Suicide Squad seems to be an attempt from DC to make a film that’s more subversive and nihilistic than its previous releases. It’s inevitable that comparisons with Marvel films be made and the closest comparison for Suicide Squad seems to be that it would try to capture (some of) the feeling of Marvel’s Deadpool. One of the recurring criticisms of Batman v Superman was that the tone was far too dark and depressing. DC seems to have overcorrected in this film by going too much for quirky.
In a film where the squad is meant to be anti-heroes and “the worst of the worst”, it’s telling that the only character who seems even slightly scary is Federal Agent Amanda Waller. Waller, played by Viola Davis and Jared Leto’s Joker are easily the strongest characters in the film closely followed by Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. The problem is that the film is filled with characters all competition for screen time and as most of them are badly written or just caricatures, a lot of the film feels like you’re waiting for someone worthwhile to get onto the screen. Many characters feel like they’ve been added as throwaway bits and the entire film serves as an example of the worst of superstar casting.
The pacing of the film is eclectic in a way that serves to make the already muddled plot seem even more haphazard. Flashbacks are a regular occurrence during the film and while they appear to be there with the intention of making us aware of the motivations of the main characters they don’t add anything other than an unnecessary break taking attention away from the (already dull) main plot. Timing and pacing seem to be a problem for this director with the attempts at comedy falling flat or jarring. Harley Quinn was a rarity in this film by being a character with a bit of personality but the deployment of her comedic lines too often felt annoying more than clever.
The film’s villains also suffer from a lack of personality (they are in the main, literally faceless) and the action scenes are about as exciting as watching someone else play a side-scrolling video game. The mission and villains seem like someone grabbed them from the first available comic book. There were surely better options for this film in terms of a plot that fit.
Lack of personality is the one thing not present in Jared Leto’s Joker. However, he’s totally wasted in the sidelines of the film. One would think that with the continual presence of Joker in all the marketing for the film he’d have a greater role but apparently someone decided one of the most popular characters in the DC universe needed less screen time than Rick Flag. On another note, Leto’s Joker is closer to Batman:Animated Series than Heath Ledger’s and possibly the right style for the rest of the characters was that of the animated series.
The film is bad in a lazy way. With a convoluted plot and poorly written characters, adding bad editing and overused racial stereotypes other further sends the film into the irredeemable failure category instead of the ambitious failure ones. A compendium of action with no point serving as punctuation for a barrage of empty scenes set to (an admittedly impressive) soundtrack of classic tunes could be the summary of this film.
Will Smith has been the most bankable actor of the last 20 years and has the ability and personality to be golden in action-comedy films but is he really first-choice to be cast as a ruthless hitman? Or did the producers just find the most bankable actor and ignore any other logic? If the action-comedy tone of the film had actually worked, I doubt that question would ever arise.
At the time of writing Suicide Squad has already made $257 million at the box office, so it’s well clear of the $175 million budget it racked up. In my opinion, Suicide Squad was guaranteed to make money and draw crowds just because of the popularity of summer superhero films, ratings and quality aside. Unfortunately the creators of the film seemed to follow exactly that same logic in creating the film and decided they didn’t need to try too hard since they’d be covered anyway. It’s the film equivalent of a participation trophy.