Suicide Squad review

There’s a scene early on in Suicide Squad that I kept coming back to in my head as I watched, revisiting it in my head and laughing to myself as each new lurid scene rolled out. In this one, squad-planner Amanda Waller (played with fun contempt by Viola Davis) outlines to a room of subordinates the tragic tale of June Moone (Cara Delevingne), who has been possessed by an ancient witch named Enchantress. Moone, a budding archaeologist, discovered the tomb where Enchantress’s spirit was sealed, and accidentally unleashed her. How? By picking up a small statue she found and immediately, inexplicably breaking the head clean off it with a jerk of her hands.

This scene of an archaeologist, discovering a long-buried secret and immediately ruining it in the most callous, thoughtless, bone-headed way possible, is an apt metaphor for the universe Warner Bros is building with their DC films so far. They’ve been handed something valuable, something they’re meant to be experts in, and immediately, they break it.

Suicide Squad is the latest misfire from Warner Bros. It’s misguided and incoherent, often to the point of being ludicrous, the type of movie that doesn’t really care if you can actually identify what’s happening on screen or not. It veers right up against the edge of being so-bad-its-good, and very occasionally tips over.

There’s another scene much later, for instance, where a room full of important government men watch on camera as one of their satellites is, for some unclear reason, destroyed. One of the suited men shouts, in a perfectly whiny voice, something along the lines of: ‘that was our main communication satellite!’

This raises questions. Why was there a permanent video feed pointed directly at this satellite, shown on a screen within that room? Is there a second satellite right next to it, sent up into space purely to project back video footage of that first satellite? Why does this man sound like an eight-year-old who has just been told that he can’t have chicken nuggets for dinner? Why does he need to explain to the other people in that room what the purpose of that satellite was? Every scene in Suicide Squad is like this, unable to hold up to the scrutiny they demand, but only a few are as unintentionally funny.

Characters don’t fare well, with the exception of Will Smith’s Deadshot.

The plot is a mess. A task force of baddies was assembled, for some reason, they bond because the script demands it, and then they go and battle what I can only assume was a rejected CGI model from that Mummy sequel where Brendan Fraser battles the Scorpion King. The action is weak throughout, whether the Suicide Squad are fighting off a bunch of people who have turned into monsters that look like avocados or… well, taking part in the one action scene where they fight something other than avocados.

Characters don’t fare well, with the exception of Will Smith’s Deadshot. Will Smith continues his hot streak of being a tremendously charismatic and likeable actor who is almost never in films worth watching, but his performance is tremendously fun, his bravado and improvisational tone elevate the tepid material whenever he opens his mouth.

Harley Quinn, on the other hand, aggressively and unquestioningly pursues her abusive relationship, ignoring years of comic development and characterization in favour of confused flightiness. Margot Robbie commits, but she’s committing to fundamentally flawed ideas.

In the comics, the Joker is Batman’s most dangerous enemy; here, he’s just some douchebag.

I would say Jared Leto embarrasses himself, if I thought Jared Leto capable of being embarrassed. His Joker is a flaming wreck, a mix of poor instincts and disastrous design choices from the costuming department. He’s unintimidating, which is the very worst thing The Joker can be. In fact, the film’s concept of the character is extremely simplistic — he’s a gangster, basically, but without an ounce of charisma or purpose. In the comics, the Joker is Batman’s most dangerous enemy; here, he’s just some douchebag.

No one else, and nothing else that happens, really bears mentioning. Suicide Squad’s back half may as well have been mad-libbed; you could substitute these weirdos and criminals for any generic bunch of misfit action heroes and the film would not feel any different.

The reported disagreements between director David Ayer (who is capable of so much more) and Warner Bros are right there on the screen for all to see. There are severe tonal shifts, but it’s clear throughout that Ayer is fighting for something darker, more troubled. The film never earns it, and in the rare scenes where the script goes for gravitas the discomfort doesn’t feel intentional.

If that film where Batman and Superman didn’t kiss, even though they clearly should have kissed, proved that Zach Snyder is the absolute wrong director to shape this film franchise, Suicide Squad is the film that shows just how much deeper the issue runs. There’s a fundamental misunderstanding here of why people enjoy these comic-book movies. They need to be coherent, they need to balance the discussions of morality and justice with finely-crafted characters, and dammit, they need to be kept far, far away from Jared Leto. Stick with Marvel until the inevitable franchise reboot in a few years.