Okay, let’s do this. Suicide Squad. Hoo boy.
Here’s the problem with this movie. Frequent readers of this blog will know that I liked Batman v Superman. I saw it twice. I liked it just as much the second time. And now, I understand a lot of the criticisms for the movie, but I still appreciate it. I don’t know if my praise for the movie is legitimate, or if it’s just a facade built around visceral, inexplicable enjoyment of a shitty movie. But regardless, that’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.
With Suicide Squad, I don’t really know what to think. People I tend to agree with seem to think it’s good, but the critical consensus is that it’s bad. Some people say Margot Robbie is the best part of the movie; some say she’s the worst. Some people say Jared Leto is great; some say he’s lame; still others say he’s trying too hard. Let me see what sense I can make out of it.
I think ultimately, one of the main problems with the movie is expectations. The trailers went for roughly the same vibe that Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool had, so naturally, people assumed that the movie was going to be lighthearted, if a little grittier, and funny. There was even a pretty well-publicized rumor that the movie was undergoing extensive reshoots to add more humor to the movie after positive reactions to the trailer. None of it mattered, though, because the movie is not funny.
I don’t mean it’s poorly-written. It’s a bit stereotypical at times, but it definitely has some good quips. But that’s just it, they’re quips. It’s only funny in the same way that every modern superhero movie is funny. Funnier than previous DCEU movies, yes, but definitely not a comedy.
It’s not really an action movie, either. Once again, there is action, and it is pretty good, playing to all the characters’ different personalities and fighting styles, but it hardly feels central to the film. There’s really only two or three big action scenes in the movie.
If anything, I’d say it’s a crime drama, which is definitely not what people expected. It thrives off the personalities of the squad members, their stories, and how they interact with one another. Jared Leto’s Joker takes on the bearing of a gangster or a Mexican drug lord, but with the horror elements of Enchantress’ portrayal, it becomes an odd mix of a gritty crime drama and a supernatural thriller. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Overall, it plays to David Ayer’s strong suits, and it generally fits better than you’d expect.
I actually liked a lot of the more divisive elements of the film. I thought Leto did a good job in terms of his performance. People have complained that he was only in the movie for about ten minutes. This is true, and frustrating, but I think what’s worse is that he really doesn’t do anything for the movie. Of course, he’s essential to Harley Quinn’s backstory, but in the plot of the movie, he shows up to save Harley, fails when his helicopter gets shot down (I think four helicopters get shot down in this movie), and is never seen again until the last goddamn scene.
Speaking of Harley, I thought Margot Robbie did a good job, too. I thought the way they chose to portray her was a little odd, though. This is a version of Harley who’s essentially a live action version of the one from the animated series, and thus, she’s still infatuated with the Joker. I don’t actually have a problem with that. But the weird part is that, while she’s developed this extreme case of Stockholm syndrome, the film doesn’t really portray it as twisted or dark. It doesn’t gloss over or make light of the abuse Harley faced, but it treats her as a sex symbol in spite of it. It’s weird.
Even though I liked a lot of the film, it does have its fair share of problems. Enchantress’ plan is stated very early on to be, and this is a direct quote, “to take over the world.” By the time the climax rolls around, she’s made a blue energy beam and a ring of trash in the sky. She’s just standing there for most of the scene. How is this helping her? What is she doing? Is she about to take over the world? Shouldn’t she be, you know, controlling people’s minds and stuff? Why is she just standing there?
Also, needless to say, “we have to team up to turn off that glowing blue energy beam in the middle of the city” isn’t exactly new ground. There are a few really original, creative, different moments in this movie, but there are others that I could swear I’ve seen fifty times this year.
Still, I think I liked the movie as a whole. It had a great ensemble cast (special shoutouts to Viola Davis, who was absolutely terrifying, and Jai Courtney, who was actually likable for once), and the characters were all pretty well-developed, aside from the one that shows up just to be killed off three minutes later. It’s visually kind of blah, but there’s definitely a few spectacular shots in it. While it can’t really decide on a style, it executes all the styles it tries pretty well. The score, courtesy of Academy Award-winning composer Steven Price (Gravity, The World’s End, Fury, Attack the Block), is absolutely phenomenal. When the movie delves into reality, dealing with abuse and family drama, is actually when it shines the most.
Overall, some things work, some things don’t. It’s a movie that I probably could’ve hated, but that my general optimism led me towards liking. I’ll give it a B.