OK, guys. It’s safe to say that I was a tad excited about Suicide Squad. I’m a big fan of DC Comics and the movies based on them, and I’m one of those people that loved the theatrical cut of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice even before the Ultimate Edition was released and started changing people’s minds. The critical reception before the film’s release was, it’s true, extremely negative, but I’m of the firm belief that art is in the eye of the beholder (check out my thoughts on that particular subject) and knew that just because someone else didn’t enjoy a movie doesn’t at all mean that I won’t (or will, or anything). Even after the reviews, box office numbers for the film have been extremely positive for Suicide Squad‘s longevity (and it received a very solid Cinemascore from audiences), so it appeared that there may be a bit of a discrepancy between critics and audiences (which has definitely never at all happened before, right?).
With all of these thoughts going through my head, I finally had the opportunity to check out Suicide Squad for myself. My verdict?
Flawed as hell, but that doesn’t make it any less great.
And when I say “flawed,” I probably mean it less than you’re expecting. Let’s start out with what didn’t really work, because that’s what you’re all looking for, right? The movie’s biggest issue was some of the editing, but it was really just in the early part of the film that this came into play. Early on, we’re introduced to every member of the Suicide Squad as Amanda Waller goes about setting up Task Force X. These scenes are solid both on their own and in-context, but the editing of them together (particularly with the soundtrack shifting for every scene) felt a bit heavy. The most confusing part of the editing, though, was when Enchantress escapes and begins her plan. The way that the film is edited, it’s extremely difficult to tell when these events around there are taking place. We shift from night to day to night all over the place, and it’s a bit jarring when trying to figure out the timeline. There’s a line later in the film that mentions it being three days since the escape that should explain it, but it’s almost a throwaway line that I’m sure a lot of people are going to miss (it makes perfect sense, though — how was the entire Suicide Squad going to be moved from Belle Reve, tagged, equipped, and then shuttled to Midway City in, I don’t know, two hours? Come on, people. Use your head.).
Enchantress as the film’s villain is also a topic for debate, certainly. Many people feel that she wasn’t the right choice for a villain, but I really believe that the way she was used in the film itself delivered the right effect. Others also wonder why the Joker wasn’t just used as the villain since he was already in the film, but I, for one, appreciate him being used as a secondary character for literally the only time in his history. These are bad guys. The Joker shouldn’t be their enemy. Batman isn’t the hero. Why would it be necessary to use him in a larger capacity? Why would people want that? The Joker is one of my favorite villains in comic history, but I’m absolutely befuddled why anyone wouldn’t like the way that he was used in the movie (this isn’t Joker v Suicide Squad).
The other major flaw with the film that I found was Slipknot. Look, this is the Suicide Squad. Stakes and consequences have to be set. The best way to do this was quite obviously to kill a member of the Squad early on, and I think it worked well. Could they have built the character up a bit more first? Probably, and that could have done a lot to make him feel like less of a throwaway than he was ever supposed to be (it’s Slipknot, guys).
So what worked? Everything else.
It’s amazing how well this team came together. From top to bottom, the chemistry among the cast is so obvious, and it translates perfectly to all (yes, all) of the characters. The highlights are definitely Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Will Smith’s Deadshot, and Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang (and Leto, but we’ll get to him in a minute), but the entire cast was so fun to watch. Even Cara Delevingne’s June Moone/Enchantress was enjoyable to watch, and I think that Cara did a great job of portraying both the fear and trauma of June along with the sheer force of will of Enchantress. Speaking of Jai Courtney, I’m so happy that the scapegoat for so many weak franchises finally got a great role in a film. Courtney absolutely shines as Captain Boomerang, and I can’t believe that the writing for the actor actually made me care about the character for the first time.
Margot Robbie and Will Smith absolutely steal the show, and I have never in my life wished that a follow-up could come so quickly as I do now. I want Harley Quinn and Deadshot to feature in every DC movie from now until the end of time, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing these two actors bring the characters to life. Some have found pause in the way that Floyd Lawton so quickly shifts into good-guy mode, but the film does a wonderful job of building his relationship to his daughter beforehand so that it makes perfect sense in the film. Robbie, on the other hand, is being universally praised for her performance (including from the character’s creator, Paul Dini), and it’s easy to see why. Her performance was exactly like watching an evolved version of the character from Batman: The Animated Series, and she could quite clearly hold her own in a standalone film (as is being rumored).
