Movie Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

The most talked about super hero movie of the summer is here, but does Suicide Squad successfully deliver on its incredible potential or does the DCCU continue to fall behind Marvel’s success?

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The advent of Suicide Squad has had the internet in a tizzy for the past year or so. Fans of Harley Quinn have been popping out of the woodwork and jumping on an already overstuffed bandwagon, which has been around (and never been fuller) since 1993. And Suicide Squad had a lot of potential. The concept of having bad people do good things under the thumb of even worse people has a lot of potential and brings a different flavor to the superhero genre which is oversaturated with goody-two shoes and tights. It’s the perfect post-modern super hero movie, the movie of the anti-hero and morally grey protagonists.

And DC failed to fully capture this potential.

Good First Act, Shoddy Rest Of The Movie

The first act of Suicide Squad was really solid. David Ayer’s creative and directive ability really shone through. Characters were introduced in a trendy montage very reminiscent of Ocean’s Eleven with multicolored text popping up to give viewers a brief description of the character and their abilities. Musical cues and pop culture tracks replaced the typical strings and horn accompaniments of typical super hero films, and there was a lot of humor coming from a humorously bizarre cast of protagonists.

The first act of Suicide Squad really reminded me of Guardians of the Galaxy, specifically with its humor and musical cues. And I found myself getting really swept up into the movie despite myself.

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Then, came the second half of the movie. And the levity and music and multicolored psychedelic fun were all replaced with a drab, plodding, typical storyline. The movie went from being very fun and very different from other superhero movies to becoming very much like Godzilla (1998) or a desperate remake of the Ghostbusters franchise. It lost all of its flavor and quickly wore out its welcome.

It would seem that Suicide Squad had two directors; one being very skilled and bold in the direction he wanted to take the film and the other sacrificing all that the first had set up to deliver a safe and bland resolution.

A Diverse Cast of Characters

Another delineating line between Suicide Squad and other super hero movies is the diversity of ethnicities we see in the main cast of characters. We have two Blacks, an Asian, and a Hispanic. With a main cast of seven characters, having four of them be a different ethnicity than just White is really refreshing. Of course, I could see lots of people complaining saying “So, we can only have diverse characters if they are criminals?” Which is understandable, but I rather like to focus on the fact that, in the end, these criminals may not be heroes, but they are definitely human with a bad side as well as a good side to them.

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The Clown Princess of Crime

SQUAD1I am very against the bandwagon and even more against all the people that jump on the bandwagon. So, you can understand my revulsion at the sudden influx of Harley Quinn fans that have surfaced this year. I had similar feelings in 2008 when The Dark Knight came out and everyone was like, “I love the Joker! I’ve always loved the Joker!” (Read a comic book, scrubs.)

However (much like in 2008) the overladen bandwagon of Tumblr girls wearing pasty, white makeup and smeared mascara did not prevent me from enjoying what was a really great performance. I can readily say that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was the best part of Suicide Squad – and I did not expect to leave the movie thinking that. She was genuinely funny, deliciously psychotic, and did a great job portraying the character that Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and Tara Strong breathed life into in 1992.

But the character wasn’t perfect.

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 12.18.57 PMFor years now, I’ve really disagreed with how sexual DC has made Harley Quinn. At one point in time, she wore a ditsy, ridiculous harlequin onesie, but in recent years they replaced the onesie and have given her fishnet stockings and shorts that have seemingly gotten shorter and tighter with every passing year. Suicide Squad has taken what, over the years, had become a deep, interesting character and instead made her into an intensely sexualized mascot parody of what the character truly is.

Also, her motivation (much like the motivations of the entire cast) was never discussed fully. She’s anarchic and crazy, but all she wants is a picket-fence, middle-class American life? I’m not sure David Ayer truly knew how to handle the character of Harley Quinn.

A Smile I’d Rather Not Have Seen

Ah, Jared Leto as the Joker. The topic that set the internet aflame when his character was first revealed. I’ll be honest and say that Jared Leto’s Joker was overhyped, from the set pictures, to the method-acting techniques, to the disturbing on-set pranks between his co-stars; Jared Leto did not live up to the legacy of truly wonderful live-action portrayals of Joker and certainly didn’t live up to Mark Hamill’s iconic animated Joker in the least.

clac5f_wgaantbzFirst of all, he wasn’t funny. There was no humor in Jared’s Joker. Even in The Dark Knight, with Heath Ledger’s decidedly unhinged and terrifying portrayal of Joker, we got humor. Jared Leto’s performance makes the Joker out to be more of a Black Mask (if you are familiar with tertiary Batman villains), a crime boss running his criminal organization from a club. He’s tatted up, tic-ridden, and has a laugh like a sixty-year chronic smoker. Nothing about his performance thrilled me and his role in the movie impressed me even less.

