Suicide Squad (Warner Bros., PG-13)

Suicide Squad is easily the worst installment in these recent DC movies by a wide margin.

Long before its release, everybody seemed to have already decided that Suicide Squad was a big piece of shit and anyone who thought otherwise was utterly stupid. These days, everyone seems to have their opinion worked out on a movie that is still in production which is all thanks to how the internet has turned the movie-making process into part of the ad campaign. Whether or not the internet has bettered the film industry is complicated, but I know for certain I hate this aspect of it. I can’t stand it when people make their minds up about movies they haven’t seen, and as a person who often has the dissenting opinion, it felt like my civic duty to start telling everyone that it could maybe be good.

The first time I remember encountering someone bashing on the production decisions was when the photos of Jared Leto’s Joker first leaked. This was about a year and a half ago. I was still in college then, and I remember sitting in an empty classroom before my film class started listening to a group of students cackling about how dumb the Joker looked with face tattoos and a grill. I interrupted all the back-patting to tell them that it was an interesting move, and the movie had my attention now. Plus, Jared Leto is a great actor and given how good he’s been in movies like Requiem for a Dream or Lord of War, it seems natural he’d play the Joker at some point. Besides, who doesn’t want to see Jordan Catalano play the Joker in a movie that seems to make Harley Quinn its centerpiece…?

I’ve had something like a hundred conversations with people about why Suicide Squad could maybe—just maybe—be good. We had Jason Ayer at the helm who has proven himself to be a more than competent director of action films. I can’t imagine a better casting call than Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn—she’s got the perfect grin for it. Suicide Squad also had a slickly packaged trailer which seemed to suggest that it was learning something from the Marvel movies. It was around the time that Batman v. Superman was released to huge backlash that I started getting worried—that’s when they started doing reshoots to make Suicide Squad “more funny.” It doesn’t take a film studies degree to realize how bad of an idea it is to address the criticisms of one movie by tampering with another that’s already wrapped. And yet, the results are far worse than anything I could have prepared myself for.

Suicide Squad is such a confusing mess of a movie that it’s tough to really make something coherent out of the plot. An intelligence officer (Viola Davis) is concerned that Superman or someone like him—someone they can’t control—might destroy the earth. To prepare for this, she believes they ought to assemble a team of incarcerated baddies that can protect them if everything does go to hell like she fears. The team she assembles comprises of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, Boomerang, Katana, and Diablo, though we really only spend time exploring Deadshot and Harley making the rest of the characters seem more like set pieces for Will Smith and Margot Robbie to act around. This wouldn’t be so bad if Smith and Robbie played versions of these villains with interesting layers, but their roles are hugely unwritten just like the rest of the movie around them.

This version of Deadshot is portrayed as a nauseatingly good guy who just wants to send his daughter to nice college, while one of the richest characters in the DC universe, Harley Quinn, is reduced to mere eye-candy with empty character motivations. You don’t even really grasp why she likes the Joker! It’s a shame that Suicide Squad does so little to flesh out Harley, because the most fun you’ll have in this film is watching Robbie light up the screen with her wicked grin and boundless energy. The role just fits her perfectly. I can’t say anything good about Jared Leto’s Joker; he’s like an off-putting mix of Cesar Romero and Heath Ledger. Although I’m sorry the movie didn’t play up the relationship between Harley and Joker more, the very few Joker scenes you get makes it seem like maybe it’s for the best.

One of the worst things about Suicide Squad is that you feel like you’re watching the same scenes over and over again, while still being confused about what’s actually happening in the movie. It’s like someone jumbled up scenes from four different episodes of a CW show complete with bad music and uneven performances. I can’t say enough terrible things about the music choices here. Sometimes it’s a dated choice like Eminem’s “Without Me” and other times the song choice is so on the nose it’s cringe-worthy like when Harley confesses her loyalty to Joker in a flashback and some tacky pop song plays. The song choices make bad scenes worse and often fade out as the next scene begins. It’s a really offensive way to transition from one scene to the next, and I couldn’t escape the feeling that some of these songs might have been added last minute to make the movie “more fun.”

The movie devolves into its final act by having our gang of anti-heroes bombing around the screen shooting CG blobs controlled by someone we don’t know much of anything about: not her mission, not her past, and we don’t even get a good grasp of her powers. You get the feeling there are probably some key scenes cut, which is what people seem to suggest was the ultimate problem with Batman v. Superman: too much studio interference. It’s frustrating to watch Warner Brothers make the same mistakes over and over again, especially when we just had a fairly good DC animated movie, Assault on Arkham, about Harley and the rest of the Suicide Squad team last year. Suicide Squad is easily the worst installment in these recent DC movies by a wide margin. It’s left me feeling totally defeated, so next time someone trashes an upcoming DC movie in my presence, I’ll keep my mouth shut. | Cait Lore

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