So you ordered a chair. It’s a beautiful chair, best chair you’ve ever seen, will show up all the other lame chairs in your apartment. It will really tie the room together, is what I’m saying. So you order the chair from IKEA, that’s a trusted retailer right? Awesome, your chair is on the way and best yet, you get free shipping within two days. What could possibly be better?
Well, when the chair arrives, not only is assembly required, but the pieces that did come with it are broken and, worse, others were lost on the way to your house. Turns out the two-day shipping was because IKEA needed to sell chairs and it needed them sold and shipped stat. Which is a shame, because all these broken pieces look like they would have made a nice chair. Then Jared Leto shows up out of nowhere to slap used condoms and dead rats in your face. Worst of all, the Joker doesn’t even do anything!
If the ambiguous title of “Suicide Squad review,” didn’t prime you, I am indeed talking about Suicide Squad. Someday, master classes will be done on the massive fuckups Warner Bros. made on both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, marketing hybrids masquerading as filmmaking, because woo boy. I went in expecting bad, primed by Batman v Superman, the notorious production tumult and subsequent poor reviews. I was not prepared for what I would see next.
After Superman’s death in BvS, tough-as-nails government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has the genius idea to replace one metahuman with a bunch: Task Force X comprised of the most dangerous inmates of the Louisiana prison Belle Reve. There’s the perfect hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), the psychotic Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the alcoholic Australian thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), human crocodile Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and the flammable former gangbanger Diablo (Jay Hernandez). The “suicide squad” operates under Col. Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) and his samurai bodyguard Katana (Karen Fukhura).
That leads us to our villain, the Enchantress (Cara Delevigne), a 6,000 year-old entity possessing Dr. June Moone, who is in a relationship with Flagg. Everything about this character is atrocious, most of all her computer-generated “plan” (this all-powerful witch, who effortlessly conquers an entire American city, resorts to nonlethal combat against the squad at the climax. How nice of her).
Meanwhile, arguably the greatest comic book villain of all time, The Joker (Jared Leto) is poorly introduced and flits around in the background pining for Harley like a barely-intelligible hyena. Why the hell wasn’t he the villain? Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood and Common are also in the film for no discernible reason. Oh yeah, and Slipknot (Adam Beach), but me and the film agree on one point: fuck Slipknot.
The moment the film begins, it’s apparent something is wrong as music video vignettes introduce characters that are reintroduced in the immediate next scene. The movie has little to no idea what to do with its moving pieces. So much bad editing and pacing are papered over by so, so, so many songs.
There’s a ridiculous number of characters in this film. but honestly that’s the least of its problems, because Suicide Squad isn’t actually a movie. This is not a problem unique to this film, especially this summer movie season, but it is the most blatant I have seen yet. Squad doesn’t actually tell a story but cobbles together ideas. Saying this film has a “plot” is a disgrace to the word “plot.” There’s little-to-no concern for storytelling economy or payoffs. The only characters who have something resembling an arc are Deadshot, Quinn, Diablo and Flagg.
Quinn’s infamous relationship with Joker is an excellent example of the film’s arrogance. There is absolutely no set up and no reason for audiences to believe in Quinn’s transformation because at no point do we see a charismatic Joker on-screen. The film banks entirely on audiences’ already knowing and accepting Harley Quinn and her abusive relationship with a clown psychopath. Speaking of which, remember how The Dark Knight spent 6 minutes brilliantly setting up Heath Ledger in the role for the payoff at the end? Here, Leto is shoved in the audiences’ face, constantly leering and being a general creep. His Joker is uninteresting, either because his scenes were cut or his take on the character is just fundamentally annoying and stupid.
On the flip side, there is an absurd amount of talent on display here and not even the butchered story and pacing can prevent stars like Smith and Robbie from shining. It’s refreshing to see Smith having so much fun again and while he doesn’t go as dark as I hoped, he straddles the line between villain and antihero admirably. Robbie is an excellent Quinn, understanding the subtly of her psychosis even though the film presents an unnecessarily violent version of her origin story in flashbacks. Hernandez is the standout among the supporting cast while Kinnaman and Courtney acquit themselves well despite boring characters. Davis is fine and Delevigne is wasted.
More surprising than the film being bad is it having virtually the same problems every DCEU film has up until this point – nothing is planned, everything is reactive and nobody has any hands on the steering wheel. This one is even more “moments over scenes” than Batman v Superman, if that’s possible. I’d feel bad for Ayer and Zack Snyder for getting skull-fucked by corporate, but these are two of the bro-iest directors in Hollywood, churning out macho entertainment such as 300 or Fury. We (and WB execs) really should have known they’d turn the DCEU into a broad examination of toxic masculinity (I plan on writing a column on this).
After Suicide Squad, all I have is questions, namely how did something with so much potential end up so awful? Why did this movie need all of these characters? Why did it need the umpteenth “death by CGI” plot? The film is the equivalent a plate piled with food from a buffet line, the pile so high it devolves into a morass of conflicting flavors. There is no care for what goes together or what works; it’s all about packing in as much as possible, as quickly as possible. What a waste.