Secondly, Joker is in this movie because Harley Quinn is in the movie. That’s the only logical explanation of his inclusion. He adds truly nothing to the plot other than giving Harley Quinn a chance to (kind of) double-cross her teammates and bail on them, but even then she returns to the team to finish the mission. So, what’s the point of the Joker in Suicide Squad? Just to have a fan-favorite villain? Can Harley Quinn not carry herself in her own outing? After Margot Robbie’s stellar performance, I’d say she can.

Of course, Joker and Harley Quinn’s demented relationship will give caulrophiliacs and sadists plenty to get hot and bothered about. People idolize Joker and Harley Quinn’s abusive relationship and it’s a bit unhealthy. I could see such fans getting off to numerous interactions between the two, namely one scene where Joker dives into a vat of acid to save Harley Quinn (whom he convinced to jump into the acid in the first place) and in which they subsequently make out in as their clothes melt off into the acid, leaving swirling candy-colored ink all around their pasty white bodies.

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Yeah. A very colorful and artsy scene, but it was weird.

I’d rather Joker’s role in the movie be relegated to little or not at all. He is pivotal to Harley Quinn’s backstory since he created her, but having him pursue her in the movie is pointless and not really explained. Early on in the movie, we see Joker abuse and hurt Harley and even abandon her so he can escape from Batman. Then, all of a sudden he really cares for Harley and will stop at nothing to take her back.

Hold on. Is this faulty character development or just Joker’s wishy-washy psychosis kicking in? Because I’m lost.

We’re Cool Now… Right? 

Another point of poor writing was the criminals suddenly becoming all cool with each other in the film’s resolution. Repeatedly we are told that these criminals are hardened, selfish, and would rather cut and run at the first chance they get. Then, suddenly they are calling each other family.

This sudden sense of camaraderie makes no sense and had no events leading up to it. In fact, the teammates had been at each other’s throats the majority of the movie. So, for them to suddenly be all cool with each other was a surprising if not trite and foreseeable plot point in what had been a predictable second half.

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Side-Note: In the first act we are introduced to every member of the team and then suddenly two new team members are introduced with no explanation. One is Katana and the other wasn’t even around long enough for me to catch his name, so I refer to him as Grapple-Hooky-Guy. Why these characters weren’t introduced in the opening montages is just further example of choppy storytelling. Also, as cool as Katana is, her role in the movie was minimal and she may as well have not been included.

The Acting

capture10As was already mentioned Margot Robbie killed it as Harley Quinn. Viola Davis, too, played a cold and calculating and decidedly evil Amanda Waller. I also enjoyed Jai Courtney’s nutty Captain Boomerang and was impressed with Jay Hernandez’s Diablo. But other than that, there were no notable performances. Will Smith played Will Smith, which is always enjoyable, but doesn’t really stretch the actor’s chops at all. Cara Delevigne’s portrayal of Dr. June Moone is expressionless and her portrayal of the hip-swiveling, twitchy, and villainous Enchantress is laughable.

The Music

With tracks like “Seven Nation Army” and “Spirit In The Sky”accompanying the beginning of the movie, you would think this movie’s soundtrack would be stellar. Unfortunately, halfway through the movie, the soundtrack is replaced by a brooding orchestral score which is as bland as the plot it accompanies. Of course, the new and incredibly catchy “Sucker for Pain” and “Heathens” have been stuck in my head since yesterday.

The Kids

Is this movie appropriate for kids? I should think not.

There is plenty of expletives, sexual content, and disturbing imagery. You must have already been able to tell just from the commercials that this movie is much darker and disturbing than your typical super hero movie. Of course, parents allowed their children to see Deadpool

The Grade

Suicide Squad offers a cast and premise that is perfect for a post-modern super hero film, maybe even more so than Batman. While DC was tantalizingly close to having a blockbuster hit, a plodding, choppy second half, few notable performances, and poor writing kept Suicide Squad from being the unlikely saviors that were destined to bring DC out of the muck and mire of Batman V Superman.

I give Suicide Squad a grade of…

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I know my opinion of Suicide Squad is definitely not an opinion shared by most movie goers, so what do you think? Do the critics have it right or is everyone being too harsh on this movie? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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