A secret government agency recruits a group of imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency, which inevitably leads to chaos.
Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer, is the latest installment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) of films, following Batman v. Superman which released earlier this year. There is a very apparent divide in the reception of this film, with a lot of critics receiving it poorly while fans seem to love it and believe critics are being unfair. For my part, I liked it, but it had a lot of problems.
To start things off on a positive note, I thought the cast was great. The characters were definitely the strongest part of the film, which helps for a team movie. Viola Davis portrayed Amanda Waller, the woman behind the team’s formation, and did a fantastic job bringing her ruthless, calculated leadership to life. Will Smith’s Deadshot had a good deal of humanity through his relationship with his daughter, but there was no mistaking him for an anti-hero. He’s still a cold-blooded villain and I like the way they balanced that.
Margot Robbie played a great Harley Quinn, faithful to the character while bringing her own unique spin to the role. Jared Leto’s Joker was well done too, this time around emphasizing him as more of a gangster. It was not my preferred take on him, some of his visual design is a bit much and his laugh wasn’t great, but I enjoyed him nonetheless. I was particularly happy that the Joker was woven into the story in a way that made sense to me, rather than stealing the focus for being the most iconic villain in the film. Best surprise was El Diablo, who managed to be the most sympathetic character to me and had an awesome moment displaying the extent of his power, which literally had me laughing with glee.
Some characters did falter, however, particularly Katana. She was visually cool and fun to watch in action, but she was unceremoniously introduced into the film with flimsy reasoning for why she was there. The relationship between Rick Flag, the leader of the group, and Dr. June Moone — the host body for the witch Enchantress — felt shoehorned in as well. It is established purely through exposition, and it frankly does not get much deeper than token affection and concern for one another.
The most damning weakness of this movie is its plot — the choice of villains (antagonists) especially. When nearly half of a team’s members consist of a psycho with a baseball bat, a big guy with a skin condition, and a criminal wielding boomerangs, why in the world would you pit them against god-like beings with reality-bending powers? To make matters worse, the conflict nearly immediately dissolves into the villain using a big set-piece superweapon that can destroy the world, which is shooting a blue beam of light into the sky. The second I saw this my expectations deflated significantly.
While stylistically over-the-top, the villains and conflict should have been a lot more grounded. The first act of the movie was great, though a little oddly paced, because it showcased a lot of these characters in their element and how threatening they can be to opponents at their level. While pitting them against something apocalyptic helps to justify their reasoning for wanting to stop to it, despite being villains themselves, it feels much too generic. I liked the characters, but couldn’t care less about the mission they had to pull off. Give me a villain that matches their crazy, with an army and maybe with some stolen super-science tech or something. Give me a villain that feels stylistically in tune with the rest of the damn movie.
Furthermore, there are aspects of comradery that come into play toward the end that just don’t feel earned. This mission is the first time any of them are even meeting, and there isn’t nearly enough time dedicated to showing these people, normally out for themselves and theirs, have bonded with one another. Had there been a smaller mission for them to perform in the first act as a proof-of-concept for the team, allowing them to spend more time together and group dynamics to better establish themselves, it would have been more believable.
Suicide Squad was still a fun movie. It wasn’t the cohesively over-the-top movie I wanted it to be, due largely in part to an inappropriate villain and generic plot, but the cast was strong enough to make it worth watching. With both cases of DCEU movies this year I liked them for what they did right yet I’m disappointed with all they did wrong. The DCEU really needs that one movie — their Iron Man — to grip audiences and show them this is all worth the investment. I just haven’t quite seen that yet. This movie at its best would have been an outlier to everything anyway, but I digress. This was fine, but didn’t hit the mark.