded Universe (DCEU) with Man of Steel functioning as a prequel/origin/solo story. So Suicide Squad is mainly designed to both expand the DCEU and get it back on track. It manages to do some of the former, and really none of the latter.



 


This film is, quite frankly, a giant mess. That impression started to leak out once there were rumblings behind the scenes of the studio scrambling to course correct in the wake of Batman v Superman's failings. That movie was too dark, so there seemed to be a concerted effort to line up this movie with the tone struck by one of its earliest trailers. Set to "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, the trailer got people excited about the prospect of a team of superheroes who were actually villains and not heroes.



This is not the first foray into the Suicide Squad for the studio or DC Comics. The TV show Arrow has done its version of the Suicide Squad, albeit on a much smaller scale than this. And, to be clear, the team doesn't really consist of supervillains, but rather anti-heroes. Bad guys who each have their own agendas and motivations.

 


 


Therein lies the film's biggest problem to me. This isn't one whole story about a team of superpowered individuals like The Avengers was, but rather a collection of short stories about a mismatched group of criminals and society misfits. The film tries to cram in some background about every character that hasn't been introduced in the DCEU before. This is the key difference between Marvel and DC in the cinematic form. Marvel dedicates entire films to the origin stories of its characters before doing the team up. DC is doing the rushed, impressionistic form of this, of which results in their films becoming total messes. ARGUS Director Amanda Waller (a stern and joyless Viola Davis) has a small briefing with a couple of military officials at the beginning of the film that fill both them and us, the viewing audience, in on just who these people are. There's Floyd "Deadshot" Lawton (Will Smith), a mercenary assassin who actually has a heart of gold because he loves his daughter more than anything in the world; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a deranged former psychiatrist who may still be too attached to her equally (or moreso) deranged "boyfriend," the Joker (Jared Leto). There's El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and Enchantress (Cara Delavingne) who round out the rest of the Suicide Squad. They're led into a very dark situation by Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and a group of Navy SEALs, tasked by Waller to defuse a growing supernatural threat in Midway City.



Once everyone is briefed on who's who and what exactly is going on, the film proceeds through the usual motions. Assemble the Suicide Squad, lay out the terms of what they have to do for Waller, then combat the threat. But that's too clean an approach. So it's determined to be as weird and scattershot as possible. Characters are introduced with fancy graphics overlay onscreen, flashed up there so fast that it doesn't allow for audience members to read or know much of anything about them. Flashbacks are interspersed throughout so as to give the film different sorts of flavors and tones, probably covering for how standard and simplistic the team story really is. The "threat" is also made unclear, which is to be expected when it's a supernatural/magical one instead of the Suicide Squad taking on some other hero or someone of a more physical nature. A couple of future members of the Justice League make brief appearances, but they leave little impression. The Joker, who is a central antagonist in any film which graces his appearance, is reduced to a sidenote, mostly in the flashbacks.

 


 


I'll give an example of how lightweight the flashback structure in this film really is: Before Harley Quinn went, well, crazy, she was a psychiatrist tasked with treating the Joker in Arkham Asylum. Instead, she fell in love with him. It's just told to us that this is the case. There is nothing shown to the point where Dr. Harleen Quinzel goes through the process of falling in love with the Joker. We're left to take it as a given so that the story can move on. While Margot Robbie clearly looks like she's having fun in the role, I'd qualify the character as a big disappointment. She's unpredictable in terms of her actions at any particular time, but she's more playful and somewhat unstable than fully psychologically unhinged. She was supposed to be the highlight of the film. Instead, Harley Quinn oddly blends into the background. Why is she so co-dependent on the Joker to do everything for her if she acts the entire time in the movie like she doesn't really need any help from anyone?  She even explicitly states her (supposedly) independent nature within the film's dialogue! Was it all an act since she was under threat of death if she didn't cooperate with Waller and Flag's directives?



She and Deadshot are clearly designed to be the anchors at the center of the movie. You can tell this easily by the amount of character shading and background given to the both of them as opposed to the rest of the Suicide Squad, of which we know very little about beyond what Waller knows in the initial classified file. Deadshot is not a cold, detached assassin. His daughter is the person who keeps him grounded. He even develops something of a friendly, even at times protective, relationship with Harley. The movie clearly wants him to be the closest they can get to a hero worth rooting for. He does not have the typical demeanor of a mercenary who does what he does only for money. So even though Colonel Flag tells the Squad at several points that they might/will die on this mission, we know that is just not the case. The threat of death loses its teeth as the movie progresses.



