Third film in the DC Extended Universe of films, the first two of which are patchy and devisive (putting it mildly). Can the anarchic, and ostensibly more fun, Suicide Squad break the trend and put DC back in the race? Sadly, no.
The potential is all there. The tried and tested ‘put a bunch of misfits and social outcasts together and watch them become a team’ worked brilliantly for Guardians of the Galaxy (also a little-known comic book property). The irreverent and subversive ‘middle-finger to convention’ approach also worked to a tee in Fox’s Deadpool. Add a pop soundtrack, a director with pedigree (David ‘End of Watch’ Ayer) and a decent cast (Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto and Viola Davis), and it almost seems impossible to balls up. Yet balls it up they most certainly did. It’s a shattering, shambolic mess and another kick in the teeth for DC fans (you can hear Marvel fans sniggering a continent away).
What went wrong? Well let's start with what went right.
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is nigh on perfect. Sexy, seductive and kick-ass, but with a tender-spot that could be her Achilles heel. Robbie nails the look, the accent, the sex appeal and the attitude, and is the most watchable character by far. Will Smith’s Deadshot is arguably the most important Squad member with the most screen time (because Will Smith), and he makes an effective antihero with some decent skills, despite playing himself. Again. Viola Davis is also a strikingly memorable figure as Waller. Imagine an evil Nick Fury minus the eye-patch. And with a vagina. The film kicks off with some interesting backstories to those characters (less so on others- more on that later), an imaginative sense of style, and a couple of ace cameos from a certain DC favourite. Whenever he shows up, it feels like the DCEU is a properly established world, and it works. A bit of humour peppered throughout (some from Jai Courntey’s Fosters-swilling comic relief Aussie bruiser Boomerang) is also a plus point in a universe so far devoid of laughs.
It’s here the plus points begin to peter out.
The other characters are a waste. Leto’s Joker never shines, having been banished to the sidelines for most of the film. Mexican meta-human Diabolo doesn’t do much but hold his hands out and let the special effects team do the rest. Katana is a dull stereotype with nothing to elevate her above any other samurai woman ever (Kill Bill and Sin City have much better ones). Killer Croc looks the part but is useless as a distinctly Unincredible Hulk. Having him do the old ‘saying something at a key moment when everyone thought he couldn’t talk’ cliché doesn’t make him a fan favourite. It just tells us that David Ayer saw One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. Joel Kinnamon does a better than expected acting job, but his character adds nothing to the story so whats the point? Cara Delevigne is quite a visually striking villain in her many forms, but she’s essentially just another generic big bad who spends the film building a portal/ weapon. Yawn. Again there are vague and baffling motivations that don’t appear to make sense. Why are such underpowered individuals being employed anyway, if the threat is superhuman? What can Harley do with a baseball bat that special forces can't? In fact only Diabolo and Deadshot have any special abilities that could conceivably enhance a conventional military arsenal. So we‘re left with the awkward realisation that The Suicide Squad has no real reason to exist at all, so why should we care about any of this?
Worse still, the film is incredibly choppy and never coheres into a flowing narrative. The best way to describe it is as the cut scenes from an Arkhum game cut together into a feature length film, and that’s your movie. It really is that disjointed and insubstantial.
The worst crime of all however is that Suicide Squad is nowhere near as edgy or out there they sold it to be, or as the early part of the film seems to promise. The film just tells us how ’crazy’ it is by simply having the characters behave badly for a minute, or throwing in another lazy and ill-fitting pop song to hammer home what a ‘wacky’ time your supposed to be having. And the longer the film goes on, the more it slips back towards convention and mediocrity before we arrive at a stultifyingly generic action finale.
If there's going to be a next time, get rid of all the redundant characters, work harder on the Harley/ Joker relationship, bring in Batman more often, and leave the big CG monsters for another franchise. A story might also be welcome.