DC Comics follows on Batman v Superman with a lot of crazy. Suicide Squad markets itself as edgy and hip, but is far from it. We do see some nice characters, but a messy and almost boring story.
The new superhero movie of DC Comics follows on the events of Batman v Superman and in case you haven’t seen it, Suicide Squad will spoil some events for you. In a world where supernatural individuals can rip off the roof of the White House, intelligence director Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) decides to fight fire with fire. She collects a team of imprisoned mutants or otherwise twisted individuals, led by a professional soldier, to fight the big new dangers of the world. Should they not cooperate, then a chip in their neck will blow up.
In a marathon of flashbacks, they are introduced to us. The team consists of Deadshot (Will Smith) who never misses a shot, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) a twisted woman and lover of the Joker (Jared Leto), a crocodile man, a Japanese with a magic katana, a Mexican who controls fire and an Australian thief (Jai Courtney).
The logic behind the team was lost on me. I understand how a man who never misses his shot is helpful, and Diablo the fireman is strong and the crocodile man can swim through the sewers of New York. But Boomerang the Australian is not much more than a drunken thief and Harley Quinn a mad woman with a baseball bat. How are they essential for a team of elite soldiers? When they indeed end up across a supernatural villain, they indeed amount to nothing. I suspect that their presence was easier to accept in the comics. In the realism of a live action film, the entire setup is harder to accept. There was no selection procedure for choosing the team members anyway. The list of names was just there.
Harley Quinn can’t be skipped for another reason: the plot needed it. She is there because she is a link to the Joker and Batman, so that they can give some guest performances in a few short scenes. That is nice for the audience and for the marketing of the film, of course. They are hardly present in the movie though. This shows a failing. Without Quinn and her connection to the Joker and Batman, there isn’t much left of the team to be enthusiastic about. Only Will Smith has a little bit of character for Deadshot, and the charisma and talent to carry the film on his shoulders. He is funny at the right moments and forms the emotional heart of the story.
Besides Will Smith, the team feels shoddy and hacked-together. The little storylines with the Joker and Batman feel forced into it because they bear little relevance to the rest of the Suicide Squad and their mission. The Joker is not a part of the team, but a third party who pops up now and then to help Harley Quinn. A bit like Gandalf in the Hobbit movies. Still, we are fortunate that Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto and Cara Delevingne give some spirited performances. Leto’s Joker takes a while to get used to, but in principle there’s nothing wrong with his interpretation. Margot Robbie clearly has a lot of fun with the crazy Quinn. If all the team members had gotten the same attention, the film would have been buried beneath flashbacks, which already threatened to occur.
The film’s greatest problem is the editing. It’s the reason why the characters feel cobbled-together and the reason why the story feels messy. It’s as if many scenes were cut from the movie and like it was shoddily pasted together again. There are scenes missing in the setup of the story and scenes missing that build connection between the team members. There are scenes missing of civilians running away, so that New York looks like an empty set. The only thing that remains is action, and so we jump from one action scene to the next. The previous DC Comics film had the same problems. Both films saw a lot of retakes and cut and paste work and I suspect that director David Ayer wasn’t given enough freedom from people higher up, who demanded changes.
Suicide Squad is not as edgy as its marketing would make you believe. It’s a straightforward story that skips some essential parts of characterization and instead only shows the action. Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie give some nice performances, but the rest is forgotten quickly. Suicide Squad is not DC Comics’ big comeback.