Suicide Squad (2016)
Directed by David Ayer
Suicide Squad, following Batman V. Superman, is the first real expansion of DC Comics' extended cinematic universe. And it's not exactly a good start.
After the events of Batman V. Superman metahumans are emerging from the woodworks. Some of them are bad. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a government official, has the bright idea to use some of these villainous metahumans to tackle situations that would otherwise be too much to handle with ordinary means. Naturally, one such situation quickly appears. Waller is given the go-ahead to form her team: Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and Slipknot (Adam Beach). The team inserts into Midway City to extract a high-ranking government official but, as with all things, the mission changes.
Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: the problem with Suicide Squad isn't that it's a bad movie, necessarily... it's just not a good one. It's written terribly, has characters with no back story and minimal chemistry, is 50% irrelevant in its portrayal, is inconsistent and slow without the benefit of adequate storytelling or suspense to make up for it, and in general makes almost no sense.
The exposition is nonexistent. From the jump the team already exists. Ayer makes use of extensive flashbacks to flesh out the characters but it just isn't enough. There just isn't enough backstory for us to understand any of the characters. In fact, the only character with backstory worth mentioning is El Diablo, and we don't learn anything meaningful about him until an hour and a half into the movie. Even then, it's another flashback.
The bad guy makes no sense. She explains her motivation in about three lines of dialogue, but that's nowhere near enough. Additionally, the world is at stake again. That gets awfully boring, especially when the weapon of mass destruction is nonsensical, jumbled up, CGI magic.
But the unfortunate fact is that there are far more bad things than good.
Even though the CGI is good work, the photography itself is boring. The movie is advertised as (and even the title sequences are) extremely colorful and bursting with neon and comic effects. But the movie is actually very dreary. It seems to suffer from the same thing that plagued Man of Steel. While the look was very sleek and pretty, overall it seemed to have a sepia-like tint that dulled all of the colors and darkened everything. Suicide Squad is the same; there's an overarching dullness to match the gritty realism that Warner Brothers is trying to portray. But that doesn't make for an interesting looking movie. And the dreamlike, neon flashbacks that Harley Quinn has doesn't help matters, they just serve to punctuate the lack of consistency in the storytelling.
Further, the soundtrack feels completely out of touch with the movie. There's nothing natural about it. It's forced, slapped onto scenes as Ayer/WB/DC/whoever tries to force an upbeat or comical atmosphere. In the first five minutes of the movie we get three overtures of pop-rock to introduce the squad. And it just isn't the right feeling for the look and character of the dark, opening scenes of Suicide Squad.
Don't get me wrong... this is a fun movie and there are some good things about it. There are four, shooty fights. We get to see some cool powers. Rick Flag is dedicated and works hard. Will Smith is an awesome anti-hero. Harley Quinn is pretty and (can be) funny. El Diablo is a fucking badass. Captain Boomerang is ridiculous and over the top. Katana is a great fighter. Enchantress is mysterious and awe-inspiring. Even Waller is cool. As a team they have a really interesting dynamic. And Suicide Squad has a lot of interesting things in it.
But the unfortunate fact is that there are far more bad things than good. The story is halting and jarred, with the flashbacks muddling up the flow. The lack of exposition makes things hard to understand. There's hardly any consistency with a few exceptions. Harley Quinn turns into a lovably crazy, punchline generator; Rick Flag is mission oriented and single-minded in his resolve; Waller takes no shit.
Beyond this, there's too many inconsistencies and nonsensical shit. For instance, Waller gets the "loyalty" of the team by putting nano-bombs in their necks, under threat of killing them if they run, deny orders, or fail the mission. They don't like this arrangement. At one point she stands two feet away from them, the world's most dangerous assassin, an ex-gang boss who can control fire, a psychopathic criminal with a penchant for murder (and hears voices), a crazy Australian who kills with boomerangs... they make very aware to Waller that they don't like her, so she pulls her phone out with the buttons ready to detonate whoever moves against her. But she can't see the actual screen because of the way she holds the phone for them to see. Despite that (and despite being two feet away from her) they accept her threat. Some of the most dangerous people in the world... do not take advantage of being within arms reach... even when Waller can't actually see her phone's screen.
There are many instances like that: situations or writing that makes no sense. Special ops guys not seeing it when a phone's slipped to a chained up prisoner a couple feet in front of them. Waller killing three techs who were helping her even though they're all fighting to save lives. El Diablo calling the team his new family even though there was only one scene (10 minutes prior) where they connected. In fact, Jared Leto's Joker could've been cut altogether and the movie wouldn't have changed at all.
There's obviously so much more to the movie that was meant to be included. But none of it comes to fruition. I've said it for other comic movies, that it feels like there's so much more beneath the surface that's waiting to be shown or explained or for the characters to talk about or argue about, but it never comes out. The writers have just failed spectacularly to introduce anything competently. Slipknot is like a last-minute inclusion to make a point; Katana is like a last-minute inclusion because Japanese sword; actually, the only characters with enough screen time to actually make an impact are Rick Flag, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and Amanda Waller. They could've (should've) just made a movie about the four of them and it would've been immensely better. It could've actually gotten the ball rolling towards a good Suicide Squad movie instead of this cobbled together mess.
DC and Warner Brothers are trying desperately to have an epic, action piece that they can milk. They want that synergy of interesting character relationships and gritty fights and beautiful, CGI superpowers, the same kind that Marvel has with The Avengers and (to a lesser degree) Guardians of the Galaxy. But this is not their answer. There just isn't enough to make it work. No lead up, no exposition, no logic. Maybe they'll get it right with Justice League but judging by Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad there isn't a lot to be hopeful for.
TL;DR: Suicide Squad is actually a fun ride at times. But it's bogged down by the pure drivel of its pacing, atmosphere, and writing. Some of the fighting is entertaining but most of the time it's just too dark to make heads or tails of what's going on. Not even the music can lighten things up. A couple of the characters are fun but they turn into single-dimensional anti-heroes: the soldier, the Latino, rehabbed gangster, the crazy punchline queen; and most of them just don't have enough screen time to be worthwhile. The most interesting character doesn't even make an impact in the movie...
- Acting – 14 / 20
- Story – 4 / 20
- Cinematography – 5 / 20
- Soundtrack – 0 / 10
- Entertainment Factor – 8 / 10
- Superhero/Action – 6 / 10
- Other – 5 / 10