Preface: This was written on August 9th, the day after I watched the movie in theaters. I don’t know if it was apathy, distraction, or a mix of both, but I obviously never posted the review, so here it is… a month later.
I originally told myself I wasn’t going to do this. What would be the point, right? I had very low expectations after seeing the trailers, the movie proceeded to get trashed before its release, and I didn’t partake in the opening weekend hype. But as someone who has seen plenty of bad movies this year, none of them quite stack up to the gut punch that is Suicide Squad. Not only was it unable to meet or surpass the very low bar I had set in place, but it actually manages to be worse than March’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The sad thing is, while watching Suicide Squad, it becomes unbearably clear that this movie is not bad because DC isn’t trying hard. Because like Dawn of Justice, they are trying so hard to get you to latch on to something, anything at all. The problem is they have no idea what they are doing and the issues that ruined their previous effort taint every second of this movie, too. Just like Dawn of Justice, they want to skip to the end of the line. They want to catch up to the cool kid in front, but because they forgot to check if their shoes were tied first, they once again fell flat on their face.
Beware: Spoilers Ahead
The level of anger and frustration I felt walking out of the theater was a little unexpected, honestly. My biggest goal was for this to be fun and watchable. I wanted something that was a little more competent than Dawn of Justice, and even though it was going to be slightly off-the-wall, I wanted it to feel like it had a purpose, because it’s so easy to miss the mark on a movie like this. I think what ultimately ticked me off, though, was how much I was enjoying it in the beginning. I was having fun seeing these opening snapshots of these characters, and as I began to worry we would get one for each member of the squad, we move on. Smart.
I’m not entirely sure when it happened, but there was this moment, so brief you barely even notice it, and everything just fell apart. Suicide Squad tries to pass itself off as a movie about this ensemble group of antiheroes, but that’s not what it is. Not only because these aren’t antiheroes in the traditional sense (they’re criminals), but also because this movie is really about Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), which is a shame, because these are two of the least interesting characters in the squad, and they were, ironically, the two with the worst casting choices.
I have nothing against Will Smith as a person–I grew up watching him–but the fact of the matter is, aside from a few notable performances, he’s not a very good actor and he’s largely played the same role his entire career: himself. And you know what? That’s totally fine. However, when you’re trying to build a universe that is obviously struggling, you need to make smarter decisions. There were a handful of one-liners here and there that I appreciated from Deadshot, but overall, there was no incentive for me to care about the character or his plight. He was just another fresh face with a rushed backstory.
Harley Quinn, on the other hand, is just… oh boy. Let me put it this way: there are absolutely no redeeming qualities about her character. At all. None. You know what she was? She was eye candy. That’s it. Marvel gets a lot of flak for not focusing enough on their female characters, and they should, but at least the ones they do have don’t get reduced to, “Oh! Look, guys. Boobs! I bet you like the way her shorts slowly, but surely continue to climb up her ass as the movie progresses. Hot, right?” It’s not even that I have a problem with a female character having sex appeal. If she was sassy and sexual and confident, good for her, but she had the unfortunate fate of being played by one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood at the moment.
And trust me, guys, this is no understatement. Margot Robbie’s performance in this movie–just like everything else you’ve seen her in!–is laughably bad. The zingers you heard in the trailers fall flat in the context of the film just like they fell flat in the trailers themselves, her character’s motives and attitudes change constantly, and Margot Robbie has no idea if she wants Harley to be from Silicon Valley or New Jersey. News flash: a person’s accent doesn’t change every 20 minutes. It got to the point where if I didn’t tell someone how much I hated hearing her talk, I was going to implode. But she’s another generic blonde white woman, so let’s all pretend like she’s good at her job.
What’s even worse is they manage to screw over the actors who are actually trying to give worthwhile performances. Cara Delevingne is the number one example of this. She plays Dr. June Moone, who shares a body with Enchantress. In the beginning of the movie, she’s the only person on screen who legitimately seems to care about providing a substantial performance, but as the story progresses, and they make all of these alterations to her character, her performance suffers. You can see she’s still trying, but by that point everything’s gone off the rails, so there’s no reeling it back in. It’s really unfortunate.
Performances aside, though, the movie fails in just about every department, and it’s mostly because they didn’t properly set-up this universe. Within the current timeline of Suicide Squad‘s story, there are flashbacks to Deadshot and Harley’s lives before prison–again, they are the main characters. As I said to my group afterwards, these two stories in particular could have taken place inside two different solo Batman films, and there’s even a Captain Boomerang story that could have been found in a solo Flash movie. Doing so would have let you focus a little more on Croc, or Diablo, or Katana, all of which are more interesting, to me, than Deadshot and Harley combined.
Just like Batman v Superman, because there wasn’t enough set-up material going in, they had way too much ground to cover in one movie, which meant they tried to focus on everything, wound up diverting attention to two or three particular elements, and were successful in nothing at all. You cannot introduce ten main characters in one movie, you just can’t. I’m laughing as I write this because it seems so obvious, but someone (or everyone) over at DC doesn’t seem to understand how film works. It isn’t like comic books. The stories are more succinct and contained, which means you need to be smarter about how you tell stories.
I say that as if the film’s plot would have been more enjoyable had they done a better job of setting up their cinematic universe, but I doubt it would have helped. When it’s all said and done, Suicide Squad is another generic PG-13 action romp, just with a little bit more color, and a handful of “pussies” to give the dialogue some edge. The main difference is there’s a psychotic clown, and though they even tried to ruin him with obnoxious tattoos and a distracting grill, Jared Leto still tries to do the best with what he’s given. There’s not enough material to make a final judgement, but if this movie is anything to go by, he’s easily the creepiest Joker we’ve seen on screen yet.
Though Suicide Squad is packed with an all-star cast, some great licensed music, and a ton of characters who could one day be interesting in this universe, none of that is enough to save it from being a complete train wreck. Their previous effort was too bloated, and while this suffers the same fate, it also has the unfortunate addition of outlining the studio’s current identity crisis. It’s trying so hard to be goofy and wacky, but in the same breath, the film tries to give you something darker and more introspective. The inconsistent tone shows a studio with clashing ideas on how to move forward, and unless they shape up, this isn’t going to last long.