The unlikely group of super-villains teams up to save the world…
In the pursuit of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s splendour, Warner Bros. just released a third instalment of its own comic book-inspired film series. Arguably, many of the characters in their roster would be more recognisable to general public: Batman, Joker, Superman or Wonder Woman are more iconic than, say, Thor or Iron Man from Marvel Comics. And they also have equally as rich and sophisticated universe to explore, if not even more crazy and colourful. But, even with all those ingredients and characters in place, there is something sorely missing from this cinematic broth and both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman demonstrated that in a most painful way imaginable.
Suicide Squad, as directed by David Ayer, certainly presents an interesting concept to begin with: a team-up of various villains of the DC universe to create a government-controlled task force. The group includes Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Slipknot (Adam Beach). They are ebing led by ruthless government official Amanda Weller (Viola Davis) and Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). This unlikely strike team is meant to fill the void in world’s security after Superman’s alleged death at the hands of Doomsday in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Someone needs to protect the Earth against increasingly crazy supernatural events.
The serious threat they face emerges from within the group. The enigmatic Enchantress, seemingly under the control of Amanda Weller, sneakily unleashes her magic tricks and breaks free from the control of mortals. She then starts building a deadly weapon of mass destruction (of course, what else?). That is how our “heroes” are brought together as an unlikely task force to stop her. The fact that Suicide Squad faces one of their own makes the entire premise already bit pointless. And this is where the problems start. The entire idea of sending those people, most of which don’t possess any superpowers, to face a demonic entity seems ridiculous. Not only are they completely outmatched in terms of power but remain absolutely untrustworthy throughout their mission, But the powers-that-be at DC assumed those characters must team-up so they are artificially forced into this un-Justice League without any sense of coherence or logic. In the case of Marvel, different characters were slowly introduced over numerous films and audience became familiar with them. Here, they are given shoddily put together first act flashback introductions. Which means that this entire section of Suicide Squad is essentially one long montage that doesn’t really push the story forward.
The heart of the film, as it turns out, is Will Smith’s Deadshot. It is not that surprising, of course, given his still strong popularity. But his very presence is both a good and a bad thing. On one hand, it helps the film and gives us a character we can sort of root for. He tries to be a good man for his little daughter (who, by the way, doesn’t really care about her daddy being a killer). But he also turns into a terrible cliché: a soft-hearted bad man with conscience. It’s just terribly cheesy, even by Smith’s standards. Most of the other characters seem completely wasted after initially promising introductions (like Jay Hernandez’ El Diablo). Another important cornerstone of this story is Kinnaman’s Rich Flag and he receives a surprisingly large role in this film. Other characters are mostly just background extras. Jai Courtney’s only distinguishing feature is that he looks eerily like Tom Hardy in the role of Captain Boomerang. And that is funny, given that British actor was once attached to play a role in this very film.
And that is how we reach a point when it’s a good time to talk about a massive elephant in the room. Or a clown in the room, rather. Jared Leto’s portrayal of the Joker, Batman’s archnemesis, was heavily advertised and fans waited for a long time to see how his performance would hold up against the likes of Mark Hamill, Jack Nicholson or late Heath Ledger. As it turns out, his screen presence is absolutely minimal and the character has absolutely no impact on main plot. Nor does he really appear within the main narrative. Or even interact with any other major players. Really disappointing. And this leads us to the question why is he even in this film at all? Other than to sell more tickets, of course? Leto’s performance, while bit bizarre and suitably maniacal, doesn’t really ever intimidate the viewer. He makes an impression closer to Marilyn Manson, not so much the iconic Clown Prince of Crime. He lacks the egocentric charisma of Nicholson, the vocal quality of Mark Hammill, or animalistic magnetism of Heath Ledger’s take. And, as such, doesn’t really make much of an impression at all. As a comparison, Robbie’s Harley Quinn comes off as much more intimidating. Her sassy but deadly attitude helps the film in several moments, even if her character is largely reduced to.. well… not much at all.
As with Batman v Superman, the pacing and editing is beyond awkward. The film never feels like it tells a coherent story. It never gives our characters time to have an actual conversation, not counting one solid bar scene, and moves at the fast speed without ever bothering to establish any connection or build and sustain tension. Or, in fact, make us care. Even the much anticipated appearances of Ben Affleck’s Batman feel extremely rushed and underwhelming. There is also a strange discrepancy between its essentially violent story and more lighthearted family-friendly tone. While there are attempts to make it slightly breezier than previous two DC heavy-weights, which is understandable, but the tone almost tries to mimic that of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. And while it’s true that both films tell slightly similar stories about different groups of outcasts… it just doesn’t work.
Towards the end, Suicide Squad becomes a mashup of various different Hollywood blockbusters: almost a perfect cross between Marvel’s trademark third-act action climaxes and the latest infamous Ghostbusters reboot. And even if the film becomes terribly derivative at this stage, it still manages to be more entertaining than two Zack Snyder’s entries in its undemanding and daft thrills. And all those characters, each of whom belongs in a separate film, start to work as a team and save the day. What’s funny, their alleged “villainy” is shoved aside as they reach towards their heroic inner selves. There needs to be a point like that in any story like this but, sadly, without much build-up, it feels bit out of place.
In the end, it’s all marginally enjoyable in places and doesn’t swamp viewers with its over the top self-importance. Obviously, the alleged post-production issues affected the quality substantially and there are clear tonal shift that point towards Warner’s hectic attempt to make it more marketable and appealing to masses. Ironically, this is the only title in their repertoire that could actually benefit from a bit of edginess. Seems like they will never get these things right. Fortunately for Suicide Squad, there is also a much inferior Batman v Superman. And fortunately for that film, there is also the absolutely abysmal Man of Steel. So David Ayer’s film, even with all the meddling involved, is ultimately better than those two. But then, so is being shot in a leg.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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