Starring: Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis and Jared Leto
First half of this review is spoiler free, second half has spoilers but they’ve basically all been shown in trailers (I’ve included a spoiler warning at the right point).
So after a mixed response to Man of Steel and the critical (if not commercial) failure of Batman vs Superman, did DC finally get back to Dark Knight Trilogy quality with Suicide Squad?
Short answer: No. Oh dear.
Suicide Squad isn’t a terrible movie. What it is is a mediocre action film that throws away most of it’s potential with a simple plot and a slightly directionless story. Like Batman vs Superman it could (and should) have been so much better. There is a lot of promise shown here, mainly by the casting – all of them are pretty much perfect in their assigned roles, particularly Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. The rest get their share of cool moments, but none really get enough screentime to shine properly (hopefully any future films can rectify this).
The way the film introduces all the villains who make up the squad is done well in the first 30 mins, giving enough away to give a sense of who these people are but without turning into an info-dump that drags on forever (as apart from Harley Quinn most of the audience probably haven’t heard of any of the other squad members unless they watch Arrow, read the comics or have played the Arkham video games). That said, I know all but two of the characters, so I may have found the opening sequence less confusing than some people will.
To give a quick rundown we have: Deadshot (Master assassin and renowned sniper), Harley (Joker’s psychiatrist turned girlfriend), Enchantress (an explorer possessed by a crazy witch – both played by Cara Delevingne), Killer Croc (a vicious human with a reptilian appearance but dry sense of humour), Captain Boomerang (Yes really, he kills people with razor sharp boomerangs), El Diablo (a metahuman who can control fire) and the three ‘good guys’ keeping them in check: squad captain Rick Flag (an excellent Joel Kinnaman), Japanese sword expert Katana (her badassery really needed more screentime) and bitch in chief Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) the amoral squad leader.
The film wants to be DC’s equivalent of Guardians of the Galaxy (AKA a funny, not-to-serious superhero flick where a group of criminal/anti-hero misfits band together to stop a truly evil villain). But it falls well short of that. The main villain’s motivations are barely explored and unlike in Guardians the villain barely gets any meaningful screentime – even Ronan the Accuser (not Marvel’s best villain by a long shot) got a good half an hour of screentime in Guardians including standoffs and fight scenes. The villain in suicide squad gets even less and really needed more backstory. The soundtrack isn’t as well chosen as guardians’ was either (I doubt I’ll be rushing to buy either the mix of songs or the OST itself), the humour wasn’t nearly as effective (a few choice lines from Deadshot, Harley and Killer Croc excepted) and the plot was a great deal thinner.
A lot of the movie’s problems do stem from it’s script and plotline, which are just… lacking ambition really, and as a consequence doesn’t spark enough (I had a feeling of ‘is this it???’ when I realised just how little story there actually is in the film). I sense most of the issues can be blamed on scriptwriter and director David Ayer – who rushes through the best scenes in the film far too quickly (though admittedly this may be due to – urgh – studio interference as it’s clear quite a lot of scenes got cut… again DC!). I won’t say much about Joker in the spoiler-free section – simply that Jared Leto is very good but needed more screen time to really make a mark.
Warning: Spoilers from this point onwards! (skip to the end for the rating)
For those of you who’ve seen the film (or don’t care about spoilers) I can be a bit more explicit. Jared’s Leto’s Joker doesn’t work because he really shouldn’t have been in this film apart from Harley’s flashbacks. He just overshadows the main plot and does nothing particularly interesting (though this may be due to a lot of his scenes being cut – urgh again DC?!?!? (That’s what fucked up Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor! – he was already bad but the deleted scenes would have helped explain his motivations). Even though his version of Joker is good, the film doesn’t seem to know what to do with him. I’ll reserve judgement on Leto until he gets better material, but he does show promise, if not a Ledger defining performance as of yet.
With Joker sidelined, the main villain role is left to Enchantress (a female lead villain in a superhero movie? About fucking time!!! I’ll give this to DC – I’ve always said they’ve had more balls than Marvel about taking risks or breaking new ground – they’ve given us a black lead actor and a female lead villain in the third film in their series – Marvel haven’t managed that in 13 tries (somewhat shamefully and I suspect more due to studio execs than the producers), although they will rectify that in the coming years). Cara Delevingne certainly looks the part as an ancient evil sorceress possessing a helpless explorer, but unfortunately the script doesn’t give her enough to do or flesh her character enough to realise any potential there. I kind of wish we could have the character turn up on Arrow or Flash though – her powers would make for a very interesting episode!
On the positive side: loved the Batman and Flash cameos!
Overall: The cast are great and its a fun enough 2 hours, but there’s a real sense that this should have a lot better with a meatier storyline or more focus on either Joker or Enchantress. Well done Robbie and Smith. But Ayer… you have failed this audience.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
5 superhero films down, 1 to go in 2016. And as Marvel are trashing DC 3-0 in terms of quality, if Doctor Strange delivers, they will have absolutely crushed their rivals in the first year the two have really gone head to head.
For anyone curious, so far my ranking of Superhero films this year is looking like this:
- Captain America Civil War (a well-scripted, funny and great film aside from a cop out in the final confrontation between Iron Man, Winter Soldier and Cap)
- X-Men Apocalypse (Simple but pure fun, with a great young cast)
- Deadpool (Funny as hell but a very generic plot drags it down)
- Batman vs Superman (Great fight scenes and good performances by Gadot and Affleck let down by convulted plots, awful dialogue and a mad Jesse Eisenberg)
- Suicide Squad (More fun than Dawn of Justice but the plot goes nowhere and none of the characters get the screen time they deserve)