Last night DC’s third entry in to its DC Extended Universe, its film universe like the Marvel MCU, released to the general public. Suicide Squad opened with a $20.5 million Thursday night release snagging an August record. This movie is different than basically any other comic book movie in that it is based on a group of bad guys from across the DC comic catalog being forced to team up and fight evil. The best description of this movie comes from one of the film’s stars Will Smith when he said that most of these movies are good vs evil where this is “bad vs evil”. Suicide Squad as a film is an interesting choice by DC/Warner Brothers to make so early in the DCEU. With the exception of Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie in this film, basically none of the characters are very well known when compared to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Flash. Choosing to release Wonder Woman after this collection of second tier characters, on June 2nd 2017 by the way, is almost… bold. Did it pay off?
A little comic book background
Suicide Squad, actually called ‘Task Force X’ in the comics, has a long history in the comics. First introduced in 1987 the team’s membership fluctuated heavily over time with the nature of the team being a glorified work release program for supervillains. Characters like Deadshot and Captain Boomerang are long term and repeat members while but others like Harley Quinn, King Shark, Enchantress (played in this movie by Cara Delevingne), and even Poison Ivy have come and gone during the run of the title. There was even a ‘New Suicide Squad’ title that saw Deathstroke, Black Manta, and Joker’s Daughter joining the team. Two years ago in 2014 Warner Brothers and DC announced that Suicide Squad was getting a movie treatment and hired Justin Marks originally to adapt with David Ayer directing, later the screenplay landed on Ayer as well. The announcement was met with some confusion by casual fans for reasons previously mentioned but long-time fans were quite excited by the possibility of finally seeing these characters on the big screen, chief among them Harley.
The Actual Review
Getting into the actual review it is important to include a SPOILER WARNING at this junction. The following review will include spoilers and discussion of specifics from the film.
Casting and Performances
Suicide Squad was cast by Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu and the casting was one of the best parts of the movie. Will Smith as casting of Deadshot was an interesting choice but proved to actually be a strong choice. With Will’s recent string of not-so-well performing films it was important for him to stand up and show how strong he could be and he did. Margot Robbie’s standout role alongside Leonardo De Caprio in Wolf of Wall Street launched the actress and her stunning looks made her a great physical candidate for Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn. However besides being able to fit the bill physically but Miss Robbie handled the entire roll of Harley perfectly, capturing the emotion, the crazy, and even the scary that the character needed. With little knowledge of comic characters like El Diablo and Captain Boomerang I felt as though both characters were handled really well, Jai Courtney adding a lot of humor as the latter. The unfortunate character was Slipknot whose entire time in the movie was basically shown in the trailers before his head was blown off trying to escape.
Comic book fan boys love an opportunity to speculate and Suicide Squad gave them that. The level to which the movie makers were able to keep a lid on things was pretty impressive. Going into the theater there existed a large number of questions like who the villain was even going to be, what role the Joker would play, where Enchantress would land, and who Scott Eastwood was actually playing. When it was revealed that Enchantress and her brother were in fact the villain one could almost hear the cheer of those who had made that very prediction. Having a movie centered around a villain with magical powers the effects, both practical and computer generated, would have to be strong and they were. With a heavy slant towards CG effects over the practical, this movie delivered very nicely. At no point during the film was there a clear delineation between the CG effects and the physical set which always great because the scene isn’t broken. While it was unclear what kind of “machine” Enchantress was trying to assemble, other than it would destroy all the humans… apparently, the graphics of whatever it was were cool looking and tightly designed. Character design was also excellent, particularly with Enchantress. When Dr. June Moon transitioned to her alter ego in the War Room meeting scene by having the opposing entity’s hand intertwining fingers with and the flipping places with Dr. Moon I was supremely impressed; quite possibly one of the best transition scenes of this kind to date. Once transformed the character of Enchantress carried a cool dirty haze around her which doubled her creepy factor. Scenes with Killer Croc, aka Waylon Jones, were also well done despite not really keeping to the scale the character has in the comics; not something they would have been able to easily do without going to a complete CG character like Hulk from the Avengers or Colossus like in Deadpool. The fire scenes involving El Diablo were also really well done, fire is one of those effects that can easily look… wrong.
Director David Ayer has several big recent movies under his belt ranging from the Brad Pitt lead WWII drama Fury in 2014 to End of Watch in 2012 clear back to Street Kings in 2008 with his earlier writing credits way back in 2000 with U-571, back before Matthew McConaughey lost his way and needed to reroute his career. The direction on Suicide Squad was just okay. After watching all the trailer leading up to seeing the theatrical cut of the film it would have been nice if those involved in cutting the absolutely spectacular trailers had been involved because there existed rather notable discrepancy between the ton of those outstanding trailers and the movie’s final cut.
Carrying not only the directing duties but the writing duties too Mr. Ayer performed the former to a higher degree than the latter. The biggest problem with this movie was by far the script. Great casting and great performances can only do so much for a movie when the actors are given a problematic scrip. The pace of the film was too fast and chaotic. The formation of the team, the approval that it even exist, happened and then suddenly within what appeared to be a day or two things fall apart, Enchantress goes rouge, and the team is called up. It is very unclear whether the Enchantress’s onslaught on Midway City was fought in 1 day or 10+ days before the team even arrived. The amount of damage and how widespread it is seems to support 10+ days though. Another weird thing is that in a scene where a captured Bravo Team is brought before Enchantress by here… blobby headed converted human henchman she kisses one team member to change him and for him to join her army. Does that mean she spent the first few hours or days of her attack… kissing people to build her army? Attempting to provide backstories for a couple of the team members brought awkward transitions, hard cuts, and rough transitions back to the main story. One final big plot point that created discomfort while watching was all the discussion of MetaHumans, using Metahumans to fight other Metahumans, being fearful of Metahumans, talk of being lucky that the Metahuman Superman was on our side but that others might not be next time was all well and good, and clear attempt to build up Justice League for 2017, didn’t seem to even be applicable to the team. Consider that Captain Boomerang, Katanna, Rick Flagg, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and the short lived Slipknot weren’t even Metahumans to begin with so why make the argument that they would be any better at stopping someone like a bad Superman? So out of 9 team members, prior to Enchantress ditching them, only three were MetaHumans, and Croc is only kind of one. Ultimately it felt like the script was cut together from several drafts and lacked cohesion and flow, or possibly Ayer has a few pivotal scenes he really wanted and then worked backwards to find ways to connect them with the sections in between feeling forced.
Utilizing the common 5 star ratings, without fractions, this movie is a solid 3 out of 5. From the opening scenes to the closing expect to be entertained but not much more. For the third entry in the DCEU Suicide Squad is move in the right direction no matter how you look at it. Man of Steel and Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice were progressively better but subpar. When the commonly associated competitor Marvel Studios has been put out above average movies with fewer glaring problems it seems that DC still has some growing to do. One can only hope Wonder Woman take another, or even better a few, steps further.
Like with Batman Vs Superman and its director Zack Snyder, David Ayer included several direct-from-the comic book-pages scenes or glaring visual references to the comics for uber fans (most relating to Joker and Harley) such as Harley’s original costume, the Joker and Harley dancing together with Joker in a tux, and the New52’s ‘Birth of Harley’ scene among others. These scenes though brief were really great breadcrumbs for long time fans.