The most controversial aspect of the film before its release was the first image of Jared Leto as the Joker, and even I’ll admit that it took me some time to get used to. It wasn’t that there was anything inherently wrong about the design, it was just the fact that it was such a drastic departure from what we’d seen before. Luckily, the promotional materials for the film gave us plenty of time to get acquainted to him, so the film allowed him to simply shine. I’ll get a lot of flack for this, but this is the first live-action Joker that’s actually felt like the comic character. Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger (and Caesar Romero, sure) did great things with the character, but none of them (aside from Romero) were ever really the Joker. At least, they weren’t the Joker from the comics. Nicholson was a gangster who had an accident and decided to take over the mafia. That isn’t the Joker. Ledger was some kind of terrorist with severe PTSD who wanted to just watch the world burn. Spectacular performance and definitely deserving of the Academy Award, but that wasn’t the Joker either. For the first time, we’re seeing the Joker on-screen. He’s ruthless. He’s crazy. He’s not defined by Batman (a very important point that not enough people are appreciating). It’s refreshing and wonderful.
The twisted love story between the Joker and Harley is done just as well here as ever. All of the scenes of her turning were spectacular, but I was absolutely blown away by the one in which she actually jumps into the toxic waste. There is such a clear psychotic connection between the two here, and it’s underscored phenomenally by the soundtrack for the scene. Leto also does a wonderful job showing Joker’s brief hesitation before jumping in, and I couldn’t believe how much great work was done with the character in such a brief (but very important) scene. Also, that homage early on to the Alex Ross Joker/Harley image was the best thing I’ve ever seen.
Something else that I think was perfectly done was the use of Batman. He was neither underused or overused (which very easily could have happened), but he was simply a secondary character that was used to build a history in the film’s universe (as he should be — this isn’t Batman v Suicide Squad). I really enjoyed getting the chance to see Batman fighting some of his rogues gallery on-screen (that car chase with Joker and Harley was short, but it was exactly like something that you would have seen in a cartoon), and I think his scene with Deadshot in the alley was one of the most emotional in the film. I wouldn’t at all mind getting to see more of those two characters interacting in the future. The other Justice League cameo was also perfectly done, introducing Ezra Miller’s The Flash to us in a big way while tying him into the history of Captain Boomerang (more universe-building). He was featured for the exact amount of time as needed (this wasn’t Flash v Suicide Squad), and I appreciate the restraint the writers used.
Arguably, one of the best scenes in the movie is the bar scene that we saw a bit of in the trailers for the film. It’s an exposition-heavy scene full of emotion (Jay Hernandez blew me away as El Diablo here in particular), but it’s a great break from the action between acts that lets us spend more time getting to know these characters. There’s not much to say other than that it was an extremely solid scene.
There are so many other things in the film that I want to talk about (Viola Davis was spectacular as Amanda Waller and completely captured the character, the soundtrack was used almost perfectly aside from what I mentioned in the intro, Killer Croc surprised me as being much more of a “character” than the brute the characters showed him as, etc.), but I could go on for days. Sometimes you watch a movie that’s considered bad that you manage to really enjoy, and you feel the need to defend it to others. For Suicide Squad, though, I truly don’t understand the negativity. This movie was absolutely like watching a comic book arc come to life, and that’s exactly what I wanted. The humor was great when used but never tried to overdo itself, and the acting is among the best there’s ever been in a comic book movie (Will. Smith. Y’all.). The story was extremely easy to follow, and Batman and Joker were neither overused nor underused. I want more of these characters. I want more of this story. I absolutely can’t wait to see where they go from here.
“Worst. Heroes. Ever?” More like Best. Team. Ever.
(300 days until Wonder Woman)
Suicide Squad is now playing in theaters. What did you think of Suicide Squad? Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros.]