Posted : 10 months, 2 weeks ago on 7 August 2016 03:54
(A review of
Out of the three entries we have in DC’s cinematic universe, Suicide Squad is the one I enjoy the most. But that praise doesn’t amount to much when you consider how sloppy and frayed the three films are. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman are drunk upon painterly compositions that don’t amount to much or service the narrative in any meaningful way. And those narratives are frustrating affairs in which smart themes and story choices are presented in the dumbest possible manner or the absence of humor or joy or wonder in a superhero narrative.
Suicide Squad is something of a minor corrective to those films, but it’s not enough to praise WB and DC for. The hands of studio interference are visible in the way the film feels distinctively like two separate visions awkwardly blended. It has stretches that are highly entertaining, but it mistakenly sticks several characters that belong in a shaggier, smaller scope into an end-of-the-world scenario, sloppy edits, and a noticeable lack of character development. Having read the Suicide Squad comics, I knew who everyone was and what the dynamics with each other were (or where they were heading), but I can’t imagine too many first-comers easily grasping the world we’re occupying.
At least the ensemble is, barring two players, uniformly strong. Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, and Jai Courtney are the obvious standouts as Amanda Waller, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and Boomerang. No shock to anyone who has read the comics, as those are the standout and major characters, and it’s a shame that El Diablo (Jay Hernandez, doing well with what little he’s given), Katana (Karen Fukuhara, in a wasted role), and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, buried under impressive movie makeup) get lost in the shuffle.
Too many characters to introduce and not enough time to flesh many of them out leads to several players in Suicide Squad to essentially just stand around waiting for the plot to suddenly need them to complete a task. This doesn’t feel like an organic outgrowth of the story, but the story folding in on itself to provide a reason for including the characters.
Yet the plot never finds a successful means of incorporating the Joker, and his presence is a mere afterthought in the grand scheme of things. He’s a major player, and an absolute necessity in explaining the origins of Harley Quinn, sequences that are obvious highlights like the homage to the famous Alex Ross painting of them embracing or the two kissing in a vat of chemicals in Ace Chemicals. The movie halts whenever he reemerges aside from these scenes, and Jared Leto’s neurotic, tic-laden performance does no one any favors. Leto’s always been a self-consciously flashy actor, never going beyond the mere surface twitches to get to the heart of a character, and his nervy flourishes here at big distractions.
At least Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress finds the model-actress embracing some kind of kitsch. Granted, Enchantress has been a member of the Squad in the past comics, but her presence would feel more at home in the proposed-but-canceled Justice League Dark film. Delevingne clearly cast less for her still-developing acting talents and more for her history as a model as her character wears a series of outlandish outfits. She’s enjoying herself though, contorting her body like a Ray Harryhausen monster and wearing headdresses with the élan of Maria Montez in Cobra Woman.
There lies a major problem with Suicide Squad, with Enchantress going rogue as a villain with her sights set on remaking the world in her twisted image and insurmountable powers, the stakes feel too outlandish and strangely dull for what is essentially a covert ops team. They need smaller, character-focused stories to shine. More scenes like them hanging out in a bar are needed, and far less of them firing guns at never-ending goopy zombie armies.
Even worse is a soundtrack that feels so on the nose, you’ll wonder if the producers got an iTunes discount for buying them in bulk or something. Amanda Waller is introduced to the sounds of “Sympathy for the Devil,” telegraphing everything you’d need to know about the character in the laziest manner possible. At times these soundtrack choices feel insulting to the audience’s intelligence, as if someone in post-production didn’t trust the audience enough to grasp the story and character motivations. Or the brusque reception to Batman v Superman caused them to pivot too much of the film into something it clearly wasn’t intended to be.
Perhaps I’m just an optimist, but I’m not ready to call it a wash with DC films yet. I hold out hope that Wonder Woman will turn out successfully, and Justice League’s Comic-Con footage proved promising. But they seriously need a stronger vision tying it all together, and to drop Snyder already. There’s a much better movie lurking inside of the sloppy, messy, severely compromised version of Suicide Squad we’ve seen. Hopefully David Ayer’s original cut gets a home video release so we could see what might have been.