WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Suicide Squad.
I did my best with this one. It was hard to not be cynical walking into the theatre, knowing Suicide Squad was currently sporting a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes and most of my friends that had seen the movie were reporting back that it was pretty terrible. Despite all of this, I mentally convinced myself to go in with an open mind. Let’s not get carried away, however. I wasn’t expecting the movie to be amazing by any stretch. No, the previous DCEU movies and reviews, combined with the aggressive “look how edgy we are” marketing push all told a story that at best this would be a stupid but fun action/comedy. Well, I can say that it’s definitely stupid, but I’m not sure how fun it is. And worst of all, it’s just a poorly made movie. The writing feels overly expository and on the nose, the jokes are forced, most of the characters lack dimension, the villain is lackluster, and the plot in general makes very little sense.
After hearing that DC and Warner Bros had replaced Zack Snyder as the head honcho of their film universe with Geoff Johns, I felt good that these movies were headed in the right direction. To be fair, this movie was mostly finished by the time that switch happened, so you can’t hold too much against the new creative team taking the reigns. But this makes the DCEU 0/3 on good movies, and that’s a pretty bad statistic, especially when compared to Marvel Studios’ stellar film record. But before we tear this one apart, let’s focus on the things that I did enjoy in Suicide Squad.
I’ve never been the biggest Will Smith fan. He’s pulled some good performances together in the past, but ever since he started taking himself seriously as an actor, his stuff just hasn’t worked for me. But I actually really liked him in Suicide Squad. He’s easily my favorite character in the movie. Deadshot is one of few characters in the movie with more than one layer. He loves killing dudes, but he kind of has a conscience. The whole stuff with his daughter felt kind of forced, but at least he was a dad trying to do his best in his current circumstances. And he’s actually funny! Not all of his jokes land, but his percentage is way higher than the two “comic relief” characters, Harley Quinn and Captain Boomerang. He’s also a complete badass, and one of the few members of the Suicide Squad that actually make a difference in the battles.
She doesn’t really get to do a ton in this movie, but I still really liked the performance by Viola Davis. She brings a certain gravitas to the proceedings that the other characters can’t match. It also helps us sympathize with the “heroes” of the movie. They’re pretty much all terrible criminals, but she’s even worse. Her opening scene introducing the characters and the part where she just blows a bunch of FBI agents away in cold blood were both fantastic acting moments.
I really like Ike Barinholtz as an actor, and he had several funny moments in this movie before disappearing completely when the plot didn’t need him. I’d have rather he be on the Suicide Squad team than most of the other characters.
To be fair, most of the music in Suicide Squad is licensed, but that does nothing to dispel how generally great the soundtrack is. You’ve heard most of the hits in the trailers for the movie, but they’re paired up with different scenes and really add to the feeling of bombastic fun. There are several montages in the movie, and all of them benefit from the music.
After all of the complaints held against Superman destroying Metropolis and killing thousands of people in Man of Steel, it was nice to see that they made sure the city was evacuated before the Suicide Squad went charging in. And this didn’t feel as obvious and forced as it did in Batman v Superman, where it felt like every five minutes they were reminding us that no one was around during the carnage.
DC Universe Set Up
This positive has an asterisk next to it, but we’ll get to the negative of it later on. There are really just a few moments that I’m talking about, particularly from the flashbacks where we’re introduced to our main characters. Batman being in this movie seemed like an easy way to get people excited to see it, but his inclusion does tell the story of a larger universe. There’s also a scene where Captain Boomerang gets captured by The Flash. Flash tells a lame joke in the scene, but it was still cool to see him make an appearance. There are plenty of references to Superman and his recent demise, as well. Marvel has always done a spectacular job of linking their films together in a larger universe, both through easter eggs and cameos. Batman v Superman did this in an extremely forced way with the viral videos that Wonder Woman watched. But Suicide Squad makes most of these inclusions feel natural.
Not everything in this movie was roses, unfortunately. In fact, there were a lot more negatives than there were positives. Let’s break some of them down and we’ll see how frustrated I can make myself.
