There comes a time when thinking movie fans have to ask themselves, “what is with all the hate for DC”? I’ve already had a number of people ask me if the new release SUICIDE SQUAD is “as bad as they say”…With its release, once again a large number of critics have brought in negative reviews. I’m someone who is a unique mix of film critic, as Cinema Siren, and expert in animation, who remembers the premiere of Harley Quinn in Batman: The Animated Series. I have a loyalty to her character, was hyper-sensitive to how a live action film would portray her, and I still have to call baloney. SUICIDE SQUAD could subsist on the performances of Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto alone. Though dark, it is visually sumptuous, and in both story and overall feel, writer/director David Ayer has a strong point of view. The film should appeal to and entertain audiences attracted to what was teased in the trailers. It is the WYSIWYG of superhero flicks.
If you don’t like anti-heroic villains, nihilism, or over-the-top stories accompanied by a greatest-hits soundtrack of badass rock, this film is not for you. On the other hand, if you do, SUICIDE SQUAD is in some respects unlike any other superhero movies you’ve seen. Though not without some issues, It might be called the less awesome, dark and twisted cousin of DEADPOOL.
US Intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has talked the joint chiefs of staff into her idea of putting together the worst of the worst meta-humans and sociopathic killers into a team to combat potential threats. This is post-Superman, who is out of the picture. In one of the weaker plot-points, she has found a way to control them via a DUNE or ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK-like mechanism implanted in them that kills them instantly if they misbehave. Cue the introductions, with wailing musical accompaniment, and to varying degrees of depth, to Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). In theory, military man Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) is meant to be in charge of them and their missions. He’s being controlled through his love of the last supposed team member, Enchantress, (Cara Delevingne) an ancient, powerful witch, who has taken over the body of his beloved, June Moone. Waller also controls Enchantress, but only because she has her heart in a box. Of course, the team is needed and dispatched almost immediately. They are expected to succeed at their task, or die trying. As you can imagine, almost immediately, herding these hellcats goes horribly wrong.
The biggest problems with the movie are the derivative aspects. There are elements that recall GHOSTBUSTERS, THE MUMMY, the recent remake of JUDGE DREDD, all in the ways those films court the ridiculous. Tropes like the sky-opening-phenom about to end the world, and the nearly unkill-able god-like villain, are not subverted nor used to best advantage. There is a lack of balance in character development legitimately getting called out by critics, because fans have come to believe it possible, having seen it accomplished in Marvel’s THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Last but not least, the plot is largely so straight forward, it could easily be called facile.
That being said, Suicide Squad is great nihilistic fun. Clocking in a 123 minutes, it doesn’t feel overly long, which is a miracle, given most of the action is the squad making their way through a decimated city, video-game like, to their final showdown with their adversaries. Side plots involving The Joker’s attempt to help Harley escape, and backstories for her, Deadshot, and Diablo force the audience into rooting for them, however ambivalent they may feel in doing so. Also great fun is the way the team comes together, little by little, as their personal stories and what they have at stake are revealed. Apart from DEADPOOL, (which is the gold standard), the shift of what constitutes good or bad, who should be deemed worthy of living or condemned to die, and how all that is put into question, is far better presented in SUICIDE SQUAD than any superhero movie to date.
There’s no question director Ayer took risks in how he put this movie together, and for that alone, for committing to a strong point of view, he gets my respect. The success or failure for SUICIDE SQUAD largely depends the willingness of audiences to sit back and enjoy what amounts to the superhero movie version of an LSD-laced lollipop. Tasty, full of color, and ultimately crazy, whether it’s a good trip or a bad one is entirely up to you.