Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

 

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Suicide Squad is probably the most anticipated film of the year—and according to a lot of viewers, the biggest let down. The film struggles to deliver the irreverent, dark, and quirky story the trailers promised and manages to entangle its characters in an overdone, unoriginal plot and horrible CGI. While it isn’t a colossal mess like Batman v Superman, it is by no means where DC needs to be. However, I found the film to be enjoyable and was mostly pleased with the performances and characterization of the beloved DC comic book characters. Suicide Squad manages to provide mindless fun regardless of the meager storyline and whirlwind pacing. Comic book fans will be fairly satisfied.

A secret task force of the most dangerous supervillains in the world working to save the world is promising, when done correctly. The movie was so hyped up by the studios that it was hard to go in without being slightly disappointed. The characters have so much potential and that potential was underutilized. The characterization of Harley Quinn was certainly a highlight of the film. I’ve adored the character since I was a little kid, so her live action debut was extremely important to me, and I was pleasantly surprised with it. Margot Robbie portrays the unstable, Joker-crazed character perfectly, depicting Harley’s damaged and chaotic personality in an empowering and emotional manner. The cotton-candy colored character enacts violence with a giddiness that is straight from the pages of a comic book, and she included the iconic accent on a more subtle level than past cartoons. Robbie did the best she could under the misogynistic situation the film put her in. While Harley’s character has always been sexual and uses that sexuality as a weapon of power, the film manages to objectify her, presenting her as an object for the male audience with slow, sensual pans up her half-naked body. It was curious to me that Harley Quinn and Enchantress were scantily clad while the majority of male characters were in head to toe armor. There’s a difference between being sexual and being objectified, and the director clearly didn’t acknowledge that line (and if you’re argument is that Harley is over-sexualized in the comics, well, surprise, comics can be misogynistic too).

Other cast members stood out as well, although none as brightly as Robbie. Will Smith shone as the gun-slinging assassin Deadshot, bringing a more stable and realistic characterization to the movie than any of his teammates. He and Robbie manage to anchor their cast mates and bring some stability to a chaotic plot. Unlike many audience-members, I applauded Jared Leto’s performance as a twisted, flashy Joker, which he played with instability and an underlying psychotic rage that was mystifying and impressive. According to Leto, many of the scenes he filmed were cut, which results in a lack of continuity in his storyline. His parts of the film seem a bit inconsistent and he continually shows up seemingly out of nowhere. Compared to the hype of his character, there was a severe lack of the Clown Prince of Crime in the film.

The pace of the film was incredibly jarring. The beginning of the film was a whirlwind of trying to set up identities of each of the main characters. They were each summarized in a way that seemed forced, but worked well enough. The film is set up better than Batman v Superman, and the cast has a great chemistry that helps the banter amongst the team feel believable. The second half of the film was fully of each character fighting in their own personal ways, but there was a lack of urgency as they grew closer to the “end of the world” (and what exactly was Enchantresses plan, anyway? It’s not exactly clear).Throughout the film the tone shifts drastically, trying to be lighthearted and funny while dark and gritty. The flashback scenes of Harley and Joker were mystical, psychedelic, and tragic, while the scenes of the entire squad working together were attempting to be quirky, comical, and irreverent.  The film was split between those two tones, failing to choose one and resulting in inconsistency and confusion. It’s as if David Ayer wanted to tell a dark and cynical story while the studio pressured him to make a film more lighthearted, like Guardians of the Galaxy, in order to compete with Marvel. Ayer has his name on this film, but I don’t believe it is the film he set out to make.

Suicide Squad does not deserve the horrific reviews it is receiving, but it doesn’t deserve any awards either. Although it didn’t live up to the hype, it manages to be a fun and entertaining movie with lovable characters worthy of a comic book nerd’s time. It was a small step forward for DC compared to Batman v Superman, but they still have a long way to walk. Hopefully this is a trend, and each movie will be better than the last.

Help us Wonder Woman, you’re our only hope.

-B

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