Suicide Squad Review - A shamble of a script destroys one of the superhero genre's most promising blockbusters
When a film as promising as DC and Warner Bros’ latest venture Suicide Squad (2016) winds up as nothing more than a cacophonous burst of light and sound, it can be considered not just disappointing, but downright criminal. Bad pun aside, the fifth superhero offering of the year misses the mark big time with beyond poor pacing, cementing 2016 in the history books as the one for DC’s downfall. While it is easy to praise Marvel’s meticulous control over their films now that they are nearly thirteen pictures deep into their shared universe, what puts their cinematic comic-book adaptations a step above their DC competition is the fact they can hold their own as both standalone and interconnected action pieces. Unable to tread the fine line between pandering to fans and boldly stepping outside the box the studio wants to put you in, the Suicide Squad gang unfortunately wind up more a bland band than dream team.
It’s hard to describe the film’s storyline, as it is at once both painful and pointless. To emphasize this fact we need only look at the first few minutes, with disastrous director David Ayer not even able to figure out where the title should go, splashing it haphazardly across the screen smack bang in the middle of a scene. It only gets worse from there, with the whole first half of the film based around the exposition of our titular team, telling those who have never heard of DC’s ‘Worst. Heroes. Ever’ just how they came to be who they are. We’ve got Will Smith’s straight-shooting father Deadshot, Margot Robbie’s lovestruck fangirl Harley Quinn, Jay Hernandez’s hot-headed El Diablo, Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje scaly and surly Killer Croc and Jai Courtney’s beautifully bogan Captain Boomerang. Titled Task Force X, the team are assembled to takedown a nasty ‘terrorist’ in mid-town, who just happens to be an evil entity known as Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). Things only get stranger from there, but by then we’re almost three-quarters of the way through the film and are too busy wondering why we haven’t seen more of the action sequences we’ve been promised.
Sadly, not even a soundtrack that spans Eminem to Creedence Clearwater Revival can save this pieced-together picture. Although it looked bright and stylish in the lead up to its launch, with eighties music blaring in its trailers, ultimately Suicide Squad lacks the same smooth or slick style of its Marvel movie counterparts. Where they ooze charm and clearly have a dedicated group of writers pouring over every last detail, DC instead are rushing their creations right into the ground. So far, the studio has failed to deliver us even one decent film in their extended cinematic universe, trying too hard and focusing on dark and violent tones. Like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) comic timing goes right out the window in this film as well, as jokes hang half-finished in an awkward and agonising silence. Majority of the film’s failures though can be boiled down to David Ayer’s belief that he alone could deliver DC a shining star. Seriously, did no-one in the executive team think to question a script centred on a gang of villains calling themselves ‘family’ after just hours together? Nor ask about the inclusion of absurd story-splaining lines like ‘The Joker and Harley Quinn are gone’?
One thing Suicide Squad does deliver on however is its psychedelic tone. Bright colours pop on screen as the costumes and cars accentuate the comic book origins of the story. If only the film had remained focused on that element however, instead of pushing audiences to their limits with countless flashbacks and slow-motion moments. These are about as confusing as the film’s treatment of women, with the most prominent badass characters, Enchantress and Amanda Waller, both played by what was once the stereotypically ‘fairer’ gender. Despite that, the main marketing girl, Harley Quinn, gets punched and paraded around, part of an abusive relationship that evokes an ethically ambiguous tenor to the film. Even Katana (Karen Fukuhara) who is one of the most normal characters of the bunch is rarely heard speaking for herself, instead smothered into silence and a sidekick role by Colonel Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman).
Despite boasting one of the biggest and best ensemble cast’s in recent years, hardly any of the characters make it out of Suicide Squad as more than one-dimensional set pieces. One character is so neglected the filmmakers forget to introduce him, despite being a prominent part of the marketing campaign, imbuing him with the worst talent imaginable, before he is thoughtlessly killed off mere minutes into the second act. And no, I’m not even talking about Scott Eastwood nameless soldier, who suffers a somewhat similar fate. Notable exceptions to the trend include Robbie’s Harley Quinn, who is delightfully unhinged and loveable at the same time. Similarly, Jared Leto’s version of the Joker is neither terrible nor exceptional, but is instead criminally underused. Crazy and chaotic he has down pat, now all he needs is more development in the way of his clown-y comedy in future films. Best of all though is Jai Courtney’s quintessential Australian larrikin Captain Boomerang. Drinking beers in the middle of a fight, inappropriately asking girls out and brawling bad guys, this movie certainly marks his comeback from critically panned performances in A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) and Terminator Genisys (2015).
In the end, Suicide Squad leaves audiences with only a raft of unanswered questions. Like the who, what, where and why surrounding Delevingne’s Enchantress. And whatever happened to the cute pink unicorn Captain Boomerang carried around? Most importantly though, we are left wondering whether there is any way to get those two hours of our lives back. Perhaps Wonder Woman (2017) or Justice League (2017) can turn the tables back for DC, the potential is undoubtedly there to be tapped into. The only way that will be possible though, is if they stop trying to compete with the Marvel monster and realise there is enough space for two great superhero franchises in this world.
Rating: 1.5 Anti-Heroes out of 5
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