Rating: 2.5 Stars
The following review contains spoilers.
This review is for the Theatrical Cut of the movie.
The original concept for Suicide Squad (the comic) has the U.S. government recruiting a team of supervillains to go on covert black ops missions the Justice League would never touch (or even be aware of) in exchange for time off their sentences and the chance to have a break from prison and see some action. The movie starts off with that premise, but doesn’t have the stomach to see through the “covert black ops” part and instead pits the Squad against a world-ending, city-destroying, portal-opening super menace that is absolutely in the Justice League’s wheelhouse.
In the movie universe, the Justice League hasn’t been formed yet so they couldn’t intervene (though Batman, The Flash, and Wonder Woman are all out there doing something while Midway City is being destroyed), but this isn’t a documentary, the filmmakers and the studio made a choice and I feel it’s the wrong one. It would be like introducing The Punisher by putting him up against an army of literal demons from hell (which could be an interesting, expectation-defying third Punisher movie, sure, but it’s not the heart of the character).
So Enchantress, an early recruit for the Squad, goes rogue, and decides to destroy the world for no particular reason. She builds “a machine” to do so, which is actually just a swirly portal that sits in the sky for literally days, unchanging. Occasionally Enchantress takes a break from gyrating like a hula dancer on a car dashboard to kiss an innocent bystander and turn them into mindless cannon fodder, seemingly for no greater purpose than to give the Squad something inhuman to kill in the action scenes leading up to the third-act finale. Eventually the Squad gets close enough to Enchantress to throw a bomb into the portal and yadda yadda yadda the day is saved. The villains of this movie are terribly dull and nothing about the way they’re defeated is satisfying or makes sense.
Suicide Squad is the first film in DC’s new “extended universe” to actually feel like it takes place within a genuine comic book setting, and not a moody teenage boy’s idea of what “super heroes in the real world” would be like. I loved the inclusion of things like archeologist June Moone stumbling into the wrong temple and becoming possessed by a 6,000-year-old sorceress. I loved the casual way Rick Flag explains that Katana’s sword absorbs the souls of its victims, and no one questions it. El Diablo is just a guy with fire powers, Killer Croc is just a crocodile guy, and that’s the world we’re in, and it’s all fine.
The casting is mostly very solid. Will Smith is good as Deadshot and Margot Robbie is about as good a Harley Quinn as you could hope to find in live-action. Viola Davis is a fine Amanda Waller but I have issues with the character as presented. Boomerang and El Diablo are pretty decent with not much to do.
When June first becomes Enchantress in the boardroom, with the black hand coming in and interlocking her fingers, then reversing, it’s a perfect moment.
The scene where the Squad lets loose and takes out all of the cannon fodder is fun. I also enjoyed when Deadshot is demonstrating his abilities to Rick Flag and Waller on the gun range.
The editing in this movie is careless to the extreme. For just one example look to when the Squad arrives at the office building where Waller is hiding out: first we see Harley Quinn taking the elevator by herself with the rest of them being like “aw man”, then we watch as she fights some cannon fodder in the elevator, and then she arrives on the top floor where the rest of the Squad has already arrived. What? And this type of clumsiness happens again and again throughout.
And on a subtler level, there are setups with no payoffs (Boomerang’s unicorn; Ike Barinholtz’s “mean guard”) and payoffs with no setups: All of the “I already lost one family, I’m not losing another” and “You messed with my friends!” moments of the finale are completely hollow and perfunctory.
Most of the characters don’t have arcs of any kind. Captain Boomerang, Katana, and Killer Croc are barely in the movie at all. When most of the team is seeing their fantasies (and their fantasies do a terrible job of explaining their characters: Harley Quinn’s fantasy that the Joker is just a normal person makes no sense with anything else we know of her character in this version or any other version) half the team doesn’t even get a fantasy. If they wanted the audience to be surprised by Slipknot’s death they could’ve spent more than 30 seconds on him. As soon as he walks in and joins the team with literally no introduction it’s incredibly obvious he’s going to die.
Character behavior is wildly inconsistent. Rick Flag chastises Boomerang and Harley for looting, and then completely shrugs off Amanda Waller murdering a bunch of her own agents (for no character reason, no plot reason, and no dramatic reason). Boomerang quits the team the instant Flag frees them from the threat of decapitation, then walks in with everyone else in the slow-motion Guardians of the Galaxy “let’s go get ‘em” shot.
The Joker is a complete waste of time and could be cut entirely from the movie without changing the overall story, and Jared Leto’s interpretation is the least interesting live-action version of the character in history.
The music reeks of trying too hard. Hey it’s “Sympathy for the Devil” for Amanda Waller – get it? Get it?