HBR’s resident entertainment reviewer
Before going into this review I think it’s very important to know where I stood going into this film. Suicide Squad is a movie I have been excited to see for a long time.
The second that the first trailer went up I knew it would be a must see. I mean it looked perfect right? It had my favorite DC character kicking butts to one of the greatest songs ever by my favorite band of all time. It couldn’t possibly be bad!
The cast looked great, the tone seemed spot on, and while the hot topic street art aesthetic isn’t really my jam at least it was something new. At the very least I knew it couldn’t be nearly as bad as March’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Grimace.”
DC’s perceived incessance on grim-dark bore fests seemed to finally be getting left behind in favor of something that didn’t make me want put on eyeliner and listen to Evanescence. So needless to say expectations were high.
By the end of the film I walked out feeling conflicted. Despite how much I enjoyed seeing these characters on the big screen, Suicide Squad is a deeply flawed film.
I was frequently pulled out of the action by poor storytelling, editing and characterization, but the moments where I was able to invest myself, free of confusion, I was bobbing my head to the film’s legendary soundtrack with a huge grin on my face.
I loved Margo Robbie’s Harley and Will Smith had one of the most solid performances that I’ve seen from him in years. The “Borderlands-esque” character introductions were fun and really exemplify what this movie could have been.
Each character is shown in a short vignette of being caught and brought in for whatever miscellaneous crimes they have committed, accompanied by a classic song that gives an idea of their personality and background. While some of the song choices were very on the nose about what kind of tone they wanted to set, I feel that any subtler song choice would have been disingenuous to the characters.
This leads to the first problem I have with the movie; aside from a few of the main characters (namely Harley Quinn, Deadshot, El Diablo, and maybe Captain Boomerang) no one else in the cast was interesting.
Katana is introduced out of nowhere, is given zero time to develop, and has no conceivable reason to be on the team. She exists to be the setup to a few jokes and to look cool fighting, but that’s about it.
It honestly feels like David Ayer’s 13 year-old nephew came up to him just after getting high on red bull, Cheetos, and about ten hours worth of Naruto Shippuden, and convinced him to put something cool and “anime” in his movie.
Something similar can be said for Slipknot who has even less characterization than Katana and doesn’t even have any cool powers or abilities. He’s good at climbing things and that’s it. At least Katana has the whole “Durarara!!” soul-stealing sword thing going for her. By dying in the first act, this guy basically just serves to create a flimsy reason as to why the Squad won’t just abandon the mission. That’s it. That’s all.
So, why can’t the Squad “really” abandon the mission? Well, that is a whole problem in and of itself. The Suicide Squad, while expendable, exists to be a force that is capable and possibly even necessary for stopping any super-powered menace.
What happens if the entire team decides that they would rather quit, or “commit suicide” by Amanda Waller’s “Escape From New York” style neck bombs, than stop the bad guy? Superman’s dead, so you can’t call him. So, I guess you’d get Batman? At no point do any of the characters call Amanda’s bluff.
So, then why was this team put together in the first place? To stop the bad guy? Well, lets make something clear. If you hadn’t put the Squad together, THERE WOULD BE NO BAD GUY IN THE FIRST PLACE!
That’s right. The penultimate example of David Ayer’s misguided screenwriting is the simple fact that if it weren’t for the Suicide Squad there would BE NO NEED FOR THE SUICIDE SQUAD!
Let me explain.
So there’s one member of the team named Enchantress who is an ancient witch with crazy ghost powers. All that’s keeping her in line is that she is trapped in the body of Dr. June Moon and the threat of Amanda poking at her “heart” which is held in an ancient idol. This all falls apart however, when on a mission she escapes and proceeds to summon her equally evil brother, killing many innocents in the process, making an army of eyeball zombies, and creating a giant magical doomsday device. This is what the Suicide Squad is then sent to stop.
So as you can see, if Amanda hadn’t decided that it would be a good idea to manipulate a malevolent otherworldly being just to add to her ever-growing harem of baddies NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED!!
The utter stupidity of many of the writing choices in this movie is just unfathomable but honestly I don’t think I can actually blame the director for a lot of it.
During production Warner Bros. got cold feet and decided to pull a Fant4stic and completely re-edit the movie separately from David Ayer’s original cut.
They sent out the footage to multiple different editing houses to create their own cut of the movie as a result of certain screening groups being confused by its tone (which originally was apparently much darker).
This massively changed the final product in a way that is very apparent when viewing. The film is riddled with inconsistencies of pacing and tone that are a huge factor in how frustrating the movie can be.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a large portion of the uninspired “save the world plot” wasn’t even in the original cut and that really is unfortunate.
Underneath this mess of a film is a story with a lot of heart. This is most apparent in the exposition bar.
After everything seems to go horribly wrong the cast decides to sit down in a bar and talk about their feelings and back story and stuff.
The movie finally slows down and we get a chance to spend some quality time with these characters that we are supposed to be rooting for. Now, the scene is clunky and out-of-place but it really gets across the overarching themes in a fun way.
Each of the characters has experienced some kind of loss. Whether it be the loss of a family member, a lover, or just being stuck in the body of a weird crocodile, each character has been left an outcast of society and over the course of the movie has to overcome their various struggles for the greater good.
I think the same can be said for this movie as a whole. It had a lot going for it but through the loss of its director’s vision it became a movie berated by critics and an unfortunate failure for the fans. A fate tragically common among modern Hollywood films.
Despite all of its shortcomings I really did enjoy Suicide Squad and can definitely recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a fun action-packed movie this summer season.
Suicide Squad photographs courtesy of Warner Bros.