I believe there was a time when the idea of a Suicide Squad (or Taskforce X) film gave me doubt more than anything else. However, I was promptly relieved of such concerns by a spectacular Comic-Con trailer from last year. It was the first in a series of neon soaked trailers that showed so much promise, and dare I say, appeared to be more attractive than Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. That first trailer was perfectly crafted. It was exceptional, and definitely whet the ravenous appetites of comic book fans and audiences alike. It gave Suicide Squad about a year to ride a bullet train of fan anticipation and high hopes. At first look, Suicide Squad appeared to be a dark and gritty action-packed superhero drama, but as August drew closer, the overall theme became distorted by a colorful audience of friendly trailers–which suggested that something changed, and in hindsight, I now realize, I probably should have tempered my personal expectations of this film.
Today’s colorfully promoted Suicide Squad doesn’t appear to be last year’s much darker and foreboding Suicide Squad. The bane of DC films, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, cast a shadow of criticism so large that it endangered the advancing Suicide Squad gravy train. Shaken but undeterred, Warner Bros./DC was determined to steer itself away from another critically devastating mishap (BvS), which ultimately lead to some costly last-minute reshoots and changes that became all too apparent within a slew of new and an unusually upbeat trailers–which leads me to this review.
Suicide Squad is a pretty straightforward story along the lines of the John Carpenter classic, Escape from New York, in that a government agency “recruits” dangerous people to save the day. Among the striking and foolishly courageous cast of motley revengers are standout characters such as Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), and Diablo (Jay Hernandez); all villains, but villains with special abilities the government needs. Throughout the story, there’s plenty of gunplay, twists and turns, and the proverbial third-act light show that comic book movies are known for.
What I like the most about Suicide Squad was Will Smith’s return to form. Smith hasn’t had a definite hit in a long time, but manages to deliver one of the most entertaining performances in this movie. Smith plays Deadshot, an assassin for hire who never misses his mark, and sharing some of the limelight with him is Margot Robbie’s character, Harley Quinn, a sociopathic killer who just wants to be reunited with her equally unhinged psychotic boyfriend, The Joker (Jared Leto). Deadshot and Harley are both given plenty of screen time, but it’s Smith’s character who appears to be the more developed of the two. Deadshot is not only fleshed out and charismatic, he’s given a plot that makes him the most relatable character in the entire cast.
Suicide Squad also delivers on one of its trailers promises: action. Director David Ayer, who has made such impressive films like Training Day and End of Watch, knows how to capture the cacophony of big guns and ringing bullet shells. Again, Smith’s Deadshot lends himself well to this type of movie, because guns are his thing–it’s the reason he gets some of the most outstanding moments and it makes sense that a man with his talents could be used. There are helicopters falling from the sky, people and monsters (that look like the Putty Patrol from Power Rangers) dropping like flies, and special effects that constantly fill the big screen from beginning to end. Quiet moments are far and few in between, and the dialogue between characters are punched up with just enough humor that things never appear to be too dark.
I’d also like to add that besides Robbie and Smith, the character of Amanda Waller, played by Viola Davis, is crazy af, and quite possibly, is one of the most feared villains I’ve ever seen in any comic book movie. I refer to her as a villain, because she instills fear in the entire cast and hangs death over their heads throughout the entire run-time of this film. Many of the highlights of this film–Davis, Robbie, Smith (action)–give me hope in future DC movies. DC appears to be finding its footing on producing good comic book movies, but that’s not to say that this film isn’t riddled with missteps.
I found a major fault in Suicide Squad’s marketing and promotion: the trailers are quite misleading. The promotion and hype promised that DC would provide a dark take on comic book villains. Initially, it looked like these villains were tasked with saving the world against a malevolent force, presumably, The Joker–with a healthy dash of colorful rip-roaring fun! The confusion here is that people like me were expecting one thing, and got something else entirely. Mixing light-hearted and dark tones in a movie has been done; it’s not something that’s unheard of because this year’s Deadpool masterfully pulled it off without a hitch; but Suicide Squad fumbles many of its attempts at creating a cohesive film.
Here’s the problem(s): the movie doesn’t juggle dark and humorous themes gracefully, which makes the tone, editing, and pacing of the film seem staggered. There are good moments sprinkled into this movie, but it’s a patchwork of hit-or-miss bits and careless developments that work better separately–like in a trailer–but appear messy as a whole movie. It looks like the reshoots were a double edged sword of sorts, in that they were designed to improve the movie, but simultaneously had the effect of damaging it.
Suicide Squad also fails to deliver on The Joker, who had been billed as a main attraction, but for some inexplicable reason is relegated to a subplot that could have easily been excised at a moment’s notice. I’m sad to say that much of Leto’s performance can be seen in the trailer, and that some parts if not much of his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. It’s difficult to critique Leto’s take on The Joker because he never seems to really get going in any of his scenes–they’re so short. His scenes are short, and serve only to develop the character of Harley Quinn. The Joker is a bizarre and slithery secondary character, who reminded me of the ecstasy-peddling Russian dude from Bad Boys 2, in regards to his importance to the movie’s story. The Joker’s physical appearance is striking, but his scenes are unremarkable. Don’t be fooled by the trailer. The Joker is inconsequential.
And that goes for this movie on the whole. I was hyped up to see this film, but found myself underwhelmed the moment I realized The Joker was an unimportant character. It was at that point that I felt I might have been bamboozled. Despite this, the movie creeps forward with plenty of gusto, light, and noise to appease me just enough to forget that the editing was disturbingly bad. Suicide Squad takes great pains to remind the audience that these characters are not only bad guys, but they’re expendable. Some people die in this film with little consequence; deaths here aren’t mourned for long, and carry very little weight. The stakes never appear to be too high, and when it comes time to shed light on the humanity of the characters, I’m at loss because it’s quite unconvincing.
Truthfully, I think this movie is a mess. But it’s an entertaining mess. It’s kind of funny to watch a rain-soaked character walk into a bar, and immediately enter it with dry clothing. Or have the entire cast escape certain death without a scratch on them. Or watch as the film fails at copying the Guardians of the Galaxy’s music motif. Suicide Squad fails to live up to the enticing trailer that rocked the Internet many months ago; however, this film is a step forward in DC’s world-building campaign.
Suicide Squad Review photos courtesy of: Suicidesquad.com, facebook.com/suicidesquad, imdb.com