Suicide Squad Review

This year has not been kind to DC and Warner Bros. The release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was met with negative reviews from critics and a lukewarm response from fans. It was bashed for its odd pacing and dark tone, which led to the release of an R-rated “Ultimate Edition” and forced DC to play damage control at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. This isn’t a great way to start your shared movie universe, but fans held on to one hope: “At least Suicide Squad will be good.” How could it be bad, right? Each trailer was better than the last and it really seemed like things were looking up for the DC Extended Universe… until the reviews started coming in.

The critics would have you believe that this movie is a massive dumpster fire on par with last year’s Fantastic Four reboot. The Wall Street Journal even called it “an all-out attack on the whole idea of entertainment.” I’m here to tell you these cynical reviews just aren’t true. I understand it’s fun to say a movie is worse than Green Lantern so you can get people to click on your review, but save it for a movie that deserves it. I would love to be able to type a whole paragraph about how this movie made me want to suffocate myself with a bag of Sour Patch Kids in the middle of the theater, but it wouldn’t be the truth. The truth is that Suicide Squad is a lot of fun when it’s at its best and simply average at its worst.

The biggest problem with Suicide Squad is something that seems to plague most comic book movies these days. The main villain just isn’t all that interesting. With so many colorful characters in the squad, you would expect them to be taking on something equally exciting. Unfortunately, Enchantress and Incubus are nothing more than generic, CGI-based villains with a tired “world domination” plan. Critics have also complained about the film’s pacing, which is admittedly odd at times. It’s no secret that a lot of scenes were left on the cutting room floor and it’s hard not to wonder what the movie would be like if they’d kept some of them. With that being said, I actually like how they handle each character’s backstory. The film starts with Amanda Waller and several government officials as they run down the list of potential Task Force X recruits. Each of Waller’s explanations is accompanied by multiple flashbacks, a groovy soundtrack and the same flashy, neon graphics that we’ve seen in the film’s promotional material. It’s a shame that this tone doesn’t always carry on throughout the rest of the movie, but it makes for a fun way to introduce everyone and Viola Davis is brilliant as Waller.

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The best thing about Suicide Squad is the squad itself. Any issues with the plot are ultimately forgiven thanks to the fantastic performances from everyone in the cast, the most notable being Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. She embodies the character so well, giving us both the comedic and tragic sides of Harley. There’s always a lot of pressure when adapting such a fan favorite and I don’t think anyone will be disappointed with her portrayal. Let’s just hope DC plans on having her show up in a lot more movies. Another scene stealer comes in the form of Will Smith’s Deadshot. We haven’t seen Will Smith in action movie mode since 2013’s After Earth, but Suicide Squad serves as a welcomed reminder of why he’s still one of the best to ever do it. The man is charisma personified and brings his signature charm to every scene he’s in.

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Jay Hernandez is also a standout as Diablo. We’re given his backstory in a series of flashbacks throughout the movie and he becomes one of the most sympathetic and fleshed out characters. A lot of focus is also placed on Rick Flag, who sometimes comes off as a bit of a stereotype. Joel Kinnaman plays him well though and his character definitely starts to grow on you by the end. Unfortunately, the rest of the squad is sort of pushed to the sidelines. All of the actors do a great job, but they’re just not given much to do. Katana’s origins seem shoehorned in, while Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang are just sort of there. It’s hard to find a balance with such a big ensemble, but I wish they had spent a little more time with these characters. I guess we’ll have to wait for the inevitable sequel.

Another character who doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time is Jared Leto’s infamous Joker. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Leto’s method acting, but we only get to see it for about 20 minutes. It’s unfortunate that so many of his scenes were cut, but I actually think it might’ve been smart to use him so sparingly. He does what he needs to do and he doesn’t overshadow the titular squad. As for his portrayal, it’s hard not to compare it to Heath Ledger’s Oscar winning performance in The Dark Knight. There are times where it seems like Leto is trying to channel Ledger in a lot of his delivery, but his take is still unique enough to make us want more. The choice to make this Joker more of an urban drug lord actually pays off and his relationship with Harley is done in a way that somehow manages to stay faithful to the source material without being problematic.

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The cool thing about Suicide Squad is that it really feels like a comic book sprung to life. There’s a sense that any character could drop in at any time, whether it’s Batman or one of his other Justice League friends. This could come off as pandering or cheap, but it feels surprisingly organic. It opens the door for a lot more cameos in future films and really helps the DCEU feel more connected.

Score: 8/10

The villain may be bland and the pacing might be weird, but Suicide Squad makes up for it with stellar performances and plenty of fan service. This is a huge step in the right direction for DC and makes me genuinely excited to see where they go next with these characters.

 

Wesley Boutilier

Part time writer, full time nerd.

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