Movie Review: Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad is a studio executive’s attempt to recreate the magic of Guardians of the Galaxy without understanding why or how that magic worked. Warner Bros. clearly wanted a cast of wacky, troubled characters, a bunch of witty one-liners, and a heaping of bouncy, familiar pop music. Director David Ayer delivers on all those things, but not nearly enough to make a really good film. He gets a little too distracted by the flash bang of generic gun violence.
Suicide Squad is like an Avengers movie if you dial down the entertaining character interactions and dial up the fights against endless, faceless minions.
Movie Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
There is the potential for a great movie buried deep beneath the mindless, humdrum action of Suicide Squad, and overall, I’m pretty sure I mostly enjoyed the experience. I was mildly entertained, in a bland ‘I don’t hate this’ sort of way. There were enough good notes in the movie to keep me humming along.
For the most part, the characters and the actors playing them are actually really great. Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn are fantastic, and even secondary characters like Rick Flag, El Diablo and Captain Boomerang show a lot of potential. This could have been a great movie.
Instead, these great characters are simply walked through a bland, generic shoot’em up flick with a crummy plot, an overload of unnecessary characters and a severe lack of anything truly noteworthy. Despite being primarily an action movie, there are no awesome, exciting set pieces or interesting fight choreography. There are no big moments that will have people on the edge of their seats or talking about forever. And all the best jokes and one-liners were in the trailers.
Not to mention more than a few weird plotholes that undermine the entire point of the movie.
Join me after the jump for my full review! Expect FULL SPOILERS for Suicide Squad!
Suicide Squad is based on a popular DC Comic with a rather ingenious premise: in a world of superheroes and villains, the government decides to use a bunch of highly trained bad guys as a secret black ops unit. In exchange for time off their various prison sentences, bad guys like master assassin Deadshot or flame-powered El Diablo will use their skills and abilities to do the kind of jobs that Superman or Wonder Woman don’t usually get involved with.
Suicide Squad the movie follows this basic premise, but they really mess it up. And that bugs me.
This is actually kind of a weird plot hole. The movie takes the comic book cast and premise and puts them up against the realities of the DC Cinematic Universe. And it doesn’t work.
In the comics, street-level heroes like Deadshot, Harley Quinn and Captain Boomerang are used for military block ops missions, fighting street-level threats. But in the new movie, Squad leader Amanda Waller proposes Task Force X as a defense against Superman-level threats. Between Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, these sorts of threats are very real. And that would be fine, except that none of the Squad members would last 2 seconds against Superman.
Deadshot’s guns? Harley Quinn’s baseball bat? Katana? Killer Croc? El Diablo? None of them would be a challenge to Superman. They’re barely a challenge to the villains that are already in this movie. So what the heck was Amanda Waller thinking?
And therein lies my biggest problem with Suicide Squad: this movie doesn’t do enough with the fantastic cast of characters they put together. It doesn’t even really follow through on the premise.
The villain in this film is the Enchantress, who has a big, bad brother as a bodyguard, and has an army of mindless, faceless minions at her disposal (even more mindless and faceless than the Chitauri or the Ultron drones). She’s a big, mystical threat determined to kill all of humanity and take over the world. She starts in Midway City with a big, public attack.
(Sounds like something the Justice League would handle, but there’s no explanation why Batman and Wonder Woman don’t respond.)
First of all, the Enchantress was Amanda Waller’s first recruit for the Suicide Squad. Waller just loses control of the villain and she begins her evil plan. So the Squad are brought together to go into Midway City in response to the Enchantress’ attack. But if Waller had never started the Squad in the first place, none of this would have happened. The government could have just imprisoned Enchantress like they imprison all other criminals and the world wouldn’t be in danger.
So instead of putting the Suicide Squad together to go on some cool mission for the government, they’re put together solely to clean up their own mess. That kind of defeats the purpose.
Second of all, the Squad isn’t put together to stop the Enchantress. Instead, the government calls on the team to go into Midway City and rescue Amanda Waller herself, who is holed up in a secret government safe room at the top of a skyscraper. So the movie isn’t even about using the Suicide Squad to save the world. The movie makes a huge deal out of Amanda Waller justifying this team, then doesn’t actually follow through on her ideas.
The very premise of the team is undermined by the movie itself. I understand the need to have twists and emotional resonance, but this might be the one super-team who doesn’t need either of those things.
I suppose these plot lines could be on purpose, but it really doesn’t feel that way. Like, perhaps, this is all a commentary on the ridiculousness of Amanda Waller’s plan in the first place. Like, maybe she isn’t the ruthless government official she’s presented as, but is instead a corrupt idiot. She thinks Task Force X will be a good idea, but that blows up in her face. And when it blows up in her face, she uses the Squad to get her to safety without a care about Midway City or the world. It’s up to the Squad members themselves in Act 3 to decide on their own to stop Enchantress and save the world.
