Movie Review : Suicide Squad (2016)
Hollywood's greedy infatuation with comic book characters began, to my knowledge, with Sam Raimi's Spiderman in 2002. The movie was decent, but it kicked off an unhealthy gold rush among major studios as to who would make the most money off superheros, which is a dangerous game to play, even for the most hardcore capitalists. Warner Brothers seemed to be winning the war in 2012, when crafty and passionate director Christopher Nolan put the finishing touches to his majestic Dark Knight Trilogy. WB's biggest success became a problem though when they announced TEN new DC Universe-based movies, spearheaded by the terrible and self-congratulating Zack Snyder.
David Ayer's Suicide Squad was condemned to forever being linked to Snyder's Batman V. Superman fiasco the minute reshoots were announced in the wake of WB's lead effort's crippling failure. I've bought into Suicide Squad's hyper for over a year though, so I said "fuck this noise," and decided to make my own opinion on this damned movie. Truth is, Suicide Squad is obnoxious, clumsy, but it's actually not bad? I wouldn't say it's a good movie either, but it's not a fiasco of the magnitude critics announced.
The story of Suicide Squad is confusing. A shadowy government official named Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) decides to form a hit squad of nefarious metahuman * criminals for vague black ops purposes. So, she recruits hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), the Joker's psychotic girlfriend Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Slipknot (Adam Beach), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), the Enchantress (Cara Delevigne) and her non-criminal boyfriend (Joel Kinnaman) to do the dirty work. Except that the Echantress doesn't give a fuck about the government (or the human race for all that matters), all hell breaks loose and that's pretty much your story right there. That's the best I can put it.
The minute Warner Brothers announced Suicide Squad would go through extensive recuts and even a reshoot, the movie was doomed to be judged by it's level of studio interference. The first hour is rather painful in that regard. The task of introducing such a heavy cast is undoubtedly daunting, but Warner Brothers obviously didn't trust their audience enough to take a liking to their motley crew of comic book villains and worked very hard to make them come off as mischievous and misunderstood outcasts. They even have their own respective and awkwardly appropriate theme song. What is this? The WWE? By the time Deadshot gave a shooting exhibition in the prison yard to Kanye West's Black Skinhead, I doubled over laughing and Josie started punching me on the arm because I was disturbing everyone in the theater. Point is, the studio's attempts at making the movie edgier and more colourful come off as silly.
Suicide Squad's second hour was much more enjoyable than the first though, let me tell you that. The tone was much darker and more in line with that the movie was supposed to be in the first place. WB didn't want their movie to be TOO dark, but if you're dealing with comic book villains I feel entitled not to expect a colorful, MTV edited mess. Suicide Squad's entire reason to exist is still razor thin, but at least the movie starts breathing and carrying scenes in order. David Ayer isn't a bad screenwriter at all and his talent mostly shines through Harley Quinn's and Deadshot's dialogue, who really are the only developed characters in that damned movie. A friend of mine astutely pointed out that Deadshot is just Will Smith in a Deadshot costume, which is very true, but Smith is a veteran and plays off the talented Margot Robbie to make it work.
The Joker? Not a very big part of Suicide Squad indeed. Might've been a good thing. Not only the world is still reeling from Heath Ledger's transcendent performance in 2008's The Dark Knight, but Jared Leto's Joker is a little bit of what Red Letter Media's Jay described as "a Juggalo Scarface". Leto plays the cards he's dealt with admirable energy and abandon, but this Joker is so obviously far from Ledger's that it also means he's not very good. We don't actually see much of the Joker in Suicide Squad, but he comes off as little more than a colorful gangster. That inherent darkness to him comes off as parodic. I don't begrudge David Ayer too much for it though because he probably understood from the get-go that it would have to bite the bullet. Suicide Squad's Joker had to kind of suck so we could get other good Jokers and Ayer did a good job at concealing him.
Some of you might start internet boycotts and intimidation campaigns over this, but: I didn't hate Suicide Squad. I wouldn't say I liked it either, but in the rubble of another WB orchestrated fiasco are the ruins of a decent movie with proper vision and tone. There are fun characters, snippy dialogue lines and lots of bad guys battling badder and less charismatic guys on screen and I don't know what more you can ask from a summer blockbuster in this day and age. Sure, it could've focused on crafting tense and atmospheric scenes and made it more of a contemporary Western than action movie with poor lighting, but I'd be reluctant to blame anybody but Warner Brothers their nutty CEO Kevin Tsujihara for deconstruction of something that probably worked well to begin with. I say check it out. Make your own opinion. It's not a Snyderesque turd by any means, though.
* Not a DC Universe expert here, but I believe it's their term for superheroes or "superhumans"