Suicide Squad is being released at a critical time. For Hollywood, summer has scorched movie studios with an inconceivable amount of dull, worthless movies that fall into the category of “financial flops.” And for Warner Brothers, because of below expectation numbers back in March for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the microscope on Suicide Squad has intensified immensely. After months of buildup thanks to a strong marketing campaign, David Ayer’s (End of Watch) movie centering around the “Worst Heroes Ever” is finally here. Suicide Squad has problems that keep it from being a memorable. But nonetheless, it’s a somewhat delightful oddball comic book movie, thanks to a cast full of great characters.
A secret government agency led by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency and saving the world from an unknown but powerful threat.
Don’t let the bright colors in the trailers and commercials fool you. Suicide Squad looks just as dark as DC Films’ two previous movies (Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman). But unlike Superman’s origin story or its predecessor that showed off a clash of superheroes, Suicide Squad is full of jokes and characters with clear motives. Deadshot wants his daughter back. Harley Quinn wants to be reunited with the Joker. And Amanda Waller wants to keep all hell from breaking loose. Thankfully, all of these characters (along with a few others) make this ensemble supervillain team-up all the more enjoyable.
Margot Robbie’s (The Wolf of Wall Street) Harley Quinn is without a doubt the standout character of Suicide Squad. Whether it’s her character making a quirky joke, smirking at what’s currently happening, or making it look easy by wielding a baseball bat in high heels, Margot seems to always steal whatever scene her character pops up in. Robbie’s Harley Quinn spinoff movie should be one of Warner Brothers’ main development focuses over the next year or so.
Will Smith (Independence Day), playing hitman-for-hire Deadshot, resembles a comedic sidekick reminiscent of his role as Agent J from Men in Black. Honestly, I haven’t seen Will Smith have this much fun in a role in who knows how long. And while his character sprays an ungodly amount of bullets, Smith is also earnest in his role as the squad’s central character. One scene in particular (which features a cool cameo) highlights Smith’s undervalued range as an actor.
Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder), who plays the tough-as-nails government official Amanda Waller, brings an unexpected level of potency to her character. While she doesn’t have God-given abilities like the villains she’s ordering around to save the world, she sells us on why she is just as imposing as the rest of the crew.
And surprisingly, one character you might become invested in is Jay Hernandez’s (Friday Night Lights) El Diablo. When viewing all of the movie’s promotional material, I didn’t give two cents about the character’s pyromaniac tendencies. But thanks to backstory with a Sons of Anarchy vibe, I came away appreciating his sensibility, as it adds heart to what easily could have been a one-dimensional role. Want a surprising revelation you won’t be expecting? El Diablo is more heroic in Suicide Squad than Superman has been in Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman.
While these characters stand out the most in Suicide Squad, a couple of other great characters also appear, but with shortened roles. Jai Courtney (Terminator Genesys), whose acting chops have been about as useful as the bottle of hand sanitizer that collects dust on your desk, is fantastic as Captain Boomerang. I would have loved for Courtney’s boomerang-wielding Australian and his fetish for pink unicorns to have gotten a bit more screen time. Jared Leto’s (Dallas Buyers Club) new iteration of the Joker is vibrant and off-the-wall, but I can’t compare it to Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger’s portrayals of the Batman’s most popular and ubiquitous rival. Why? Because the Joker is only in Suicide Squad for about 10 minutes. I would have dug Suicide Squad a lot more had the Joker been featured as a main plot mover instead of a pawn that was clearly created to sell toys and t-shirts.
I wanted to love Suicide Squad. I really did. I loved the casting. I loved the trailers. But in a summer that has continually disappointed, Suicide Squad’s problems are quite glaring.
Enchantress, the main villain, has an intriguing introduction, but her role takes a turn for the worse once she revives her brother, Incubus, who visually looks like a conglomerate CGI mess. In a world where a visual effects company like WETA exist, it’s amazing how bad the visual effects in Suicide Squad look at times. And as the CGI progressively gets worse, the third act itself is a near-disaster as Enchantress (who feels like a villain out of a Joel Schumaker Batman movie) wreaks havoc in what can only be described as something straight out of Ghostbusters.
But the biggest problem with Suicide Squad is the same as with Batman v. Superman’s: it bites off more than it can chew. Suicide Squad is full of cool characters, fascinating backstories, and well-shot, nifty action. But there’s so much going on that the movie would have benefitted from an additional 20 minutes. David Ayer’s script could’ve used a rewrite, as some of the lesser-known characters like Rick Flag, Killer Croc, or Katana could have been given less screen time or left out of the movie entirely.
So, you get it. Underused great characters, Enchantress, the CGI, the third act combine to keep Suicide Squad from reaching its full potential. And despite those issues, I was entertained from beginning to end thanks to the cast. The best scene in the movie takes place in a bar and it showcases the amount of talent assembled. For a group of characters that might have wound up as second-rate compared to what we’ve seen before in comic book movies, the actors sell it and make it hard not to root for their eccentric bad guys. It remains to be seen whether Warner Brothers can deliver a movie in the DC Cinematic Universe that appeals to more than just fans of the superhero genre. But Suicide Squad offers more than enough pieces to make that possibility a reality.
**Side note: Yes, Ben Affleck’s Batman is in Suicide Squad and it might surprise you as to where he pops up. He’s certainly a highlight in the movie.