You know what, I think I like that interpretation better. I just talked myself into a deeper understanding of the movie. How about that?
But that doesn’t mean this was the intended takeaway, and it still doesn’t save Suicide Squad from being a generic action movie.
So the Squad is sent into Midway City to rescue Amanda Waller (though they don’t know that. Nobody tells the bad guys exactly where they’re going or what they’re up against). This mission basically involves a bunch of guns shooting the Enchantress’ faceless minion army. The Squad is accompanied by a bunch of special ops soldiers, and honestly, the soldiers probably could have handled this one themselves.
The evil minions are basically zombies with guns. They’re wild and aggressive, but you can defeat them by shooting the head. The soldiers do this just fine. Deadshot is a good shot, so he’s great at shooting the minions. But everybody else, from Harley to Katana to Killer Croc, gets the occasional moment where they bash, cut or headbutt the minions. And that’s a large part of the movie. Everybody just moving through a dark cityscape doing the absolute minimum to take out these uninteresting minions.
There are no big action set pieces. Some helicopters crash, but that’s about it (and it happens, like, 3 or 4 times!). There are few big moments where the individual characters and their skill sets come into play, but it’s nothing overly exciting. There’s nothing like the Batman warehouse scene in Dawn of Justice, where you get up and cheer at seeing Batman be Batman. Deadshot gets one moment where his awesome shooting impresses the soldiers. And El Diablo, the only one with super-powers, has a few moments where he shoots fire at the bad guys, probably the lamest super-power to show on the big screen. We’ve all seen fire before.
Suicide Squad does not do nearly enough with its fantastic cast. That undermines both the cast and the movie’s premise. Why put all these volatile people on a team together if they’re only good at bashin’ and shootin’ stuff? A squad of highly trained soldiers would be just as good.
To begin with, there are way too many members of the Suicide Squad. Not counting Waller or Enchantress, the team is made up of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, Katana, El Diablo and Slipknot.
Slipknot is used as fodder solely to illustrate that the government will kill them if they step out of line; so he’s barely an after thought. Beyond him, Katana and Captain Boomerang don’t really do anything in the movie or add anything to the team. They could have ditched both characters completely and nothing would have changed. Killer Croc is mostly just there to look menacing, and he succeeds at that.
I pegged El Diablo as one of the expendable characters back when he was first introduced in the trailers, but he actually gets one of the only worthwhile character arcs in the movie. Really solid stuff with Diablo.
Deadshot, Harley Quinn and Rick Flag are the three strongest characters (besides El Diablo). Will Smith is as charming as ever, and he works well as the supremely competent hitman/de factor leader of the bad guys. He plays well with Flag, the company man soldier whose personal ties to the Enchantress and his growing respect for Deadshot give him a strong story arc. He’s the least fanciest character, but he at least gets a storyline to play with.
Harley Quinn is pretty much perfect. Margot Robbie embodies the character’s quirks to the hilt. She’s equal parts nutty and sexy, and works very well as a wild card in the middle of an already crazy scenario. She also has a strong growing relationship with Deadshot, and has fun moments with nearly everybody else. Great portrayal.
Though the character is also probably as sexist as you’d expect from this sort of grim, teenage boy-driven movie. The movie gets really creepy and uncomfortable more than a few times, and not always on purpose. But better people than I will dissect the sexism in this movie, and I would trust their word over mine.
Personally, I would have ditched Katana and Slipknot and given Croc and Boomerang more to do.
But honestly, no one really gets that much to do. There are some short and sweet character interactions and growing friendships, but the movie doesn’t go far enough with any of them. Not even Deadshot and Harley really go anywhere. And all the best one-liners and character bits were spoiled in the trailers. That scene in the bar from the trailers tries to really underline the growing respect between these characters, but it doesn’t go far enough, in my opinion. None of their scenes do.
Also, I kept waiting for someone on the Squad to actually ask what the heck they were up against! They’re fighting literal monsters with a big, freaky magic show in the background, but all of them just shrug their shoulders and go with the flow, avoiding any possible effort to use the plot to flesh out the characters.
The best scene in the first Avengers movie was when everybody was in the lab bickering and shouting at one another. Suicide Squad never comes close to anything that deep or emotional between the characters.
But it could have. The actors were game. The characters are pretty wonderful. But Suicide Squad let them down. Suicide Squad made a lot of bad choices and mishandled their stellar cast.
Fortunately for all of us, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is right around the corner.
Oh, uh, jeez, I got all this way and forgot to talk about Jared Leto’s Joker. Um…he sucks. Major dud, to both character and movie.