The new film, Suicide Squad certainly confirms one thing about the creative and executive braintrust at Warners Brothers and DC Comics. When it comes to creating abysmal misfires at the box office in a post Christopher Nolan directed Batman era, the studio is certainly consistent in royally screwing up what should be a sure thing with its colorful roster of superhero characters.
Suicide Squad rounds out a trifecta of high profile superhero failures for the studio in the wake of its dour and joyless films, Batman v Superman and Man Of Steel. Ironically, one of Suicide Squad’s biggest failings is that it tries to be, for the most part, the opposite of those films in tone. It’s meant to be lighter, a bit funnier with a bit of an edge; while at the same time, push the PG-13 envelope with its violent action and darker subplots that include touches of misogyny, dysfunction and arguably a touch of ethnic stereotyping of Latinos with one key character.
As a result, the film is a narrative mess of conflicting ideas and misplaced scenes; saved to some extent only by the well cast performances of Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Viola Davis.
Government agent Amanda Waller ( Davis ) decides, in the wake of Superman’s death, that the world needs a group of exceptionally skilled “meta-humans” to protect the U.S. against any future superhuman threats. Waller recruits a group of misfit convicts with the promise of time off their sentence if they do their job; or blowing their heads off with an implanted explosive if they don’t.
Comprising part of this villainous Dirty ( half ) Dozen is an efficient hitman Deadshot ( Smith ), The Joker’s seductively dangerous and insane girlfriend Harley Quinn ( Robbie ), the grotesque cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), the pyro-kinetic Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Australian burglar Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and a few others.
When an ancient witch called The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) embarks on a supernatural scheme of mass destruction against the world; it’s up to the Suicide Squad to save the day and their own necks.
Suicide Squad shows some early promise with setting up the group with some entertaining backstory exposition; but its not enough to carry the film. The plot has numerous unexplained or under-developed scenes and relationships that make the narrative feel like it was run through a wood-chipper and pasted together by committee. Indeed, writer/director David Ayer and a slew of studio executives were often at odds during production on what kind of film this was supposed to ultimately become.
What results is a sloppy mess that culminates in a climatic Ghostbusters-inspired CGI filled face-off with one of the lamest supernatural villains in recent memory.
To its credit, Suicide Squad has Will Smith and Viola Davis adding some depth and nuance to their characters. Margot Robbie is a breakout star as the quippy Harley Quinn; making one look forward to her character getting better material in a proposed spin-off feature film. Robbie is disarmingly charming, yet crazily demented in a way that’s wonderfully intriguing to watch. Jared Leto’s much touted Joker is a disappointment and perhaps fortunately, seen far too little in the film to make any memorable impact. Leto reduces himself to an overacting embarrassment in an effort to top Heath Ledger’s unforgettable incarnation of The Joker.
There’s plenty of cameo appearances and fanboy nods, including Ben Affleck as Batman, to appeal to the fan faithful. But even these plot points are only present to serve as set-ups for upcoming installments in the planned DC Universe film franchises.
Suicide Squad had the ingredients to be something truly unique; but once again it seems the suits at Warner Brothers and DC have no idea how to make their own characters work on screen.
Here’s hoping next summer, Wonder Woman can do the job that the boys can’t.