Suicide Squad Movie Review
That’s a two-fer. With hopes high that Suicide Squad would be more like Guardians of the Galaxy and less like its 2016 predecessor Batman v. Superman, reality has set in: Suicide Squad is another choppily edited disappointment, a movie that is almost really good but isn’t, one that should bleed fun factor but instead barely sweats the stuff.
About a group of DC Comics villains that most people have never heard of--save for, maybe, Deadshot and Harley Quinn--Suicide Squad was supposed to be Warner Bros.’ rebound from Batman v. Superman, a movie that was widely criticized (including by me) for being too dark and too serious (for the record, I didn’t hate the movie--I was just extremely disappointed by it. The extended Ultimate Edition fixes some of its issues). And while Suicide Squad is funnier, it still suffers from many of the same problems.
I really, really, really wanted Suicide Squad to be good, and even throughout the movie, I kept forcing myself to want to like everything I was watching. Written and directed by the talented David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury) and starring the likes of Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto and Viola Davis, the movie had the potential to great. And given the plot--about DC’s rogue gallery teaming up to save the world in the face of Superman’s demise--there’s no reason why Suicide Squad couldn’t have been the bonkers, balls-to-the-wall crazy-fest we wanted and deserved.
But it’s just… not.
The movie does look really good, from an aesthetic perspective. While Ayer gets too artistic during the climactic battle sequence--you can’t see what’s going on half the time due to rain, smoke and CGI--the flick generally looks slick, with solid visual effects. There are also some decent action scenes--one, in which Deadshot (Will Smith) takes out a bunch of monsters nearly singlehandedly, makes you pump your fist a bit--and all in all, there is always something happening.
And yet, the movie isn’t nearly as fun as it could have been--or needed to be. Like Batman v. Superman, it’s readily apparent that chunks of story were left on the cutting room floor; the movie is awkwardly edited, frenetically shifting from one scene to the next without the establishing scenes to set up the characters, the plot and, arguably most important, the action. The story is extremely simple, and yet it’s still hard to comprehend--the villain and her motivations are never well developed, which in turn makes her intentions to take over the world largely uninteresting.
Furthermore, for a movie that has been promoted as an ensemble piece, most of the characters are given short shrift to Deadshot (Will Smith, who essentially plays a boring version of Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, who is great in her role, but certainly not in need of her own movie as some have speculated) and a couple of the non-villain characters (did we pay to see these people? Nope). Diablo (Jay Hernandez) gets his moments, but Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Boomerang (Jai Courtney) could easily have not been in this movie and no one would have noticed.
Oddly, despite the generous editing, Suicide Squad has pacing issues. Ayer pauses the movie for stretches of time so the characters--primarily Will Smith--can talk, and these pauses are typically boring as sin. A scene at a bar, the first opportunity for all of the characters to truly interact in a meaningful way, is completely flat. It kills the film’s momentum, and is just one of several moments/scenes that do the same.
Ultimately, the fault lies with Ayer--and, presumably, the executives at Warner Bros. who had a hand in the tone of the movie. A movie about a team of supervillains (although most of them don’t have powers, as far as I could tell) needed to be crazy and outlandish, but Suicide Squad plays things straight more often than not. The movie, and its characters, lack personality.
Speaking of personality, Suicide Squad would have benefited tremendously had it cut its most colorful character--the Joker--entirely. Jared Leto has the talent to be a good Joker, but Ayer does little with him, pulling him in and out of the story even though his character has no real involvement in the plot at hand. As is, he’s just annoying, an undeveloped caricature that laughs a lot and arguably weakens the film’s best character.
If this review sounds like a rant, that’s because it is. Suicide Squad isn’t terrible. It is fun at times, and has long spurts of entertainment value. And while it’s another disappointment from Warner Bros. and DC Comics, there is something refreshing about a “superhero” movie that doesn’t play by the predictable conventions Marvel has established for its cinematic universe. But it’s still a disappointment.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.