After the lackluster reception of the would-be Hollywood behemoth “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” DC Comics understood the importance of reviving confidence in their superhero brand with “Suicide Squad.” With an encouraging premise, of a group of eccentric villains coming together to take on an even bigger baddie, the film seemed to hold a winning hand. But “Suicide Squad,” riddled with production problems and pressure from studio executives, squandered most of its potential. While there is plenty to enjoy in this romp, like its lighthearted tone, unique ensemble cast and unique visual and musical style, there is simply not enough for a compelling or even wholly fun comic-book action movie.
Let’s start with what “Suicide Squad” did right. In years past, DC comic-book movies have strived to be down-to-earth and not stray far from gritty realism. “Suicide Squad” was never in any position to stay within the confines of that box. Come on, there is a walking, talking crocodile on the so-called “Task Force X,” and that doesn’t even make the short-list of the most over-the-top ridiculous elements of this live-action cartoon. Also gone are the heavy-handed Hans Zimmer compositions which are replaced by modern hip-hop and techno along with some oldies rock. The film also incorporates a unique visual style, with bright colors in contrast to the mostly dark and drained aesthetic, though the contrast wasn’t used as often as it could have been. It would make Christopher Nolan, director of the Dark Knight trilogy, turn over in his grave (if he were dead), but “Suicide Squad” deserves praise for finally doing what Marvel did a long time ago: letting the audience have fun, if even for a little bit.
The Suicide Squad itself, composed of Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) among several other, is the film’s main draw. Each relevant character is quickly introduced in a short flashback before the action starts, but while the banter between these characters is certainly enjoyable, especially that involving the comically insane Ms. Quinn, it’s no substitute for character development. “Suicide Squad” spread its characters too thinly on a story with little substance, and few characters get enough screen time to be relevant, including the over-promised Joker (Jared Leto). While the Joker is a standout character in the film — Leto was straight up crazy — he doesn’t show up for long enough to steal the show, even if there isn’t much to steal.
Any praise bestowed on the film pertains only to the first half. After a promising first act, the Squad is dropped into the heart of Midway City, they are led through a series of mildly fun, yet annoying, battles with faceless, unthreatening enemies as they make their way toward the villain, the magical goddess named Enchantress, who has been busy throughout most of the film building some kind of ambiguous magical weapon which will, to no one’s surprise, destroy the world. If you are hoping for at least a predictable surprise or plot twist along the way, don’t hold your breath. It is disappointing that this otherwise zany comic-book movie failed to live up to the promise of being creative, with the filmmakers resorting to the cliched world-ending device at the center of the conflict. This also happened in the 2013 DC film “Man of Steel.” DC has a long road ahead, and it can’t expect to keep getting away with the same tired gimmick.
Of course, something that is only half good isn’t really good at all, and “Suicide Squad” was spoiled by the repetitive action, uncompelling villain and banal conflict of the latter half of the film. The second half of the film remained tolerable only by the entertaining bickering and antics of the Task Force, but that is the very least that this ensemble comic-book film needed to do. With “Suicide Squad,” the filmmakers managed to create something special, and then forced it into a dark, bland box because that is all D.C. knows how to do.
Director: David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Cara Delevingne, Tom Hardy
Release Date: August 5, 2016
Image Courtesy of AceShowBiz