AN UNEVEN BUT RELENTLESSLY ENTERTAINING POPCORN FLICK WITH SOME OF THE WORST HEROES EVER, AND A SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT OVER BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: B- (3 stars)
WARNER BROS. PICTURES
Amanda Waller, The Joker, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Col. Rick Flag, and Captain Boomerang are the chaotic new team of heroes, Suicide Squad
Boy, DC Comics is having a rough time getting their cinematic universe going, aren’t they? The first film in the franchise, Zack Snyder’s 2013 Superman reboot, Man of Steel was a success commercially but the reviews were mixed upon release, honestly it wasn’t a terrible movie, nor was it great, it was a decent re-imagining attempt for Superman, different but passable (Not to mention movie-goers were already spoiled by Iron Man 3 and Star Trek into Darkness that summer, but I digress!).
The second film in the franchise, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, also directed by Snyder, released earlier this year in March was when it started to go downhill. It boasted a profit but the film was slammed critically, and I can see why, the movie suffered from cramming in too much into one movie and just served as a starting point for the Justice League movie, although Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot were pretty cool as Batman and Wonder Woman, they weren’t enough to save the movie.
However, when it came to DC films, there was one movie I was curious about, that film being Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer (End of Watch, Sabotage, Fury) and starring a colorful cast of characters, all nutty. When I first saw the trailer it looked like the DC equivalent to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, really when you get down to it both movies have very similar premises, a group of outlaws not respected by the world join together to save the world.
After sitting through Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I can say this movie is a lot more entertaining, unlike BvS, Suicide Squad’s characters are wild, have unique personalities, they feel alive, and best of all, they can be funny, a DC Comics movie that can be funny and exciting. I didn’t hate Batman v. Superman, nor did I really dislike it, there were good things in that movie, but the problems with that movie were it was too long, they tried to squeeze as much comic book material in there as possible, and they made Superman and Lois Lane very dull, it was like a piece of wood talking to another piece of wood…that flies, plus they put a lot of stupid elements in the film.
Suicide Squad, while flawed isn’t dull and boring, the characters in the film crack jokes, they talk to each other, have distinct and unique personalities, and of course they got The Joker (Jared Leto-Fight Club, Panic Room, Dallas Buyers Club) in there.
After the events of Batman v. Superman, intelligence operative, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis-Doubt, The Help, Prisoners) assembles a team of criminals for a chance at redemption. An evil witch who has possessed the body of archeologist, Dr. June Moone, known as the Enchantress (Cera Delevingne-Anna Karenina, Paper Towns, Pan) and her brother, Incubus plot to build a demonic machine to destroy all of mankind.
So instead of calling someone like Batman or The Flash, she calls in assassin, Deadshot (Will Smith-Men in Black trilogy, I, Robot, Hancock), crazed supervillain, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie-The Wolf of Wall Street, Focus, The Big Short) and girlfriend of her “Puddin”, The Joker, man with reptilian traits, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje-The Bourne Identity, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Thor: The Dark World), fire shooting former gang member, El Diablo (Jay Hernandez-The Rookie, Ladder 49, Bad Moms), expert martial artist and master swordsman, Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and assassin who utilizes deadly boomerangs and unhealthy pink unicorn fetishes, Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney-Jack Reacher, A Good Day to Die Hard, Terminator: Genisys) to destroy the witch’s spirit and save the world, and in return they will be granted their freedom (or at least a latté machine in their jail cells).
The film also features the return of fan-favorite, Batman (Ben Affleck-The Town, Argo, Gone Girl) in a chase sequence between him, Joker, and Harley, and in a scene involving Deadshot.
Overall, Suicide Squad is more of what I was looking for in the DC Extended Universe, dark and harsh stories, but with a sense of fun. It isn’t perfect in any way, but compared to Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, I can say this one is a lot closer to the heart of a fun superhero movie, though I think if Guardians of the Galaxy writer and director, James Gunn wrote the screenplay for this, it probably could have been as great as Tim Burton’s Batman movies or Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
What makes the film enjoyable are the performances by Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto, I can just tell by looking at them that they are having a ton of fun with their characters and it’s a huge improvement over Batman v. Superman’s characters who most of which felt very joyless, with the exception of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. But that’s only because it’s a horrible performance but he’s doing the best he can with the role to have fun with it and pretty much do whatever he wanted, it was far from being a good performance but it was entertaining and unintentionally humorous.
Really none of these characters are portrayed necessarily “Badly” and they’re enjoying the roles. Speaking of which, Jared Leto’s Joker…I like it, I don’t think his performance is as strong or iconic as Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger, but he’s taking a character we all know and doing something new and different with it, he doesn’t have the eternal grin or “Scars” and he has fillings in his teeth, really, he’s like a ghetto Joker (and I don’t mean that in a bad way.
Also his backstory is very similar to Batman 1989 and Batman: The Animated Series, we never see him as a normal human being, but it does show that toxic chemicals and acid were the cause of his appearance as well as Harley’s. Aside from Leto, Margot Robbie is a perfect Harley Quinn, we’ve never had a Harley Quinn depicted in live-action film yet, but she fits into the role very well, she’s wild, crazy, funny, sexy, and she kicks ass, everything Harley Quinn is known for, Will Smith is also great as Deadshot, kind of a traditional type of performance with him but he has fun with it and he cracks a few one-liners that get a laugh.
Leto, Robbie, and Smith make this movie, and really when they’re not on-screen, that’s when it gets kind of dull and the other characters aren’t as developed as those three, I would have liked to see more of the characters explored and the witch’s backstory, but it quickly makes up when the three of them are back in the scene.
I appreciate Suicide Squad for having a better run-time than Batman v. Superman and it keeps the focus where it needs to be. Whenever I watch Batman v. Superman (Even the Ultimate Edition) there are a lot of scenes that I would fast-forward past to get to the good stuff. This movie however, I don’t think I really need to do much fast-forwarding because Jared Leto, Will Smith, and Margot Robbie chew the scenery every time they show up.
I’m open to see if the DC Universe will learn from what works in their previous films and what doesn’t for the future to get it on the right track. Only one way to find out, Wonder Woman.