The DC Extended Universe continues with David Ayer’s villain team-up Suicide Squad. The basic premise is that some of the worst villains the DC Universe has to offer are brought together to form a team to defend against the growing potential for super powered threats.
On the surface this sounds like an amazing idea. Getting a group of unstable villains with different motivations together is a powder keg of chaos and betrayal so surely the rest writes itself? In an ideal world this opens up endless possibilities to play around with morality and tell something different from the traditional superhero team story that we’re starting to get used to with the Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe and Fox’s X-Men franchise.
Sadly it doesn’t quite come together despite some of the ingredients being strong on their own. There’s a lot to keep track of her with each villain coming with their own backstory as well as having a situation that needs a team in place to resolve it.
The whole premise orbits the shifty Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) who submits a proposal to the government to put together a team of people who are essentially expendable but also able to handle themselves in a fight against super powered forces. Davis embodies this character perfectly and feels entirely lifted off the page. She’s morally dubious, not afraid to use people and completely heartless while she does it. Amanda Waller should be like that as far as I’m concerned and she is one of the more consistent elements throughout the film. She isn’t used all that much but arguably she appears just as much as she needs to with her invisible hand pulling the strings the rest of the time.
Amanda Waller wants to use Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and Diablo (Jay Hernandez) to fill the team with soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) leading the charge.
That looks like a long list and it definitely is. The worst of it is that that’s not even everyone involved in this. To say there are a lot of moving parts in this film would be an understatement and lots of them are extraneous. There is absolutely no need to have so many characters in a single film unless the intention was for this to act as something of a bulk introduction for villains to use in the various DC movies that are due to come out.
One thing that never makes sense is why these characters are being recruited in the first place. I was entirely behind the idea of having to prepare for a threat that could bring the world to its knees and the best way to fight super powered beings is with other super powered beings -or those with skills that can match those abilities- but what I couldn’t understand is why bringing a group of villains together is a good idea. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice established that there are plenty of metahumans to choose from so why did nobody suggest trying to bring Batman or Wonder Woman in on this? At least a mention and attempted explanation for why the aren’t going to do that would have been something. It means that the premise falls apart fairly early on and never recovered.
Considering the amount of characters on display here it would be madness to run through every single one of them so I’ll focus on the main players in what passes for a plot in this film. Naturally Will Smith gets a massive amount of screen time which isn’t entirely unexpected. The problem with it is that it comes at the expense of the other characters and the overall ensemble experience that the film is clearly trying to create. A more appropriate title might have been Deadshot, Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad though it would have been far less catchy. Will Smith isn’t bad in the film but he isn’t really bad in anything he does so that comes as no surprise.
I have no idea if his ego meant that Deadshot was given more to do or if it was always written that way but there is definitely an imbalance right away that heavily impacts the rest of the film. His backstory is a simple one and his motivations are clearly established as being a combination between loyalty to his daughter and making money. These motivations carry throughout the film and the fact that he is essentially being paid to be there is acceptable justification for him to stick around. There are elements to his character that look set to pay off towards the end but obvious emotional wins are completely missed which makes his character arc feel incomplete. His back and forth with Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is clearly supposed to be humorous banter but it falls completely flat. Lucking Will Smith has charisma in spades but lots of it is lost here.
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is an excellent presence throughout. Robbie clearly immersed herself in the insanity of this character and has a lot of fun with it. Her motivation seems to be nothing more than boredom and her actions are dictated by whatever takes her fancy at that moment. I really enjoyed Margot Robbie in this role and found her to be the most entertaining thing in here. She is able to bounce off any member of the cast perfectly. If she had been in a better film then her character would have been even stronger.
It’s very difficult to have this character exist without the Joker playing a part in that. Jared Leto takes on that role here and for me he’s the worst live action Joker that we’ve had. Mileage will vary on this but I definitely wasn’t a fan of his. I was pleased that his role was a small one in this film because otherwise he might have overshadowed Harley and it was necessary for him to be seen as playing a role in her creation. Having him play a part in the present day story by creating something of a ticking clock in the middle of the film as he comes to save Harley wasn’t really necessary but I have no problem with his role in the flashbacks even if I didn’t like this version of the character.
The overstuffed roster is one of the main problems here. There are a lot of characters introduced in a really short
time and the flashbacks don’t always feel necessary. Deadshot could have been established with a few lines of dialogue and showing Harley Quinn’s origin only served to give me a glimpse of a film I’d much rather be watching. Her backstory was more interesting than anything else going on here.
Most of the backstories felt so rushed that I wondered why they bothered having them at all and the film was still introducing characters when the team were supposed to be ready for their first mission. It was sloppy, unnecessary and only served to drag the pacing to a near halt in the early parts of the film.
One thing that doesn’t seem to have emerged in the marketing for this film is what the Suicide Squad are being brought together to fight and I won’t spoil it here but I will say that the antagonist was incredibly weak. The whole narrative builds up to a climax that feels horribly by the numbers. Arguably this criticism could be lobbied at several comic book movies but in this case I wasn’t at all invested so it really stood out. There was an attempt to create personal stakes that never sinks in so the whole thing feels completely lacking in imagination. It also goes on for too long before it mercifully comes to an end.
A complete misfire from DC and David Ayer that fails to capitalise on what should have been a really fun premise. Some elements are good such as the characterisation of Harley Quinn complete along with Margot Robbie’s performance and Deadshot’s motivations at least remaining consistent throughout. Unfortunately the few bright spots are buried under a messy plot, terrible placing and far too many characters to keep track of. There is a good film hiding under here somewhere but it had no chance of escaping everything that surrounds it.
- anything involving Harley Quinn
- Deadshot’s consistent motivations
- Viola Davis as the morally questionable Amanda Waller
- a messy plot
- terrible pacing
- far too many characters
- too much focus on certain characters
- a by the numbers finale