For a lifelong comic book fan, this is getting frustrating. To be fair, Suicide Squad is a step up, in some ways, from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It’s just not a big enough step to call it a good movie.
The concept is a simple one. In a world where super-powered threats exist, the government decides it would be prudent to put together a super-team of its own to deal with them. However, since the moral compass of the average super-hero might prevent them from following certain orders, the powers-that-be decide to assemble their secret hit-squad from the ranks of incarcerated super-villains instead. If those villains cooperate, they get time off their sentences; if they get out of line, the bombs implanted in their necks take their heads off. It’s basically The Dirty Dozen with super powers.
With such a setup, Suicide Squad could easily have been DC’s equivalent of Marvel’s highly successful The Guardians of the Galaxy. Unfortunately, where that movie took a bunch of C-list characters and let us get to know them organically over the course of the story, Suicide Squad chooses instead to introduce its sizable cast in a seemingly endless series of clunky flashbacks. There are some good moments amidst the barrage of montages, and probably more laughs than in DC’s last two films combined, but overall it gives the movie a herky-jerky rhythm that it never really recovers from.
Still, it does allow us to become fleetingly familiar with most of the movie’s dirty not-quite-a-dozen. In no particular order, the lineup includes Deadshot (Will Smith), a master marksman who claims to love nothing, yet pines to be with his estranged daughter; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a former psychologist turned sociopath thanks to her obsessive infatuation with Batman’s arch-nemesis, The Joker (Jared Leto); Diablo (Jay Hernandez ), a pyrokinetic who refuses to use his powers after accidentally incinerating his wife and children; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a reptilian looking strongman who acts like a monster because everyone treats him like one; Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), an amoral thief with no qualms about using his razor-edged weapons of choice; and The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), a 6,400-year-old pagan sorceress possessing the body of timid archaeologist June Moone. All of these psychotics are shepherded by Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a samurai whose sword traps the soul of anyone it slays, and Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), America’s most capable special forces officer. Flag in turn answers to Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the heartless head of Task Force X who will do anything to guarantee the safety of her country, even break all of its laws.
Waller is by far the most interesting (and best acted) character in the film as she represents the moral quandary at the heart of the whole concept. In her worldview, no deed is too vile when it comes to ensuring national (and ultimately international) security. Given this, it would have been interesting if the film had spent a little time exploring whether or not Waller’s decisions could be considered moral under the criteria for double effect or just warfare. Unfortunately, time is something of an enemy to this film despite its two-plus hour running time. So, not long after the Squad is assembled, Waller is effectively jettisoned from a good portion of the narrative to make way for a series of fight scenes with the film’s big bad and his minions. I would tell you more about him, but he is such a generic comic book movie threat that I’m not sure they even say his name more than once during the whole picture.
There’s also an ultimately distracting subplot involving the Joker’s attempts to retrieve Harley from her captors. Much pre-release ado was made over Jared Leto’s method-acting antics as he assumed the iconic role of the Clown Prince of Crime, but it doesn’t amount to much onscreen. There’s simply not enough space for him to develop the character and so his performance comes across as little more than an actor trying way too hard to be different from what came before him. Most unfortunate is a flashback (this movie might just set a record for those) to a scene in a strip club which basically portrays the Joker as a glorified ‘gangsta’ and Harley as his most treasured whore.
This one moment exemplifies the recent poor decision-making DC has displayed when it comes to adapting their characters to cinema. Can someone please explain how a company that has created a pantheon of modern day mythological wonders and guided them through 75 years of stories, including some darn fine ones on the big screen, all of a sudden can’t seem to make a decent motion picture? It’s getting beyond frustrating.