 


Deadshot being a central focus should also tell everyone about the overriding philosophy of the film. This is an overwhelmingly, somewhat disturbingly pro-gun film. There are guns everywhere, used by nearly everyone to combat the threat they're facing. But since it's not a hard R-rated film, it can't indulge in the truly violent nature of using guns to kill things and other people. Given that the antagonist in the film is supernatural in nature (and also ill-defined with black blobs serving as "soldiers" to be killed en masse by the Suicide Squad), I couldn't help but think that the message of the film has something to do with the ineffectual nature of guns themselves. It's certainly a very dark message, set in a dark place, in an increasingly dark, oppressive, pessimistic universe. Whatever light or hope there was in the DCEU has been completely sucked out, replaced by overwhelming darkness. The weight of bringing some of that back now falls on Wonder Woman (whose solo film is up next in the DCEU) and the rest of the as-yet unassembled Justice League. They need to reverse this downward trend, and fast, because the very unfocused Suicide Squad just can't do it.


Thought Bubbles

-- The graphics briefing on the Suicide Squad is apparently supposed to inject some color and fun into the proceedings. While they are colorful, I think WB executives have an odd notion of what "fun" is in superhero films.


-- The Joker is in so little of the film that he actually doesn't make that much of an impression. Like Harley Quinn, he feels more scary-looking than truly frightening or unhinged. Apparently, there were a ton of deleted scenes from the film featuring the Joker so like Batman v Superman, we'll have to wait until the home video release to possibly flesh him as well as other characters out.


 


-- Cara Delavingne doesn't really act in the film. Her character is almost entirely a special effect. Makes sense given that Delavingne is actually a model trying to break into acting. Plus, can you tell me what Enchantress' motivations were?



-- I wondered during the film: Does Amanda Waller crack jokes when she's offscreen? Or even one smile? I know that her character lives in a world where there are alien beings and vigilantes running around, causing havoc and destruction, but she is the definition of humorless in this film. It would help if Waller did something likable or endearing to the audience. At least acknowledge in some part the ridiculousness of her plan to assemble individuals who aren't entirely stable, and thus unlikely to take to the concept of being a "team" working together to defeat a threat. No dice.



 


-- There's a lot of visual clutter that marrs many scenes in the film. Particularly the action scenes. The clutter and leaning-dark visual palette lends to a monotonous feeling about the action scenes. Everything in this world (and that includes what was seen in Batman v Superman) is so garish and ugly and so unappealing to look at.



-- Lingering question throughout the film: Where is Midway City in relation to Gotham City in relation to Belle Reve? The film has no real sense of location. Given the similar visual palette between all the places, it becomes difficult to tell where is what, much like how similar Metropolis and Gotham City were in Batman v Superman.



-- There really isn't anything that stands out in this film. At least with Batman v Superman, the soundtrack was sometimes enjoyable, even in its relentless pounding state. Here, the score is forgettable, and the pop and rock songs chosen to augment certain scenes were uninspiring.




Our Grade:
C
Your Grade: B+
(Based on 2 grades)
The Good:
  • Margot Robbie clearly looks like she's having fun
The Bad:
  • The film lacks cohesion
  • The Joker feels shoehorned in and not nearly as scary as he tries to be
  • Too much weirdness for weirdness' sake

Bronzethumb is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @Bronzethumb

Review by - 8/11/2016 10:05 AM670 views

Your Responses

TigerClaw
TigerClaw
CONCURRING OPINION

Grade: A
I thought Suicide Squad was good and entertaining, its a refreshing take on the Superhero genre, I enjoyed Jared Leto's take on the Joker, I which there was more of him in the movie, which apparently was the case when it was revealed, that a lot of his scenes were cut from the movie. Amanda Waller, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, & El Diablo were fantastic. All in all, I thought it was an enjoyable movie and a breath of fresh air in genre that's been saturated with so many superhero movie
Flaco_Jones
Flaco_Jones
DISSENTING OPINION

Grade: B-
While I agree that the plot was a mess, I loved the characters and I'm glad we just got snippets told through flashbacks. Deadshot, Harley, and Diablo were my favorites and I really felt like I understood the characters and their intentions despite their being so many of them. But yeah, plotwise, it could have been way better. I guess I was imagining Oceans 11 but with super villains. A heist movie where they have a lofty goal but have to dodge the likes of Batman along the way.

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