We live in a world where strong female leads in movies are a rarity. It’s awesome seeing a badass female character like Harley Quinn, but that’s quickly undermined when she’s also wearing booty shorts, a tight white t-shirt that’s wet most of the movie, tons of make-up, everyone is constantly commenting on how hot she is, and the camera angles always seem to be focused on her ass. I was so disappointed by her portrayal in this movie. The trailers definitely served as a warning, with plenty of obvious cheesecake shots. But she was also funny in the trailers, despite most of her humor being centered around how she’s super hot and unaware of it. I figured there would be more to the character and humor in the actual movie. There is not. She’s definitely a badass when she’s fighting dudes, which is cool. But I found her to be so freaking annoying that I just didn’t care anymore. And Margot Robbie is incredibly inconsistent. Sometimes she has the famous Harley accent, sometimes not. Sometimes she’s sick and twisted, sometimes she just seems like a teenage girl flirting with every man to make eye contact. She should have been the coolest part of this movie. Instead, she was one of the most disappointing parts.
I’ve heard some people coming out of Suicide Squad saying that they really enjoyed Jared Leto’s Joker. I don’t get it. Let’s ignore the fact that he was completely shoe-horned into this movie and served absolutely zero purpose to the plot. I just thought in general that he had a flat performance, which I thought would be literally impossible to say about someone playing The Joker. I didn’t find anything he did to be funny, intimidating, scary, or crazy. He was just a dude with green hair, white face paint, and some silver grillz. I completely understand them taking the character in a different direction to distance themselves from Heath Ledger’s stellar performance, but this just did not work. I was bored when he was on screen. The Joker bored me. And that’s something I never thought I would say.
What were Enchantress’ motivations? What was her plan? Where is she from? What was the weapon she was building? Why did she need an army? Why was there refuse filling the sky? Why did the weapon take so long to work, when nothing changed at the end to actually make it work? How and why did she kill some people and make slaves out of others? Why did she wait so long to actually enact her plan when she knew where her brother was the whole time? We got the answers to a few of these questions, but not until 20 minutes from the end of the movie and the answer was basically “she wants to take over the world because of course she does.” Not exactly a compelling villain. And could Cara Delevingne have looked any more freaking awkward? I don’t see how she originated in modeling when she is so clearly uncomfortable in her body. All of her movements were distracting and looked fake as hell. And let’s not even mention Enchantress’ brother, who was only around to be her bodyguard and serve as a dues ex machina to save her from Waller killing her heart.
The Supporting Cast
I can’t think of one thing that Killer Croc, Slipknot, Captain Boomerang, or Katana contributed to the pursual of the story. Killer Croc killed some guys, but he wasn’t any better at it than the soldiers were. He went with the swimmers at the end to try and plant the bomb, but he got caught by enemies and didn’t end up helping. His jokes weren’t funny, and you could barely even understand a damn thing he said. Slipknot was a literal plot device; they only brought him in so they could prove that the neck bombs really worked. This could have been accomplished with a line of dialogue rather than wasting a character. Captain Boomerang was completely useless. He mostly just drank beer during the fights, his accent was the worst, and his little one-liners were incredibly unfunny. I seriously don’t understand how Jai Courtney gets work. I’ve never once thought he was good in anything. Katana was introduced out of nowhere, and for no purpose. It was so weird and random that she wasn’t included in that opening montage. It was like the writers needed a way to defeat Enchantress and Katana’s soul sword was the only thing they could come up with, but they had already written the whole movie so they just threw her in there haphazardly. They may have waited way too long to give Diablo pathos, but at least he did a few important things at the end.
This movie isn’t very funny. I chuckled a few times, mostly at Deadshot’s wit, but I didn’t laugh out loud once. The Joker certainly wasn’t funny, Captain Boomerang was annoying, Killer Croc only had like three lines and I could barely understand them, and Harley Quinn’s jokes were mostly centered around her calling the guys pussies or making a comment on her over-sexualization. If you want a movie to be funny, have someone write it that understands comedy. Every single joke in this movie was just an undercut of something visual, and that gets old really quickly.
