DC Comics’ live action movie track record has not been great in recent years. With the exception of the overall superb Dark Knight trilogy, films like “Green Lantern”, “Man of Steel” and this year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” have not left good impressions on critics and fans alike. With the massive success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the slew of connected films they kicked off back in 2008, DC is simply trying to play catch up at this point. This past weekend saw the release of the third DC Cinematic Universe film with the highly-anticipated “Suicide Squad”. In the hopes of standing out as a unique film marketed as focusing on the villains, some of DC’s prime baddies like Deadshot, Harley Quinn and the Joker possess their own story while pushing Batman aside. This should have been the experimental success that brings in some much-needed fun and comedy to the darkened DC tone. Maybe this could be the film that redeems all previous mistakes. Sadly, it is not.
Taking place after the events of “Batman v Superman”, the film picks up with a U.S. intelligence officer hoping to take care of the possibility of another super-powered being (like Superman) using their powers to go against the wishes of the people. For the sake of also being expendable, she recruits a group of imprisoned supervillains for a top secret mission to save the city. Using government-sanctioned weaponry, they are forced to team together and fight something far more powerful. Meanwhile, the Joker is pursuing the group with a plan of his own.
I’m not saying the film doesn’t accomplish any of what it sets out to do. As expected, the performances and these characters’ portrayals are mostly done well. Margot Robbie is nearly flawless as Harley Quinn and Will Smith’s fresh take on Deadshot not only makes the character likable but also brings back some of that classic Smith sass that we all love so much. The many other members of the Squad are all cast perfectly and represented nicely on screen. Their believable and outstanding chemistry is the driving force behind the movie. The visual appeal for this movie is primarily the action. All of the action sequences are executed wonderfully and keep the movie going. This is definitely a hard PG-13 with guns and weapons galore. Watching these characters team up to do what they do best is a delight. However, there are huge issues in almost every other aspect.
The glaring flaw with this film is the pacing and its effect on the narrative. Because there are so many new characters introduced in this story, constant short flashbacks are given as each character appears. These flashbacks are small glimpses into who they are and what they did to end up in prison. Half of the film feels like flashback sequences. Any time the relationship between Harley and the Joker needs to be established, there’s another flashback. Whenever the focus shifts to someone new, yet another flashback. It is understandable that these characters need to be revealed in a timely manner, but it is rather repetitive and their odd placement distracted from the narrative flow of the main plot. This problem goes hand-in-hand with the pacing. It seems like major cuts were made to a movie that was far longer than what was shown in theaters in order to maintain a fair runtime. But the film comes off as jumpy and rushed. It goes from one location and character to the next without any time to breathe. A developed pattern begins to take over. Flashbacks during introductions go into characters meeting then bantering before a major fight sequence. New location then fight, banter and repeat. It just feels like a bunch of strung-together action scenes with no real weight or stakes involved.
As for the villain and her evil scheme, it seems nothing short of being another superhero movie cliche. She uses her magic powers to try and take over the city while firing a constant light beam into the sky. This is an image that is becoming far too familiar. Yes, this character does receive an introduction and there is an emotional connection to Rick Flag (one of the soldiers watching over the Squad), but it doesn’t allow for a lot of investment due to rushed flashbacks and poor character development. She just comes off as another forgettable villain in another comic book movie. By the time the Squad fights her in the final act, it ends up being a disappointment. It ends quickly despite her powers having an interesting effect on the team. I never felt like anyone was in danger. It also didn’t help that the film constantly felt the need to remind the audience of the irony behind the bad guys being portrayed as heroic while the government appeared more villainous. The audience doesn’t need a dumbed-down message, we get it.
One highly-discussed aspect of this film is Jared Leto’s performance as the Joker. Many will rush to compare him to the masterful performance given by Heath Ledger, but that isn’t fair. He is playing a much different incarnation of the character. That being said, he is barely in the movie. Although questionable at times, his performance is certainly intriguing and shows great potential for future DC installments. But because his screen time is so brief, a full assessment of his performance is difficult to formulate. The most certain positive I can give is that the laugh is quite haunting.
Somewhere inside this oddly-paced narrative mess is a great movie. A lot of positives were hiding in there begging to break free. I really wanted to love this movie, but the execution left way too much to be desired. It is a fun and action-packed experience, but there is no real substance as the characters drift from one sequence to the next. The story is forgettable and it almost seems like DC was trying too hard to make their own “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Although aesthetically pleasing while providing service to the fans, it is simply not a good or bad movie. You’ll wind up remembering the performances more than the plot. Do yourself a favor and wait to watch this one at home. 2.9/5