Wasn’t it the Dark Knight himself, Ben Affleck who said “the internet has given everyone a voice and evidently everyone… has used that voice to bitch about movies.”?
In the case of Suicide Squad it seems that the DC cinematic brand has come under some critical attack in the form of confirmation bias.
As unfair as it is to bring up Batman V Superman (2016) in prefacing this review, it’s unfortunately necessary as not only do the films share a narrative strand but it seems that the less than enthusiastic response to Warner and DC’s previous efforts this year has potentially soured public opinion toward David Ayer’s super villain team-up romp.
In response to the negative perception of BvS‘ decidedly austere tone, the execs at Warner Bros have amped up the fun, irreverence and punk sensibility of the film in its marketing. The tonal shift between the original Comic Con teaser and the more recent trailers is plain for all to see:
While the tone may be uneven in places (more on that later) and I’ll agree that it is to some extent to the film’s detriment, Suicide Squad remains a hugely enjoyable film that’s jam packed with comic-book goodness.
If, like me, you were hoping for DC’s equivalent to Deadpool (2016) via Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) then, dear reader, you’ve got your wish!
Those who have enjoyed the uncompromising nihilism of Ayer’s previous works such as End of Watch (2012) and Fury (2014) will recognise his paw prints all over this, albeit through a veneer of Tarantino-esque japery and over reliance on the fist-pumping classic rock soundtrack.
It’s clear that Ayer is having the time of his life rolling around in the dirt with the resident undesirables of the DC universe and it takes a real stuffed shirt not to admit that his sense of fun is infectious.
The film chugs along with the gleeful abandon of a cover of the Anti-Nowhere League’s “So fuckin’ what?” to such an extent that it seems irrelevant to pull the film up on its shortcomings. Yes, the plot lacks intricacy but I didn’t see anyone complaining about the exact same fault in Deadpool. Yes, the music becomes an intrusive presence in the film in some places and while it may seem shoehorned in as a response to the popularity of the later trailers it also works bloody well when suitably deployed.
The DC fan in me appreciated the way that although Warner Bros have been careful to appease the individual sensibilities of the DC films’ directors this feels as much of a DC film as it does a David Ayer film. Suicide Squad inhabits a world in mourning for Superman in a way that reminded me of the ‘World Without a Superman” comics of the early ’90s as well as that old adage that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
In the wake of Superman’s loss meta-humans are still coming out of the woodwork at an alarming rate and the ruthlessly calculating Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) reasons that without a Man of Steel to rally behind meta-humans represent a potential threat that needs to be contained and weaponised, resulting in what fans know as Task Force X.
The general thrust of the plot can be aptly and comprehensively surmised by the trailers (there isn’t really all that much to it), so I won’t go into details here but the film’s draw (and indeed its greatest strength) are the characters and the actors who inhabit them.
Prior to watching this film I (along with most) would have predicted that Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and the Joker (Jared Leto) would be the standouts. But while both are great, and they really are, it seems disingenuous to call them standouts when the entire ensemble is so superb.
Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flagg is faced with the unenviable task of playing the straight man opposite a multicoloured troupe of crowd-pleasing misfits and he does it with aplomb, demonstrating a real character arc as he comes to understand and even respect the ‘scum’ with whom he has been charged. His relationship with Will Smith’s Deadshot is particularly interesting, starting at a place of sneering derision and moral superiority despite the simple fact that both men shoot people for money.
Speaking of Big Willie, Smith’s rare combination of stone-cold charisma and genuine acting talent make him perfect for the role of Deadshot and Smith is allowed to play to his strengths while still remaining true to the nature of the character.
Deadshot’s relationship with Harley is also interesting, and I’ll be forever thankful that the film didn’t try to emulate the flimsy love / lust triangle between Harley, Deadshot and Joker from the animated Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014).
Harley herself is every bit as wonderful as you’d hoped and Margot Robbie, who broke everyone’s heart in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), proves ably that it’s the part that she was born to play. While her back-story draws heavily on Paul Dini’s animated / comic book story “Mad Love” the film rushes through it all so quickly I wish we could have spent a little longer watching she and Leto’s Joker’s relationship develop. Hell, I’d pay to watch a film based entirely on just that. While the twisted romance is more reciprocal than in most versions of the mythology it’s a change that I’m on board with and works within the context of the film.
Karen Fukuhara as Katana and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc are both superb and far better developed than I would have expected given the relatively short screen time and Jai Courtney is clearly having a whale of a time sleazing it up as Captain Boomerang.
I was a little wary of the casting of model and actress Cara Delavigne’s casting as Enchantress, not for any reasons to do with Ms Delavigne herself but simply because I was worried that her casting would be a shameless cash in on her current social media popularity. My fears were utterly unfounded, though, as her sympathetic, tortured and often terrifying performance is genuinely one of the highlights of the film for me.
Of course the star of the show has to be Slipknot. The way he goes from being such a minor and peripheral character to the hero who saves the day has to be one of the biggest pieces of marketing sleight-of-hand of cinema history.
Nah, just kidding!
Suicide Squad is not without it’s flaws but it is nonetheless a damned entertaining piece of cinema that’s utterly unabashed and rich in DC history.
Oh, and there’s a two minute sequence in the film that’s the best Batman film ever made… And it’s not the car chase.