Earlier I wrote about how I liked that Suicide Squad expanded the DC universe a little bit by giving cameos to Batman and Flash, and mentioning Superman on multiple occasions. Those moments didn’t feel forced. Well, that mid-credits stinger certainly did. I don’t know what the point of this was. Batman talks to Waller, and gets dossiers on some meta-humans. Well we already know that this movie takes place after Batman v Superman, so Bruce Wayne already knows about Flash, Aquaman, Joker, Harley Quinn, etc. Why does he need copies of the info that he already has? I don’t believe for one second that the greatest detective in the world would have less info than some chick working for the government. And that brings me to my second point. It’s heavily implied that Waller knows Bruce is Batman. If that’s the case, why would she be keeping that to herself? She’s shown that she’s a master manipulator, so if she’s really in rough waters after the Suicide Squad thing fell apart, wouldn’t she want to use that information against Bruce to her own gain? She’s a government lackey through and through, and clearly doesn’t agree with vigilante meta-humans. Why the hell would she be helping Bruce set up a team of vigilante meta-humans? It doesn’t make sense. And the bigger sin is that this scene does nothing to hype you up for Justice League. It provides no new information other than the fact that Waller knows Bruce is Batman. Give us a scene with Batman confronting Deadshot in prison, trying to recruit him. Tie directly into Justice League in some way. It boggles the mind how the people behind this movie are even incapable of doing something cool in an end credits scene. How hard is that?
Nothing that happens in this movie makes sense.
There were tons of little moments that really frustrated me for different reasons. When Harley was fighting the alien things on the elevator, how did the rest of her team beat her to the next floor? She got on an elevator before them, and it didn’t stop until it hit the top. When it got there, everyone else was already waiting for her. This was obviously just a set up for a visual gag, where all the men are ready to rescue the helpless little girl, but she’s already beaten the bad guys because she’s such a badass chick! Feminism! Except for the fact that she’s wearing next to nothing and there’s a very clear booty camera angle during the fight, plus the fact that we’ve been watching her kick ass for 30 minutes. They shouldn’t exactly be shocked.
There’s also a hilarious moment of bad writing towards the end of the movie. Right after Harley stabs Enchantress in the heart with Katana’s sword, Rick Flag grabs Deadshot by the collar and says “Her heart’s out, now we can end this!” We’ve known the entire movie that her heart was her weakness, and not five minutes earlier they reminded us of this again. It was such an obvious “we don’t think the audience is very smart” moment, and my wife and I burst out laughing at how terrible it was. So there, I actually did laugh out loud once during the movie.
The entire side story with Joker had nothing to do with what was happening in the movie. We got that flashback scene with Harley dancing at the club where Joker kills Common’s character, but that only gave us insight into Joker’s character, not Harley’s. Then, later on, there’s the scene where Joker convinces the Belle Reve guard to help him track Harley, but this doesn’t end up doing anything. When Joker and his men hijack the helicopter to save Harley, they don’t kill anyone important and then another helicopter just comes in afterward. Really they only inconvenienced our heroes by a few minutes. Harley went right back with the gang afterward. Nothing had changed.
Most of the Suicide Squad didn’t need to go on this mission. Deadshot certainly had a big impact, and Diablo did as well. But the rest of them were no better at killing those stupid alien things than the soldiers they were with. Flag would have been better off bringing Deadshot and Diablo along, and swapping the rest for more army dudes.
Why were most of the alien things carrying guns? I know some of them were former soldiers, but most of them were just average citizens, right? On that same point, how were these alien things a threat to anyone? The ones with guns killed a few dudes, but they seemed insanely easy to kill. I don’t even know why the army guys needed guns when there was a clear shot of Rick Flag punching one in the face and its head exploding. If Harley can casually kill a dozen of them with a damn baseball bat, I think automatic machine guns are a bit overkill.
There are plenty of other complaints I could lodge against Suicide Squad, but this review is already getting long and my blood is about to boil. It cannot be overstated what a mess DC is making of their film universe here. It’s my personal opinion, but I’ve always been a bigger fan of DC superheroes than Marvel ones. Batman and Superman are certainly more well-known than Marvel heroes like Iron Man and freaking Ant-Man. And they have yet to make one good movie. Man of Steel had some interesting ideas, but was put in the hands of a shallow director. Batman v Superman was the first time those two characters had even been on screen together, and all they had to do was not make it terrible. And they failed. And with Suicide Squad, they were clearly chasing Guardians of the Galaxy, only with a darker, more realistic tone. That could have been an awesome movie if put in the hands of a talented team. But David Ayer and Zack Snyder failed this franchise, and they failed the fans.
If you liked Suicide Squad, I’m glad. I hate for people to spend money and then not be satisfied. But liking a movie does not make it a good movie, and Suicide Squad is most definitely not a good movie.